Mini Q&A with Ophira Eisenberg

 

Ophira Eisenberg is the host of NPR’s and WNYC’s new weekly trivia, puzzle, and game show Ask Me Another. She recently performed on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and her book debut memoir, Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy is available everywhere. Check her out this summer at Brooklyn’s Union Hall!

 

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

What are you my mother?

 

Describe your worst gig.

It was my first paid road gig – at a strip club that was dark on Mondays (like Broadway) so the owner didn’t advertise the show and no one came. To try to save it, he called the strippers and they showed up with their boyfriends and friends. I died pretty hard on that stage, with that audience. But I did get $20.

 

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young (female/LGBTQI) comedian?

Just. Keep. Going.

 

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

What is this 2004? We’re done with that. Proven it a 1000 times over so step aside and let me do my job, you go back to your shitty life/cave.

 

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

Delusion.

 

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Wash your hands. Ha. But seriously – meet you audience after the show, shake their hands, but then wash your hands.

 

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

“Your act should be more angry.”

 

Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy”?

Very lucrative.

 

Single word that always cracks you up?

Puke. Sorry. But yup. I’m as low brow as the next person.

 

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?

Sigh, my mom, my brother. And then Carol Burnett.

 

For standups: what advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual spots?

It’s really a game of perseverance and having a consistently good set.

 

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

I wrote an entire chapter in my book about how much I hate it, but in short, we play the same drunk crowds, we deal with the same bookers. I’m a comic, just like you.

 


Ophira Eisenberg is a Canadian comic, writer, and actress from Calgary, now living in New York City. When she’s not hosting her weekly NPR show, Ask Me Another, you can find her at pretty much any club around New York City, and at exclusive venues and bars when she tours on the road. Her tour schedule can be found here.

Twitter: @OphiraE

Facebook: Ophira Eisenberg

 

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Mini Q&A with Elsa Waithe

Elsa Waithe is a comedian, activist, and all-around wildchild. Her comedy is a mix of light-hearted but critical jabs at homosexuality and race but mainly herself and weed. She can been seen as a regular performer (and producer) at the Cinder Block Festival and in her feature on an episode of the This American Life podcast. She is also an instructor and incredible supporter of GOLD Comedy!

 

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

This ain’t a conversation.

 

BRIEFLY describe your worst gig (noting that you survived).

The worst gigs are when you know you are doing A+ material and it’s all falling flat. I push through finish and remind myself that no matter how bad it was, it’s over and I did it.

 

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young (female/LGBTQI) comedian?

Take all the advice but only listen to half of it.

 

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

First: ಠ_ಠ
Then: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
There’s way too many funny women out there, past/present/future to really argue this with anyone. Can’t argue that the sky is blue with someone determined to see it as green.

 

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

Competition with myself and camaraderie.

 

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Never throw anything away but don’t get married to any one bit.

 

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Go to as many open mics as you can. (Don’t do that. Burnout is real.)

 

Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy”? (If applicable.)

Answering this question, or it’s racial or sexual variate (“What’s it like to be Black/lesbian…) in every interview as if I’m not supposed to be here.

 

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

I’ve had cops recognize me from a show. He took selfies with me and forgot to write my ticket.

 

Single word that always cracks you up?

Spork

 

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?

I was watching The View one day (it was just on and I didn’t change the channel) and one of the ladies was describing how she was on vacation and afraid to skydive or something. She finally bit off the courage and it was one of the most rewarding things she’d experienced. She said “Whatever you are afraid of, it’s probably the thing you should be doing.” That quote never left me. A week later I was doing stand-up.

 

For standups: what advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual SPOT-spots?

Network, Network, NETWORK.

 

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

I personally don’t like it but I’m not grabbing the pitchforks or torches.

