Open mics in New York City that won’t destroy you, probably

Open mics have been described to me as scrimmages (for the non-athletic: play rehearsals) used to practice and improve before a real game (paid gigs). They are where you go to find your sea legs as a comedian, dump out your ideas, and fine-tune them before a show with an actual audience expecting to laugh. They are essential for any comedian starting out.

The problem? Open mics in most U.S. cities are full of angry swamp monsters. The crowd can be homogenous and unhappy to see you (or anyone new, especially a non-white dude) try stand-up comedy.

I have curated this list of supportive open mics in NYC (sorry other cities, it’s the only place I know). Although you have to know there’s no such thing as a 100% “safe space” in comedy (or the planet), there are pockets in the community where people’s instincts are to not tear you down.

Monday

Location: The Standing Room (LIC, Queens)

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Sign Up: Bucket (The first 5 to arrive get to perform in the first group)

Minutes: 4

Fee: Free

Description: Dudes primarily attend this mic, but the host creates a supportive vibe. Plus, the room is intimate, making it difficult for the other open mic-ers to ignore you. It’s a great mic to try out new material, and I feel safe bombing there because the scale makes it feel inconsequential.

Location: The Platform (Bushwick, Brooklyn)

Time: 8:30 PM

Sign Up: List (Get there early!)

Minutes: 4

Fee: Free

Description: Again, this is a mic that is attended by mostly dudes (and offensive ones at that). However, it’s hosted by someone who creates a supportive room. Plus, there are often real audience members watching. If a joke is funny, it will work here.

Location: Legion Bar (Bushwick, Brooklyn)

Fee: Free

Sign Up: Bucket

Minutes: 3

Description: This mic is hot and cold in terms of support (because it’s a last-stop mic in a comic’s day, and they’re all out of patience for a premise that is perhaps overdone or bizarre). However, it is run by two female comics and attracts an almost equal male-to-female ratio. What’s more, the mic is in an intimate, enclosed room so everyone is forced to listen, allowing you a decent read on your jokes.

Tuesday

Location: Precious Metal Bar (Bushwick, Brooklyn)

Time: 6:00 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: Bucket

Minutes: 3

Description: This mic could be intimidating for newcomers, because so many talented up-and-coming comics try their new jokes out here. However, the hosts create a supportive room, and there’s always a solid turnout of female comics. This mic is not diverse in age (everyone is in their 20s and 30s/tragically hip).

Location: Peaches Shrimp and Crab (Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn)

Time: 6:00 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: List

Minutes: 5

Description: This mic is hosted by two supportive, welcoming women. The audience doesn’t always listen, but it’s a great place to try new jokes or run a chunk of a longer set. The turnout is sparse, but is typically diverse, and because it’s at a restaurant (not a bar), anyone of any age can sign up.

Location: Creek and The Cave (Long Island City, Queens)

Time: 8:00 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: supopenmic@gmail.com

Minutes: 4-7

Description: This mic is specifically for women, queer, and gender-non-conforming folks. It is advertised as a “fun, cool mic with no bad vibes.” That’s as supportive as it gets!

Location: 61 Local (Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn)

Time: 9:00 PM

Fee: Free

Minutes: 3

Description: Probably my favorite in NYC, the “Moon Babies” open mic has a consistently fun, mixed turnout. There’s a positive energy to the room. The only downside is that it’s really popular; you might be waiting 2 hours to go up, performing for the five people that stick around until the end.

Wednesday

Location: The Duplex (West Village, Manhattan)

Time: 7:00 PM

Fee: 2 Drink Minimums

Sign Up: List

Minutes: 5

Description: You have to get to the mic incredibly early to sign up, and it’s quite expensive. However, it’s the only open mic I see older comics attend, the turnout is always diverse, and the host treats it like a show and has great energy.

Location: Halyards (Gowanus, Brooklyn)

Time: 7:00 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: List

Minutes: 4

Description: All open mics at Halyards are diverse and supportive. It’s a good place to go to get an honest read on jokes.

Thursday

Location: The PIT (Midtown Manhattan)

Time: 7:00 PM

Fee: $5

Sign Up: List

Minutes: 5

Description: An all-ladies mic, the room is supportive and is a good place to try new material. No more than 10 people are usually in attendance.

Friday

Location: Halyards (Gowanus, Brooklyn)

Time: 7:00 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: List

Minutes: 4

Description: Same vibe as the Wednesday mic. Great host!

Saturday

Location: The Village Lantern (West Village, Manhattan)

Time: 6:30 PM

Fee: 1 item minimum

Sign Up: List

Minutes: 5

Description: Again, an all-ladies mic. This one is sparsely attended, but is a great place to meet people when you’re starting out.It’s unintimidating and a solid place to learn how to get comfortable on stage.

