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Andy’s Tuesday Tips: How to Use Open Mics‏

Posted on by andy

Open mics are necessary when you’re starting as a comic, which is why you need to utilize them smartly.

Start by trying to avoid bad ones. My definition of a bad mic is one with:

  1. An extremely small crowd
  2. A really loud bar, where people aren’t listening
  3. A very cliquish, unsupportive crowd

Some people argue that comics should be able to master the hardest open mics. Up to a point, your goal is to get honest, legitimate feedback on your material, and if you can’t get that, leave and find a different mic.

Don’t get too comfortable. The purpose of doing open mics is to quickly move beyond them. Improve your act, network, and get guest spots on other people’s bar shows.

Here’s a brief list and description of some of the better open mics in New York City:

Gotham Comedy Club

Mondays at 7:00 p.m.

Free open mic. Each comic gets a four-minute set, and usually about 30 people get to go up. It can get a little long towards the end if people don’t stick around, but it’s a nice environment with supportive people. You must email me ([email protected]) to request a spot on the list.

 The Butt Factory at The Creek and The Cave

Tuesdays at 6:00 p.m.

Free open mic. Each comic gets a two-minute set. The names are drawn from a bucket.

 Revision Lounge 

Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m.

Free open mic. Each comic gets a two-minute set. The names are drawn from a bucket. There’s very good energy in the room, and it’s usually pretty full.

Thursdays at 7:00 p.m.

Free open mic. Each comic gets a two-minute set. The names are drawn from a bucket. It’s usually a very energetic room, with a group of comics who stick around to watch each other.

 UCB East

Fridays at 7:00 p.m.

A very fair open mic, with the names drawn from a bucket. They don’t do any favors at the mic or give any preferential treatment. Sixteen names are drawn; the last name picked gets to go first the next week. The crowd is fun and supportive. People who are waiting to see an improv show usually stick around.

 Bar 2A 

Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.

Usually a packed house. The names are drawn from a bucket. The mic can go a little long, but there’s good energy in the beginning. Each comic gets a three-minute set.

 The Creek and The Cave

Fridays at 6:00 p.m. AND 8:00 p.m.

Free open mic. The names are drawn from a bucket, and each comic gets a two-minute set. Usually there’s a packed house, and the room can get a little crowded.

Each of these mics has a character of  its own. I would suggest trying several different open mics, even if you don’t necessarily fit in with the group of people there. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone, and test your material in front of people whom you don’t normally perform with.

Takeaway

Use open mics as a tool to move forward.

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Andy’s Tuesday Tips: How to Deal with Bombing

Posted on by andy

Embrace the bomb, love the bomb, learn from the bomb. As a comic, you’re going to bomb numerous times.

Steve Martin said that if you’re doing something new and groundbreaking, people are not going to get you for three years or so. When Seinfeld started, he bombed 50 percent of the time. Sam Kinison cleared rooms–a classic example of what Steve Martin meant. Louis C.K. didn’t perform for two years after doing a set because he had such a bad experience.

The clear lesson is that everyone bombs. The point is not whether you are going to bomb, but how you’re going to deal with it.

The fact is, you learn a lot more about your set when you bomb. If everything goes well, you’re probably getting an inaccurate assessment of how your set really is, unless you’ve been working on it for ten years. If you do a set that has a lot of weak spots but some strong ones, you can conclude that the strong ones are probably “keepers,” if the crowd is tough. The bits that work are worth keeping.

Some comics who bomb often are brilliant. They simply have not found their audience yet. While bombing can be the sign of a bad comic, it can also point to a brilliant act that most audiences just don’t get. If you are doing something extraordinary and smart, your audience will find you.

You have to have a room where you can bomb comfortably on a regular basis. In other words, find a room where you can fail with no repercussions, so you can test out new material, ideas, characters, and rants. Don’t try a whole new set at a New Talent show. That should be where you bring your A-game to make a great DVD.

Learn to bomb gracefully. Recognize the fact that you are bombing. Poke fun at yourself. Go off from your written set if you have to. Try something different. Do some crowd work if you’re good enough.