 


Elsa Waithe is a comedian and activist from Norfolk, Va, currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. Her comedy is a mix of lighthearted but critical jabs at homosexuality and race, but she mainly just talks about herself and weed. She’s taken home 1st place and “fan favorite” 3 times at the Virginia Beach FunnyBone in 2013. She appears on Internet Action Force. NBC Stand-Up Semi-Finalist. She was also featured on NPR’s “This American Life” in Oct. 2015. Elsa is a regular at Greenwich Village Comedy Club in Manhattan and The Experiment Comedy Gallery in Brooklyn. She is also an instructor and incredible supporter of GOLD Comedy!

Twitter: @elsajustelsa

 

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Mini Q&A with Jes Tom

Jes Tom (they/them) is a weird queer stand up comic with but one goal: To hurt the feelings of The Oppressor. They are an awesome friend of GOLD and an even more amazing comedian! Recently, they have been featured in a viral PSA video about the whitewashed Ghost in the Shell. They will also be starring in the upcoming dark comedic short film ‘Anatomy of an Orchid’ directed by Sonja O’Hara​.

 

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

I don’t respond. Don’t feed the trolls!!

 

BRIEFLY describe your worst gig (noting that you survived).

In 2016 I performed a Lunar New Year themed gig at the Friar’s Club. I was so excited to perform at such a historic comedy venue, but when I got there the entire audience was 60+ year old rich white people dressed in fake Chinese clothes. The booker told us (an entirely Asian, mostly women, some queer, lineup), “This [show] will be good for them. They’ve never seen Asian people outside of a kitchen.” They were a really tough (read: olllllld skool racist) audience, and most of the comics really struggled to connect with them. By the time I got up, 80% of the audience had left (probably to go to bed). I still gave my best energy, and I got some good laughs! After the show, the folks who had stayed thanked us for being brave enough to be ourselves in such a hostile space.

 

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young (female/LGBTQI) comedian?

The world deserves to hear your voice, and you deserve to laugh.

 

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

Well, I’m not gonna listen to this person anymore.

 

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

Find your people. Find the people in the community that make you feel good, that inspire you, that make you want to be the best comic you can be. Especially as a marginalized person in comedy, the scene can be very discouraging. Find the people and places and aspects that make you excited to keep coming back.

 

Best comedy advice you ever got?

My mentor D’Lo told me, “Stay humble. Sometimes humility is the only thing that sets us apart.”

 

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

Being funny is a blessing and a curse! On one hand, it’s a great defense mechanism. One of the best. On the other, it can keep you from getting vulnerable with people, and with an audience. Hone your humor, but don’t hide behind it.

 

Single word that always makes you laugh.

Honnnnestly? I love round palindromes like “poop” and “boob”

 

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?

Definitely Margaret Cho. She’s an azn gurl from San Francisco, just like me! So I always related to her, even though our humor is very different. I used to watch her clips on YouTube on the projector in an empty classroom, thinking, “I could do that.” And now I do.

 

For stand-ups: what advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual spots?

  1. Make friends, be kind! Of course producers book comics based on talent & ability, but they also want to book people they enjoy spending time with.
  2. Get into the habit of sharing jokes on social media. It’ll keep you writing fresh material, help you gauge what jokes might work onstage, and remind producers that hey, I’m still here AND I’m hilarious.

 

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Gendered terms like that are totally unnecessary, in my opinion.

 

 


Jes Tom (they/them) is a weird queer stand up comic with but one goal: To hurt the feelings of The Oppressor. Born & raised in San Francisco and now established in New York, Jes Tom is a fresh voice in stand up comedy, gleefully providing the nonbinary queer Asian American radical cyborg perspective that everyone never knew they wanted. Jes has performed in all five boroughs of New York City, as well as at colleges and conferences spanning the frigid American northeast. Their first 30 minute comedy special, Cold Brew, was recorded live in August 2016 at Astoria’s QED: A Place to Show and Tell. They are also an instructor and incredible supporter of GOLD Comedy!

 

Twitter: @jestom

Facebook: jesthekid

 

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Best college campuses for women in comedy

 

So you’re deciding where to go to college. Sure, you did pretty well on your SATs. Your application is full of juicy extracurriculars (like the GOLD ComedyTM workshop!) You even got that coveted recommendation letter from Mr. Baldwin, the hip young English professor who loves edgy backwards chair sitting. Now you just need to figure out which schools to apply to.