Location: Cantina Royal (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

Time: 6:00 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: Bucket

Minutes: 4

Description: It’s not the most diverse mic, but the vibe is welcoming and supportive. It’s your best mic option on a Saturday.

Sunday

Location: Precious Metal Bar (Bushwick, Brooklyn)

Time: 7:30 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: Bucket

Minutes: 3

Description: Same vibe as the Tuesday Precious Metal mic, but a little more laid-back.

Location: South 4th Bar (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

Time: 8:00 PM

Fee: 1 Drink Minimum

Sign Up: Bucket

Minutes: 3:30

Description: This mic is run by two female comics and is generally supportive. The comics might be in the back of the room talking, but everyone is friendly. It’s a good place to meet people.

Location: Carmine Comics (West Village, Manhattan)

Time: 10:00 PM

Fee: $1

Sign Up: Bucket

Minutes: 3:30

Description: This mic is run by sweet-boy comic book nerds. It’s incredibly tiny, but a fun, non-intimidating space to try jokes.

PLUS

ANY mic at … (look at their calendars):

QED (Astoria, Queens).

Klimat Lounge (East Village, Manhattan)(Caveat: these mics are expensive, most of the other open mic-ers are new too, and the hosts will try to get you to sign up for comedy classes and bringers. Ignore these factors and Laughing Buddha mics are productive and incredibly supportive). .

UCB East (East Village, Manhattan).

Share this article with your comedy friends!


BLAIR DAWSON (intern, workshops) is a standup comic and improvisor who produces and co-hosts a monthly storytelling and stand-up show sponsored by Babeland called  “U Up?” @UrGirlBlair


Tips from a teen: Where can teen comics hone their comedy craft?

Stage time is KEY for comedy. But if you’re under 18, which venues will let you in?

Teen comics need to get their material into the world! It’s hard enough writing material that you poured your heart into with no audience but your family and friends. Performing live gives teens confidence as well as (sometimes painful, but necessary) honest feedback. As a teen comic myself (I’ve been doing standup since seventh grade, lo those four years ago), I understand the struggle. To write comedy, you need to watch it — and with most clubs 18 or 21 and up, this can be its own problem. And adults have trouble getting comedy clubs to book them, so how are teens supposed to do any better?

However, I have found a few clubs in New York City that allow teen comics inside—and if you follow my tips, you might get a not-in-NYC joint to open itself up for you, too!

Gotham Comedy Club

This is one of the most famous and hard-to-book clubs in New York. Comics like Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David and Dave Chapelle have graced its stage. The club sponsors a training program called Kids n’ Comedy, and their students perform for the public once a month. It’s an amazing way to watch other teen comics; you can also get helpful advice from real comedians (as well as said teens), which really helps to strengthen your material.

Upright Citizens Brigade Theater

The improv classes here are a launching pad for every kind of comedy: sketch, improv, standup. Ruby Karp is a successful teen comic who “has been performing at UCB since she was a fetus,” according to her bio. Zach Woods of “Silicon Valley” used to take the train up from Pennsylvania when he was 17 to take classes there. It is a great place for teen comics to watch or perform. You can take their classes and work your way up to asking for an opportunity with the mic.

The People’s Improv Theater

“The PIT” has amazing classes in every aspect of comedy, plus drop-in classes (including during the day on weekends) and shows open to everyone. They are also a great source for open mics and improv jams, which are exactly what they sound like: You show up, you improvise, it’s awesome.  

Q.E.D.

Located in Astoria, Queens, Q.E.D. calls itself “after-school for grownups.” Congratulations, you’re already in the group they’re trying to emulate! They offer classes in standup and podcasting and open mics galore. They say the shows are for 16 and older only, but you know what? Stop in and make friends with them. They’ll steer you to shows that won’t upset the grownups who see you there.


Laughing Buddha

Laughing Buddha has many locations and classes, and specializes in open mics (over 30 every week, listed on their website). This allows teen comics (a.k.a. you!) to try out your material in front of a live audience and hobnob with other comics. You have to sign up online, and some aren’t kid-friendly, so be persistent.  

YOUR local comedy club

Although this may seem scary, I recommend calling your local comedy clubs. Many of them do open mics, which are open to the public and are a fun way to showcase your material for a real audience. However, being under 18, you first have to ask the clubs about their rules. If you can’t be there for an open mic, see if there are any daytime opportunities over the weekend — club owners will be more willing to let a minor perform then instead of midnight on a Wednesday.