Follow these two cardinal rules: Don’t blame the audience, and don’t blame the club. Nothing is worse than a comic who goes on a rant against the crowd or the venue. That can make a small thing a really big problem.

Takeaway

Never be afraid of bombing. Acknowledge it, and confront it.

Here’s a great video of Bill Burr dealing with bombing:

Bill Burr bombs beautifully

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Andy’s Tuesday Tips: Barking for Stage Time

Posted on by andy

There are two types of barkers: street teams, and comics working for stage time. Street teams are made up of individuals selling tickets for their own profit. They are, essentially, scalping tickets. They sell the tickets to people in Times Square to make their living, which also helps fill the rooms at comedy clubs all over the city.

Comics who bark for stage time are generally in their first few years of doing comedy, and bark until they’re passed at the club. Some clubs will ask their barkers to pass out flyers, while others expect them to make ticket sales on the street. Other clubs expect their barkers to hit certain numbers to earn stage time, which they do by either selling a specific amount of tickets, or having a certain amount of people come to the club with their flyers. Still other clubs and rooms simply send people to the street right outside to try to bring in pedestrians.

Barking is a great way for a young comic to start getting up in front of crowds that aren’t full of other comics, like open mics. You have to work for your stage time, but it gives you an opportunity to get in front of real audiences, and perform with headliners and other great comics who have been passed at the club. It also allows you to be at a club around other comics every night, having your face seen and your voice heard, which can lead to bookings on other shows. As a barker, you might even be able to make a little bit of money, depending on the system at your club.

Barking is a difficult job, though, if only because of the sheer amount of rejection. Even the most successful barkers sell to less than one percent of the people who pass them on the street. Being ignored, yelled at, and told by tourists that you are “your own comedy show” can tax your spirit, too.

But the best barkers manage to keep smiling and talk about their shows with enthusiasm for as long as they’re out there, knowing that it’s all for the most precious commodity around: stage time.

Keep in mind that not all clubs in the city make use of barking. For example, Gotham and the Comedy Cellar don’t have barkers for their shows.

Takeaway

If you can handle it, barking is a great way to get stage time before you’re ready to get guest/paid spots.

Special thanks to Kevin Seefried for his valuable contribution to this article. Follow him on twitter: @KSeefried

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Andy’s Tuesday Tips: How to Do Impressions

Posted on by andy

I believe a comic either has a natural gift for doing impersonations or doesn’t, so it’s an aptitude that can’t be taught. If you have the gift, it can be your ticket to break into clubs faster than comics who don’t do impersonations.

Good impersonators can make a lot of money. Danny Gans even had a theater named after him in Vegas. If you want to try to leverage your special ability, here are some tips to harness its powers from someone who’s done celebrity impersonations–and been paid for it.

• Find yourself an honest, tough coach, or fellow comic, for feedback.

You want blunt critiques of the accuracy of your voices. It’s a tougher road being being judged on an impersonation along with the joke or bit. If a comic does a bad joke in a routine set, it’s no big deal. You simply move on. But people will remember a weak or poor impersonation. Nothing screams “amateur” more.

Identify your range.

Most impressionists already have a list of voices they can do. Don’t work on ones that have been beaten to death. Get the hack list of impersonations, and strike any of the ones on it from your act. Perfect the ones you can do that are unique and unexpected, but still recognizable.

Develop your skill.

Start with a high-quality audio recording device. Get some short samples of the voices you are attempting to mimic. Every celebrity has a few famous lines, catch phrases, facial expressions, gestures, and quirks. Those are what you want to focus on reproducing. Do your research to find out which of their lines or sound bites are going to be the most familiar to an audience.

Identify the trait, emotion, or character the celebrity is known for.

Focus on the “vowels.”

Those are easier to imitate. Figure out what part of the body the voice is originating from.

Choose a famous celebrity already doing the voice, and copy their impersonation.

Some purists will argue against my advising this, since you are borrowing from someone who has already done a lot of the heavy lifting. Remember, though, that this route is only acceptable if you are imitating a voice as is, not one putting an interpretation on it the way Gilbert Gottfried does. You can’t imitate Gilbert’s impersonations, because he is doing more than a basic impersonation. He is adding a unique and original interpretation to the impersonation that is his and his alone.