 

And you’re smart. You’ve got your priorities straight. You know that the most important thing in your college decision making process isn’t the education, the location, or even the food. It’s the comedy scene. And not just for anyone: for you. Choosing a school is like choosing a romantic partner: you’re probably going to be stuck with them for about four years, so they better make you laugh. And have a good credit score.

 

So we made you this list! It’s not exhaustive, which is exciting. So many schools now have thriving comedy scenes where women and diversity reign supreme. Here are just some of the best.

 

Brown University

Oh, Brown–a school that makes headlines for being more liberal than Bernie Sanders at a San Francisco hemp convention. Unsurprisingly, Brown has been taking some huge steps towards diversifying the members of its comedy scene. In 2015, the school welcomed its first all-female group in the form of “Skorts,” a musical sketch comedy troupe. (We’d love to show you some of their stuff, but an Internet search for “brown skorts” took us to the JCPenney homepage.)

 

Skorts

 

Boasting three improv troupes (Starla and Sons, Improvidence and Comic Sans), two sketch comedy groups (Out of Bounds and Skorts), and Brown Stand Up Comics, Brown has no shortage of options. If performance isn’t your jam., Brown also has two written humor publications, the Brown Noser and the Brown Jug

 

Columbia College

Located in the heart of Windy City and improv Mecca Chicago, Columbia College has produced comedy juggernauts like Aidy Bryant, Lena Waithe, and even the legendary Phyllis Diller!

 

Columbia College Comedy

 

In addition to having a number of awesome improv troupes where women make up a large portion of the group, the school is home to one of the flagship “Comedy Studies” programs that actually allows students to pursue a degree in funny business! It also doesn’t hurt that one of their improv troupes, Cat Booty, won this year’s College Improv Tournament.

 

Emerson College

Tucked away in the heart of downtown Boston, Emerson College pumps out more comedians than the Wayans family: names like Bill Burr, David Cross, Laura Kightlinger, Jay Leno, Andrea Martin, Tess Rafferty, Iliza Shlesinger, Steven Wright, and the late, beloved Harris Wittels.

 

Stroopwaffels

 

As of 2015, Emerson offers a killer BFA program in Comedic Arts that is sure to produce some comedy heavyweights down the line. Apart from the academic opportunities, Emerson is home to numerous other groups including SWOMO, Inside Jokes, Stroopwafel, This is Pathetic, Police Geese, and more.

 

University of Pennsylvania

Sure, Ben Franklin was a genius. But could he deliver a 1-minute monologue with enough material for a full 20-minute set? Probably not.

 

Bloomers

 

That’s where Penn’s comedy scene comes in. Without A Net is currently Penn’s flagship improv troupe but there’s an emerging women’s comedy scene that’s got us super excited. The all-women sketch group Bloomers now hosts the annual LaughtHERfest, an awesome day-long program that celebrates women in comedy. The festival has hosted other awesome college troupes like Columbia, Brown, and even big names likes Vanessa Bayer, Michelle Wolf, and our very own Lynn Harris!

 

NYU

New York is often cited as the standup capital of the world. So of course it stands to reason that New York’s own University has a killer comedy scene. Groups like Dangerbox and Hammerkatz have produced some major talent like Rachel Bloom, Donald Glover, and Fran Gillespie.

 

Bechdel Test

 

But NYU’s newest troupe, Bechdel Test, is paving the way for a women’s scene to develop. Founder of the group and Tisch student Meghan Sullivan told the NYU News that, “There is a stigma around female jokes that they have to be one thing or another. Well, they do not.” We couldn’t agree with you more, Meghan.

 

SCAD

Growing up in nearby Jacksonville, Florida, I knew Savannah, Georgia was famous for two things: ghosts and peaches. Maybe even a few ghost peaches. Who knows. Never in my life did I think Savannah would be known for its college improv scene. But SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) proved me wrong.