Random open mics

Comedy clubs and bars are not the only places for open mics. The Brainwash in San Francisco has one of the city’s best open mics, and it’s a laundromat. For real. So get creative: Ask to perform at a school talent show, emcee the spelling bee, haunt your local coffeehouses and poetry cafes and libraries for opportunities to get a mic in your hand. Keep in mind, a teen comic is basically a unicorn. Most places will be happy to have you because of that alone. Also, being the only kid in a group of adults (usually a bunch of white dudes) is refreshing for the audience and makes them love you even more.

Then go home and finish your homework!

Know another great place for under-18s to do their funny? Tweet us @GOLDcmdy!


AVERY LENDER (T.A.) will start Boston University in the fall. She performs monthly at Gotham Comedy Club with Kids ‘N Comedy, and has appeared at the Cinderblock Comedy Festival, Broadway Comedy Club and UCB East. @uptownjam

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Mini Q&A with Kate Moran

Kate Moran is a comedian, writer, director, producer, painter, and actor based out of New York City. She wrote and directed the short film Are You Afraid of the ’90s? and is currently producing an “intersectional AF” all-female stand-up show, The Revolution, at QED Astoria.

Favorite response to a heckler?

Turn the tables by getting real personal and then shutting that sh*t down!

Describe your worst gig.

I did a bar show once when I was first getting started, there was literally no one in the crowd. I let my ego get the best of me and started drinking while waiting to get on, and once I got on, I was so drunk that I threw a stool across the stage. No one was hurt or even said anything, but in retrospect it was embarrassing and I vowed to never drink before a show again. It made me realize how much of this job, while it’s fun, is still a profession and professionalism outweighs over-imbibing every time.

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

Take care of yourself. You can’t come to the table with anything if you’re not at 100%, so take care of your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health. The tragic comic bit gets you only so far. Surround yourself with good people, eat well, sleep well, get professional help when needed, and be courageous to be truly, vulnerably you on-stage. That’s great comedy, that’s great art. And no one can touch that.

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

Keeping my head down and really focusing on my craft and my stories. Finding the humor in everyday life and discovering new and interesting ways to incorporate it into my set. My work is for me as much as it is for the audience. Working on comedy helped me work though my shame and turn it into truthful, impactful humor.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Record every single set and listen back. Also, punch up, don’t punch down.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

“Stay away from stories, sex, period jokes, politics.” I think the funniest material and the funniest comedians are the ones who are truthful and autobiographical. There’s something so genuine that the audience picks up on right away. If you speak your clever truth, anything can be funny.

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

It’s a great way to connect with others, I’ve always liked making people laugh. And I find that I’m able to be more myself, more honest, with humor. People don’t mind strong opinions from women so much if they’re laughing with you at the same time.

Single word that always cracks you up? 

Mahwah (the town in NJ) — I always shout it out when I pass a sign for it.

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian?

Margaret Cho. She was the first time I ever saw someone who looked like me and felt similar to me and talked like me on TV. It was life-changing and taught me that I’m okay: who I am and how I think and feel, is valid and real.

What advice do you have for how to level up from open mics and bringers to actual SPOT-spots?

Work hard, don’t think that the open mics that are 90% white cis straight men are indicative of the real environment or the industry as a whole. Find your people, reach out to other women, queer, trans*, and POC comics when you are at shows together, exchange information. If you’re good, if you’re professional, the offers will come.

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

Who broke up with you?


Kate Moran is a comedian, writer, director, producer, painter, and actor based out of New York City. She wrote and directed the short film Are You Afraid of the ’90s? and is currently producing an “intersectional AF” all-female stand-up show, The Revolution, at QED Astoria.

Read Cassandra’s bio here.

How to level up from mics to shows

As a stand-up comedy newcomer, it can sometimes feel like a gargantuan task to move from open mics to booked shows. What’s more, mics can feel like a masochistic exercise of, “how much of a beating can my self-esteem take before I pull a KONY 2012 meltdown?” After swimming up stream crafting your material, shows are a sought after reward validating your hard work. There’s no linear path towards getting booked, but there are tangible steps you can take to move in that direction.  

1.  Be friendly and ‘find your people.’

When you’re starting out, the people who are going to book you on shows are your friends and mentors.

When you’re at open mics, don’t just do your set and skedaddle; hang around and reach out to people. If you like someone’s joke, tell them. If you think someone is funny and/or enjoy being around them, make an effort to see that comic outside of mics.

Many comedy shows are like hangs and everybody wants to spend time with those they love most. Be someone people want to be around. It sounds political, which sometimes it is, but if you make a genuine effort to surround yourself with comedians/comedy you like and treat everyone with kindness and respect, the give and take is all sincere.  