Exaggerate and draw out the person’s most characteristic traits.

Don’t confuse a great impersonation with original material.

It’s not a substitute. Many comics expect applause for an impersonation all on its own. That’s a mistake.

Watch the masters at work.

Some of my favorites are Kevin Spacey, Gilbert Gottfried, Frank Caliendo, Darrell Hammond, Kate McKinnon, Bill Hader, and Kevin Pollak. See eclectic samples of their work here, and some celebrities doing impressions of their colleagues here.

Compare and contrast.

Listen to your own version of the voice, and then play the actual person’s voice. Keep practicing and replaying the recordings until you can’t tell the difference.

Once you feel you’re ready to try out your impersonations, start with only your best, A-list ones. Stick to those until you’re getting countless compliments on what a great voice you have.

Takeaway

Impersonations can be a powerful way to separate yourself from other comics.

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Andy’s Tuesday Tips: Doing Paid Spots at Clubs in the City

Posted on by andy

The biggest clubs in New York City are Gotham Comedy Club, The Comedy Cellar, and Caroline’s Comedy Club.

Have enough material–and more

Before you can begin to move into paid work at these important venues, you need to build your material. You should have a solid 30 minutes prepared. Even though most spots will be closer to 20 minutes, invariably things happen–someone will arrive late, the show’s start will be delayed, there will be a disturbance in the crowd–and you’ll have to stretch your act to include more time. Always be ready with enough material!

When you’re “passed”

There’s a big difference between someone telling you that you’ve been “passed” at a club, and actually doing regular paid spots during weekend shows. A lot of people have been passed, but they still don’t do regular paid weekend spots.

Most comics want to know when they’ll get recognized by industry or discovered by an agent. When you’re doing regular paid spots on house shows at clubs, industry will be in those crowds, other comedians will get to know your style, and bookers/managers will become familiar with your material. By performing on these house shows, you’re on one continuous unofficial audition, and if you’re getting paid for those shows, chances are you’re ready.

What I can’t stress enough to young comics is this: Don’t try to audition or get seen by industry before you’re ready. That’s one of the most common beginner’s mistakes. If you perform at a club when you’re too green, you’ll cement an inaccurate impression of your comedic abilities that can be hard to shake.

Takeaway

Always bring your A-game when you’re doing club spots, because you never know who’s watching.

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Andy’s Tuesday Tips: Preparing for Your Set

Posted on by andy

1. Get in character before you hit the stage.

This is a key point in ensuring you have a successful set.

It’s very important to get into your character/persona/attitude while you are still off stage–not after you step on the stage. Don’t try to warm up to your voice when you’re already facing the audience. It’s a waste of time at that critical point to start finding your character and getting into the zone, and you never want to waste stage time.

It’s best to get on stage during the applause when the host brings you up. You want to keep the good energy in the room going. Don’t walk slowly to the stage. Not only will it kill the momentum, but it’s disrespectful to the host who’s waiting for you.

2. If you have the time, try to rehearse your whole set in a private area.

If you have less time before a show, focus on two or three key new lines or ideas right before you hit the stage. Concentrate on key words, punchlines, or tags. Maybe it’s a line that you sometimes forget, or that you want to incorporate for the first time.

Get into your mindset  right before you’re going on. Don’t make “small talk” or get distracted from your set.  Save the chatting with other comics for after the show, so you can stay focused on your material, and also so that you don’t interrupt anyone else’s concentration.

3. Stage fright is normal and healthy, so don’t repress it.

Acknowledge your nerves and anxiety, and use those feelings to give you an adrenalin burst. Be honest about your fear. Tell the audience about it. People respond well to truthfulness and honesty because they know they’re hearing something real and fresh. The audience wants to see you succeed. They’re on your side.

4. Stay sober.

Do not drink or do drugs. You won’t help your set. Worse, you will earn a reputation with the club and other comedians, and you may lose work, even if you think you are “under control.”