 

Do Savannah

 

The school was home to 6Chix, a groundbreaking group in the college improv scene. In 2015, 6Chix entered the College Improv Tournament as the first-ever all women group. 6Chix advanced to the finals that year and forever changed the gender landscape of CIT.

 

Wellesley College

Granted, Wellesley has a bit of a head start in the feminist department (being an all- women’s school and all). But that certainly doesn’t diminish the amazing and thriving comedy scene the women of Wellesley have created. Dead Serious (pictured below rocking some serious denim) has been bringing the laughs to Wellesley for almost two decades.

 

Dead Serious

 

Located in Massachusetts, Wellesley has produced some pretty great, and often funny, women including Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Nora Ephron. Perhaps our next Secretary of State will be one of the jean-clad fashionistas above.

 

As a three-time participant in the College Improv Tournament, I can confidently say that there’s room for improvement in the female college comedy scene. A majority of the troupes that perform at the Tournament are mostly, if not all men. In my experience, women in college are MUCH more wary of trying improv or standup than men, citing shyness or “not being funny enough.” Well they’re wrong! While being shy is totally normal and fine, good comedy is all about being yourself and knowing that your genuine self can be funny. And there’s no better time to find your yourself than in your college years!

 

Looking for a chance to connect with other funny women in your area? Check out these festivals: Boston’s Women in Comedy Festival, Portland’s All Jane No Dick Comedy Festival, the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, and Austin’s Ladies Are Funny Festival.

 

 

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Carsen Smith is a 20-something from Nashville. where she is currently serving as director of Tongue ‘N’ Cheek, Vanderbilt University’s premier (and only) improv troupe. Alongside GOLD, she is working to bring more women to comedy and more comedy to women. She also thinks Jimmy Fallon doesn’t deserve as much flak as he gets.

How to make your PowerPoint funnier

 

When it comes to putting people to sleep, not even Ambien can rival the prowess of the PowerPoint. Invented in 1990 by technology and sleep wizard Bill Gates, the PowerPoint has been sedating students, coworkers, and even our loved ones for almost three decades. My grandmother went to a timeshare presentation in April and STILL hasn’t woken up.

 

An obvious solution: make it funny. A Harvard Business School study confirms that humor—when it works—makes people listen more closely and see you as confident and competent.

 

At work and in general—”men are more free to bomb,” says comedian Allison Goldberg, who works with Jen Jamula at GoldJam Creative to bring comedy and creativity into workplaces. “Men are just given a lot more leeway for everything. A guy bombs and people forget it, a woman does and people don’t.”

 

But DO NOT FEAR. The stakes may feel high, but remember: the bar is low. This is your sales meeting, not 2 Dope Queens. “The crowd is not expecting to laugh their asses off,” says Goldberg. Keep in mind that every workplace environment is different. It’s crucial to know your audience and to have a grasp on what they will find both appropriate and funny. 

 

Here are our tips for sprinkling your PowerPoint with comedy gold.

 

1. Unexpected animations

If you took an Intro to Computers class in middle school, you probably learned how to use Animations. They allow text, words, and pictures to have a little bit of motion. And alongside language and sound, motion is a crucial tenet of any comedy. Which is why pet rocks were never that funny.

 

This example below shows how an animation can spice up an otherwise boring presentation about Shia LaBeouf’s mug.

 

 

The Animations tool bar is located on the main toolbar between Transitions and Slideshow. You can give your animations a sudden entrance, an exaggerated emphasis, or even a sudden exit for a quick laugh.

 

2. Silly Acronyms

This is one of my all-time favorite bits. There are a few ways to go about this joke. Some options include the nonsense acronym, the forced acronym, or the impossible to remember acronym. Check out these various examples about how to organize your computer’s desktop.

 

A nonsense acronym creates an acronym that is wholly unhelpful in completing the task.

 

 

The forced acronym uses a lot of roundabout letters to achieve its purpose.