I think the only thing you shouldn’t do is try to create your comedy in a vacuum. If you try to work alone, or be above it all – and you don’t meet or connect with people, I think a lot of people get lost there. You have to find your people. These are the people you’re going to be with for years, it’s like your graduating class, and there’s a bond and a closeness there with the people you did mics with that, for me, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of comedy. Seeing people grow and growing closer with people over the years.” – Marcia Belsky

2.  Have your own show.

DIY, baby! If you do the work to properly promote it, producing your own show is an excellent way to ensure yourself stage time. What’s more, producing your own show can be used as a credit to promote yourself. Plus, you can use it as leverage for spots on another comedian’s show.

3.  Support your friends’ shows.

It’s all about that quid pro quo. The first time I went to a more established friend’s show, I was given a guest spot. I didn’t realize this was common practice amongst comedians, but if you hang around and support your buddies, they’ll sometimes give you that sweet, sweet stage time.

4. Bark.

If you are an introverted sweet pea who’s exhausted by the idea of all of this “friend-making,” barking may be for you! You don’t need to engage with anyone beyond shouting, “Comedy show inside! Five dollar beers! AC! Please love me!”

When you’re starting, barking is one of the easier paths to stage time in front of a room of non-comedians. It can be an unpleasant experience, but worth it if it’s getting you on a quality show.

5.  Bringers.

Do you have rich alcoholic pals that want nothing more than to see YOU tell jokes? Wow, you do? Please, hook me up because your girl is trying to get on a bringer.

As with barking, there’s a stigma attached to Bringers. Mostly because comics are salty about not having several friends who can shell out $40 dollars to see their comedy, but ALSO because some of them are unethical. The booker may not care about the quality of the showcase so it becomes an exploitation newcomers for money. What’s more, many beginners get stuck doing bringers. They’ll go to an open mic, bomb, and run back to the comfort of an easy laugh (because you’re performing for family and friends), never learning how to properly write a joke.

Nevertheless, if you do your homework, some of them are a doorway into clubs. Plus, If you have a 5-7 minute set you’d really like to record, bringers are a great place to acquire a high quality tape.

6.     Make art.

Are you an ARTEEST? Does Michaelangelo swoon 4 u? Did you attend art school, but when you entered the workforce you were like, “nah,” and have yet to use your degree in any meaningful way? Then poster-making is for you.

Comedians all want a super fly poster for their comedy show. However, we’re all poor lil’ babies working with pennies. Notice a show doesn’t have a poster (or if they have one, it’s trash)? Offer up your poster making services for free in exchange for a spot. They get a dope flyer and you get an opportunity to show off your sillies. Everybody wins!

7.  Get credits.

How do you acquire a credit when you’re struggling to get on bar shows? Get creative!

“There are always other avenues to get credits,” says Brandon Scott Wolf. “I was an SNL Weekend Update freelance contributor before moving to New York. Develop a social media presence that’s undeniable, write for a comedy publication like The Onion or Clickhole, or figure out a way to go viral. It’s all about standing out!”

Also, if you have a video you like of your stand-up (or any type of comedy), submit to comedy festivals. Festivals are a great way for newcomers to be seen, legitimized and receive a credit.

8. Ask.

Heck yeah, it’s uncomfortable! But if you send an unassuming message to the producer of a show along with a video, no one will fault you. Your messages will most certainly be ignored, but some of them won’t. Asking for spots is how a lot of comedians get booked. The person who’s booking a show is more likely giving a spot to a friend who has asked, as opposed to someone who has not.

Owner of the world-famous Comedy Cellar in New York, Noam Dworman, told GOLD this exact same thing during a recording of The Comedy Cellar Radio Show.

9. Put in time and be funny.

If you’re not getting booked, there maaaaay be a valid reason why. Maybe you’re just not quiiiiiiite ready. Keep writing, keep going to mics, and reach out to other comedians. As long as you’re funny and not a creepy or mean magoo, it’ll eventually happen.

10.  There’s no “one size fits all” path.

There are no right or wrong way to do comedy. 

I used to always stress about whether or not I was doing enough mics. I’d do two-three a night, four-five times a week and worry it wasn’t enough until a comic I loved told me she would just do one mic, every other night or so, and only do a second set if she felt she really wanted to try something specific again,” Marcia Belsky says. “Otherwise, she’d go home and write. It made me realize that for some comics, you can get distracted by doing so many mics that it almost becomes counterproductive. So, what works for one person might not work for you.”

Know thyself and push forward accordingly.


BLAIR DAWSON (intern, workshops) is a standup comic and improvisor who produces and co-hosts a monthly storytelling and stand-up show sponsored by Babeland called  “U Up?” @UrGirlBlair

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