5. Use relaxation techniques.

Jerry Seinfeld is a big proponent of Transcendental Meditation (TM), which I wholeheartedly endorse. A simple and pragmatic tool you can use at pre-show is a self-hypnosis system called the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).

The practice allows you to quickly and powerfully relax yourself. It’s healthy, and effective for calming your nerves in three minutes or less.

Takeaway

Identify whatever methods work best for you to be sure you are focused and have prepared yourself before you hit the stage.

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To Be Funny or Not To Be Funny, There’s No Question

Posted on by Emily Rosenberg

Here’s another reminder that of all the 12 professions represented in NEW YORK’S FUNNIEST PROFESSIONAL, actors stand to gain the most by garnering the coveted title and $1,000 first prize. It’ll be a feather in your resume that shows you have award-winning, expert-acclaimed comedy skills that set you apart from every other actor trying out for comic roles.

NEW YORK’S FUNNIEST PROFESSIONAL, the largest amateur comedy competition in the city, offers actors (as well as employees in 11 other industries) the opportunity to show their stand-up comedy chops on a real comedy club stage. If you turn out to be funnier than all the other actors in your round,  you could go on to claim first prize over all the other industries, too. And that’s something even Olivier never did.

You’ll vie for generous cash prizes, give your industry a boost, and even appear alongside a celebrity comic if you advance to the final show. Presented by Gotham Comedy Club and Manhattan Comedy School, NEW YORK’S FUNNIEST PROFESSIONAL will prove to the world which line of work has the best one-liners.

The competition has two rounds. Each comedian will perform in one of the 10 (+) preliminary rounds according to his/her field of work.

Actors will be performing their comedy sets on Tuesday, May 28th at 7 pm.

Deadline to Submit Your Competition Entry Form (below): Monday, May 12th

Selected Contestants Announced: Tuesday, May 13th

To enter, click this link and fill out the entire form* before submitting:

Entry form 

There is NO entry fee. However, there is a “bringer” requirement, which means you must bring 15 audience guests per round (two rounds total). The shows have a $12 cover charge and a two-drink minimum.

* Since there is a limited number of spots for each industry, submitting an entry form does not guarantee admission to the contest. You will be contacted with a confirmation if you have been accepted. All qualifying contestants will be announced May 13th.

For more information on the contest rules, prizes, and the performance schedule breakdown by all 12 industries, read here.

Enter today, and show every other actor in New York City that you can deliver a punchline as well as a line of dialogue.

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Lawyers, Use Your Silver Tongues Outside the Courtroom

Posted on by Emily Rosenberg

Here’s another reminder that of all the 12 professions represented in NEW YORK’S FUNNIEST PROFESSIONAL, lawyers stand to gain the most by garnering the coveted title and $1,000 first prize.  By impressing the judges and audience with your hilarious stand-up comedy, all you JD’s can finally put to rest the terrible stereotype that attorneys are humorless, bloodsucking sharks bent on destroying the competition. Except for the part where you destroy the competition with your act.

NEW YORK’S FUNNIEST PROFESSIONAL, the largest amateur comedy competition in the city, offers witty attorneys (as well as employees in 11 other industries) the opportunity to show their stand-up comedy chops on a real comedy club stage. The one who raises the bar for members of the bar could go on to win the whole contest by taking down funny people with MA’s, MBA’s and GED’s.

You’ll vie for generous cash prizes, give your industry a boost, and even appear alongside a celebrity comic if you advance to the final show. Presented by Gotham Comedy Club and Manhattan Comedy School, NEW YORK’S FUNNIEST PROFESSIONAL will prove to the world which line of work has the best one-liners.

The competition has two rounds. Each comedian will perform in one of the 10 (+) preliminary rounds according to his/her field of work.

Lawyers will be performing their comedy sets on Monday, May 28th at 9:30 pm.

Deadline to Submit Your Competition Entry Form (below): Monday, May 12th

Selected Contestants Announced: Tuesday, May 13th

To enter, click this link and fill out the entire form* before submitting:

Entry form 

There is NO entry fee. However, there is a “bringer” requirement, which means you must bring 15 audience guests per round (two rounds total). The shows have a $12 cover charge and a two-drink minimum.