 

And finally, there’s the impossible-to-remember acronym. This acronym actually contains the necessary information but assumes that the audience can remember many jumbled letters.

 

This particular joke is especially effective if you attempt to pronounce the acronym in your presentation. It might even be fun to get your audience to try and pronounce it too!

 

3. Non-sequitur statistics

Paul Rudd perfected this joke in the hit film Anchorman. When describing his cologne “Sex Panther” and its ability to pick up women, Rudd’s character repeatedly cites that “60% of the time, it works every time.” This joke can easily be inserted into any PowerPoint that involves quantifiable statistics.

 

Take this example joke slide that would be perfect for anyone in the kayaking business. (This slide is great because it uses the ‘Rule of Three:’ two real statistics and one silly one.)

 

 

This joke always reminds me of the time my ex-boyfriend said he only “50% cheated on me,” which was his way of saying that he had made out with another guy.

 

4. Punchline-Set up slides

What better way to be funny in a PowerPoint than setting yourself up for a killer punchline? These kinds of jokes are used all the time on Late Night TV shows and on famous segments like SNL’s Weekend Update. Personally, I find these kinds of jokes are most effective when the setup is said verbally (as opposed to on a slide) and the punchline is a simple image or statement on the next slide.

 

Here’s an example:

 

In your speech, create the set-up by saying something in the form of a question. If your presentation were about how to improve the quality of living in your Quebec neighborhood, you’d say something along the lines of, “So how do we reduce widespread noise pollution?”

 

After an appropriate “beat,” or comedic moment of silence, the punchline slide would be revealed:

 

 

Of course, this example takes a strong stance on Canadian rock band Nickelback and may not be appropriate for a pitch with . But hopefully it can inspire you to create the perfect punchline that works for your presentation!

 

5. Random ‘palate cleanser’ slide

Is your presentation droning on and on? Or perhaps you’re giving a presentation about a heavier, more serious topic. Maybe it’s time for a palate cleanser. These random slides can range from silly animals photos, to memes, or even an embarrassing photo from your childhood.

 

During a heavy presentation about sexism and violence against women in media, feminist author and friend of GOLD Comedy Jenn Pozner once employed a palate cleanser by including a slide with “some baby kittens hanging from a few pairs of underpants on a clothesline.” Mid-presentation, she exclaimed, “KITTENS! Deep breath. 1… 2… 3… OK, feel better? Good. Moving on.” This was a great way for Jenn to both make her audience feel more at ease and to add humor to a tense lecture.

 

Take this slide, as another example of a palate cleanser.

 

 

Needless to say, I went to my mom for my Halloween costume the next year.

 

6. End with a Q&A… for the audience

Most presentations conclude with a question and answer section where the audience asks the presenter about what they just heard. Before doing this, I recommend you flip the script and ask the audience questions about your presentation material.

 

 

This is a great time to call people out if you know them by name and/or have a relatively informal relationship with them. People loved being acknowledged during presentations and love being called out for not paying attention even more!

 

Offer candy or other small rewards to people that get questions right. This keeps people engaged and can be a great way to end your presentation!

 

Or your article about making funny PowerPoints!

 

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Mini Q&A with Wendy Liebman

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

One time a woman in the audience told me that she was a comedian. Later in the show she yelled out that she could have written a better punchline to one of my jokes. I said, “And where are you working tonight?”

 

BRIEFLY describe your worst gig (noting that you survived).

I’ve blocked it out like childbirth. But one time I was performing at a Nike Holiday Party. They had flown me and a friend first class and gave us Nike gear and paid me more for one show than I had made for a year as a secretary. But the show was in a huge room and half the people were playing basketball and about 20 people sat on 6 couches and I was standing on a stage that was 20 feet above the audience and it was just a disaster and I thought to myself, “Just Do It!”

 

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young (female/LGBTQI) comedian?

Perform as much as humanly possible. Try new material all the time. Tell the truth.

 

Best comedy advice you ever got?

