Observations From an Open Mic: Joke-Telling Time Used for a Water Break

Picture of Me Doing Standup Comedy

This blurry photo is of me performing standup comedy at an open mic a few months ago.

My observation and thoughts for this post revolve around a young man and something he did a couple of weeks ago. Now, I don’t want to seem harsh on him, because he is doing a lot of really good things. I see him every week at this open mic, so he’s going up there and getting better. In fact, I want to write about his improvement in a later post; he’s improved a lot.

My observation centers around something that happened very briefly and struck me as worthy of noting. This young man was announced to come on stage, and people clapped as he came up. As soon as he got up to the mic, however, he did something before he went into his jokes: he unscrewed the cap of his water bottle, took a few sips, went “aahhh!” and screwed the cap back on, and then set the bottle down.

It seems to me he would’ve been better served to make sure he got his drink in before he got on stage. Every comic only gets five minutes, and he used precious seconds to quench his thirst that could’ve been used to work on material–not to mention it killed the mood, as the audience sat waiting for him.

I know, sometimes people might be nervous or suddenly realize their throat is dry. But those are precious seconds, though, so there must be something that can be done to prevent using stagetime for a drink of water.

It seems the lesson to be learned here is to be prepared. I took a class from the late Todd Lynn a few years back, and that was his advice to us: always be prepared. We were supposed to be like comedic batmen who were ready for anything. Lynn was mostly referring to having a lot of material handy, but there’s no reason why it can’t be applied here as well. The comic had his water bottle with him, so why not take a few sips while waiting for his name to be called as the next performer? If he didn’t know when his name was going to be called, he could take a few sips as every comic before him announced that their time was up. He’d have time. The previous comic would hand the mic off to the host as people clapped, and the host would say a few words, sometimes even a few more jokes.

Again, five minutes is not that much time. As comics, we’d much rather use that time to tell jokes instead of drinking water, so we need to be prepared to use up our five minutes before we even get on stage.

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