* Since there is a limited number of spots for each industry, submitting an entry form does not guarantee admission to the contest. You will be contacted with a confirmation if you have been accepted. All qualifying contestants will be announced May 13th.

For more information on the contest rules, prizes, and the performance schedule breakdown by all 12 industries, read here.

Enter today, and show your co-workers that you’re even funnier in front of a brick wall than you are when you litigate on behalf of an international conglomerate that dumps toxic waste.

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Prove Dishpan Hands Don’t Affect Funny Bones

Posted on by Emily Rosenberg

Funny housewives and husbands, do you wish you could try for laughs from a more responsive audience than the dog and a screaming toddler? On June 2nd at 9:30 pm, you’ll have the chance to show a room full of adults just how funny you really are.

NEW YORK’S FUNNIEST PROFESSIONAL, the largest amateur comedy competition in the city, offers stay-at-home spouses, as well as workers in 11 other fields, the opportunity to demonstrate their stand-up comedy chops on a real comedy club stage.

You’ll vie for cash prizes, give your fellow SAHSs a boost, and even appear alongside a celebrity comic if you advance to the final show. Presented by Gotham Comedy Club and Manhattan Comedy School, NEW YORK’S FUNNIEST PROFESSIONAL will prove to the world which line of work has the best one-liners.

The competition has two rounds. Each comedian will perform in one of the 10 (+) preliminary rounds according to his/her field of work.

Housewives/husbands will be performing their comedy sets on Monday, June 2nd at 9:30 pm.

Deadline to Submit Your Competition Entry Form (below): Monday, May 12th

Selected Contestants Announced: Tuesday, May 13th

To enter, click this link and fill out the entire form* before submitting:

Entry form 

There is NO entry fee. However, there is a “bringer” requirement, which means you must bring 15 audience guests per round (two rounds total). The shows have a $12 cover charge and a two-drink minimum.

* Since there is a limited number of spots for each industry, submitting an entry form does not guarantee admission to the contest. You will be contacted with a confirmation if you have been accepted. All qualifying contestants will be announced May 13th.

For more information on the contest rules, prizes, and the performance schedule breakdown by all 12 industries, read here.

Enter today, and show your neighbors that you can deliver hilarious material even when the cable guy isn’t five hours late.

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Teachers, Show Your Students Who the Real Class Clown Is

Posted on by Emily Rosenberg

You can’t be a teacher in New York City without a healthy sense of humor, and possibly a bulletproof vest. On June 2nd at 7 pm, you have the chance to show those little twerps in your classroom that you’re a lot funnier than that “kick me” sign they stuck on your back last week.

NEW YORK’S FUNNIEST PROFESSIONAL, the largest amateur comedy competition in the city, offers teachers, as well as employees in 11 other industries, the opportunity to show their stand-up comedy chops on a real comedy club stage.

You’ll vie for cash prizes, give your industry a boost, and even appear alongside a celebrity comic if you advance to the final show. Presented by Gotham Comedy Club and Manhattan Comedy School, NEW YORK’S FUNNIEST PROFESSIONAL will prove to the world which line of work has the best one-liners.

The competition has two rounds. Each comedian will perform in one of the 10 (+) preliminary rounds according to his/her field of work.

Teachers will be performing their comedy sets on Monday, June 2nd at 7 pm.

Deadline to Submit Your Competition Entry Form (below): Monday, May 12th

Selected Contestants Announced: Tuesday, May 13th

To enter, click this link and fill out the entire form* before submitting:

Entry form 

There is NO entry fee. However, there is a “bringer” requirement, which means you must bring 15 audience guests per round (two rounds total). The shows have a $12 cover charge and a two-drink minimum.

* Since there is a limited number of spots for each industry, submitting an entry form does not guarantee admission to the contest. You will be contacted with a confirmation if you have been accepted. All qualifying contestants will be announced May 13th.

For more information on the contest rules, prizes, and the performance schedule breakdown by all 12 industries, read here.

Enter today, and show your students that you’re the real class clown.

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