I was about to be on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Steven Wright told me just to play to the studio audience, 400 people. Not to the audience at home. That made a lot of sense! Someone else told me to think about my feet touching the floor. And I swear, when I’m grounded, I’m funnier.

 

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Sell something after the show like a plastic hamburger (you know, “Wendy’s).

 

Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy”?

I’ve never been a man in comedy so I don’t know the difference.

 

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

After college I moved into a house with really really smart people and I felt really really stupid around them so I made them laugh. I was also really depressed, and I remember thinking, I’d rather make 100 people laugh together than cry by myself.

 

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?

I used to watch Lily Tomlin on Laugh In and I would do two of her characters for my dad (Ernestine and Edith Ann) and I LOVED making him laugh (I still do). Other performers that shaped my sense of humor: Flip Wilson, Carol Burnett, Cher, Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl) and The Harlem Globetrotters.

 

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

As long as the check clears.

 


Wendy Liebman took a class “How to be a Stand-up Comedian” at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in 1985. Since then she has performed on Carson, Letterman, Leno, Fallon, Kimmel, Ferguson, and Hollywood Squares, in comedy clubs and events throughout North America. Wendy has starred in specials for HBO, Comedy Central and Showtime, and was a Semi-Finalist on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, Season 9.

Twitter: @WendyLiebman

Facebook: wendy.liebman

 

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How to survive your first open mic

 

My first open mic took place in a basement on a Saturday at 4:30 in the afternoon. My topics included being a grimy “cute” girl, Ariana Grande’s donut scandal vs. Bill Cosby’s rape accusations, Oedipus, and incest galore! To my utter disbelief, the comics in the room mustered mild chuckles, which to me, felt like George Carlin performing for an audience of 20,000 at Madison Square Garden. Before I knew it, my five minutes were up. The host took the stage after me announcing, “That was your first time? And you went straight into masturbation. Wow.” I was on cloud 9.

I’ve been performing standup for about 13 months now, averaging 12 open mics per week. I can confidently say that I’ve learned a thing or two about how to survive an open mic.

 

1.    Attend an open mic to watch.

“Auditing” a mic will help you get a feel for the expectations. You’ll see each comic going up one after the other, casually listing off their jokes from notebooks. If you’re like me, you’ll think, “I can do that! I’m much funnier than guy A, guy B, and ESPECIALLY guy C. I can do it!” It’ll give you the deranged self-confidence necessary to be just as unfunny as everyone else.

 

2.     Prepare your jokes.

Many people attend open mics thinking they’ll speak off the cuff, which is a mistake. Perhaps you’re quick witted, but wit runs out of gas real fast when there is no arc to what you’re saying. Additionally, if you’re new to public speaking, you don’t know how you’ll react speaking in front of a room of strangers, especially if your joke bombs. To avoid freezing up, it’s best to prepare material.

Don’t know where to start? Free write and pick a few ideas to hone in on. For my first time, I found it helpful to bounce my ideas off of other people. If your closest friends look at you like an extraterrestrial creature, it might not connect with a room full of strangers.

Remember, you can bring your notes on stage. Whenever I’m working out new material, I’ll bring up a set list of keywords. The words jog my memory so I don’t end up reading my jokes off the page and disengaging from the room.

 

3.     Find out how the mic runs.

Do you need to sign up in advance? If so, when does the sign up period begin? Does the mic cap the amount of performers? Do you need to pay to perform? How many minutes will you get? At what point will the host light you (letting you know how much time you have left) and from where in the room?

 

I once tried to get on an open mic in Australia, but when I got there 40 minutes early, they told me I had to sign up a week in advance. This is abnormal for New York, but it might be how it’s done in your city.

 

You can find open mics in your city via badslava or freemics.

 

4.     Record yourself.

It won’t help you get through your first open mic, but it’ll serve as a memento and a reminder of how much you’ve grown (down the line). Moving forward, it’s important to record your sets in order to understand where your jokes went right or wrong and what you can improve upon. Like many comedians, I record every set on the voice memos app on my phone.  

