Standing in line outside of Wiseguys to sign up for the Wednesday night Open Mic for your first time can be a very interesting experience. I think the only way to really prepare yourself for such an extravaganza would be to go back and reread Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland. And it won’t take long for you to realize that you’ve just stepped through a threshold of madness and into another world. Well actually, your first time or one-hundredth, this feeling never really goes away.
Some of the characters you’ll meet will be very intriguing. Some will be hopeless and obviously desperate. Others will scare the hell out of you. They will bend the fabric of your reality that you’ve held so dear and not let you go. You’ll see long timers, professionals, hobbyists, bucket list fanatics and people merely looking to make their friends laugh for comfort. There are people trying out characters, old racist wizards and maybe even a disorderly nut dressed as Elvis who wants nothing more than to show you his radiation poisoning. You may very well become easily annoyed.
You arrive early enough to make the list. They only let about twenty-five to thirty people sign up, so you want to be good and ready. I myself get there about four hours early. People scoff at me, but I want to be there. If you get there late and don’t get on the list, then maybe you don’t want it as much as you might think.
We’re out there rain or shine, hot or cold and sometimes in the snow.
Some people get there late. The late guys blend in with their friends as if they’ve been there the whole time. The late girls like to flirt and work their way to the front, sometimes even climbing over the gating without shame. This can not be allowed. You’re there to do Comedy. You’re there to work. Put the old foot down. Not on their necks, just their selfish intentions. Back of the line.
The old racist wizard wants to fit in with the young folk and make an attempt at roasting. Unfortunately, his roasting sounds like a pitiful form of trash talk: “Over here if you want to sign up, moron!”
The guy he’s referring to will only get one laugh this night, and this is it, “Hey, Back To The Future guy!”
“You don’t want this.” What could he possibly be wanting, I wonder. A fight almost breaks out but they are reminded that they are there to be funny. “We’ll all be dead eventually,” I tell them. Then I look to the Wizard, “some before others…”
The Elvis guy with radiation poisoning will gladly show you the scars on his body, whether you like it or not. He even has photos if you’re interested. Security tries to get rid of him, telling him no one wants to see such things. But then there’s that one do-good hero that explains to Security that they’re interested in what he has to say. So he stays.
People like to complain about the working Comics. They don’t have to wait in line; they go right in and get on. This is how it works. Headliners get time when they need it and can go on longer than the usual three minutes the rest of us get. They might be working, but this is how they see if their new material they’ve been focusing on works with an audience. They’ve already been through the lines, the crazies, the wizards and radiation. They’ve earned this.
They let you enter the gates at 6. You go in, show your ID, sign up and take a seat. The awesome Wait Staff comes by to serve you. Treat them well. Buy something. Tip. It’s not cool to drink water, and no your Doctor’s opinion doesn’t matter here.
So you’ve survived the line. You’re no longer out there in line with these people. but then it hits you: now you have to actually watch them go up and tell jokes.
But you do it. You go back every week. You work harder and harder at it. You write. You earn every bit of work you get. You might just get to host the Open Mic one day. You could even feature or open for a fellow Comic over the Weekend.
I can tell you from experience, it’s worth it. So strap in, get in line and wait. But above all, have fun.
The Open Mic is a gateway to possibly live one’s dream. It is, above all of the madness, a truly great adventure.
Laugh, dammit, laugh.