 

5.     Move the mic stand.

If you choose to take the mic out of the stand, it’s best to move it to the side or behind you. To see a mic stand in front of a performer is a barrier and a distraction. Not only does it serve as a visual irritant to onlookers, but it makes you, the performer, seem cagey. The stand prevents you from physically engaging with the room.

 

If you’re a real silly billy, you’ll leave the mic in the stand and pick the whole damn thing up because you’re a rebel and no one can tell you what to do!

 

6.   Keep the mic at your chin.

When I first started, I had a bad habit of waving the mic around as I was speaking. If you’re waving the mic around, no one can hear your funnies, and more importantly, no one will laugh. Keep the mic at chin level and a few inches away from your face. If you’re yelling, pull that mic away so that everyone in the room doesn’t hate you from permanently damaging their eardrums…unless you’re a cool bad boy/girl who’s into that sort of thing, in which case, do you.

 

7.   Tell everyone it’s your first open mic.

Most open mic-ers tune out if they don’t recognize you. For the sake of your self-esteem, you’re going to want people to look up from their phones and listen. When you mention it’s your first time, people will be generally supportive, curious, and excited to hear what you have to say. Why? Because everybody remembers their own first time.

 

8.     Know it’s normal to be afraid.

It took me TWO years to find the courage to attend my first open mic. At 21, I drunkenly announced my big dreams of being the next Chelsea Peretti to a working stand-up comedian (I have no regrets), but it took some growing up for me to overcome my most paralyzing fear: public speaking. The fear never went away. In fact, I had nervous diarrhea leading up to my first open mic and spent the following twenty to forty mics dry-heaving and hiding in the bathroom until they called my name. What changed at 23, as opposed to 21, was that I decided I wasn’t going to let phobias dictate my life choices. Don’t let them dictate yours!

 

9. SURPRISE, none of my advice matters.

At the end of the day, no tips or tricks about how to perform will guarantee 100% success. What’s most important is getting on stage and speaking, over and over again, no matter what. That is how you become a comedian.

So go forth! Be funny!

 

 

Blair Dawson is a New York based standup comedian and improvisor. Working as an ESL teacher in Thailand, she got her start in comedy performing in expat communities across southeast Asia. Blair has studied with the UCB Theater and is a contributing writer for GOLD ComedyTM. Additionally, she produces and co-hosts a monthly sex-positive storytelling and stand-up show, sponsored by Babeland, entitled, “U Up?” Blair’s comedy explores dark themes of the human condition through a childlike lens of silliness and curiosity. She’s your new best friend and can’t wait to induct you into her cult! www.Blair-Dawson.com @UrGirlBlair

 

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Mini Q&A with Joanna Briley

 

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Dad, that’s why Mom left you! Shut it up!

 

Worst gig?

I wanted to include the town news into my act so I found an arrest for DWI who happened to have the same name as the guy who booked me. As I’m telling the joke, no one is laughing because it WAS the guy who booked me!

 

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young comedian?

Be transparent and authentic.

 

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

 

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

I love to laugh and it is the most honest and passionate feelings I get when I’m creating a show or performing! I feel alive!!!

 

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Do not seek validation from the audience.

 

Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy”?

What’s it like to be able to breathe?

 

Single word that always cracks you up?

Jiggle

 

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?

Goldie Hawn has such an innocent quality to her funny and that is how I can describe myself. Innocent and funny!

 

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

It has allowed me to recognize that this is definitely what I was born to do. I made people laugh as long as I can remember.

 


Twitter: @1FunnySistah2

Joanna Briley is a New York City-based actor, stand-up comedian and writer. She founded MetroComics, Inc, a comedy organization that allows MTA employees to combine their senses of humor with their experiences working in Metro. She currently hosts both the LaffTracks Comedy Showcase and the Wednesday’s Comedy Workout and works as the Senior Manager of Comedy Development at the Brooklyn House of Comedy. Last but not least, she is a wonderful member of the GOLD ComedyTM advisory board!

 

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