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A poet reads her work at the Little Grill open mic in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
A poet reads her work at the Little Grill open mic in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

An open mic or open mike (derived from the expression "open microphone") is a live show at a coffeehouse, nightclub, comedy club, strip club, institution or pub at which audience members who are amateur performers or professionals who want to try out new material or plug an upcoming show are given the opportunity to perform onstage. Typically, as the name suggests, the performer is provided with a microphone which is plugged into a PA system, to make the individual's performance loud enough for the audience to hear. Often the performers sign up in advance for a time slot with the host or master of ceremonies, typically an experienced performer or the venue manager or owner. The master of ceremonies may screen potential candidates for suitability for the venue and give individuals a time to perform in the show. These events are focused on performance arts like poetry and spoken word, music (often singer-songwriters who accompany themselves on guitar), and comedy. Less commonly, small groups, such as a small rock band duo/trio or a comedy duo may appear. Group performances are uncommon, because of the space and the logistics of loading in and soundchecking such a group. In strip club terms, amateur night is a contest for everyday women and men who compete for a cash prize by taking their clothes off just like everyday strippers.

Open mic nights may have no cover charge, or a very low cover charge, although the venue may have a gratuity jar or "pass the hat" for donations. Venues that have no charge make revenue from selling alcoholic beverages and food. The performers are not typically paid, although the venue may recompense the performers with a beverage or meal. The host or MC, as an experienced professional, is usually paid for her/his services. The host or MC may perform at some point during the evening, either a full set or to fill in when an amateur member is not available for her/his slot. Open mic events are somewhat related to jam sessions, in that in both cases amateur performers are given the opportunity to sing or play instruments. The difference is that jam sessions often involve musical ensembles, possibly even a house band or rhythm section and a jam session may involve the participation of professional performers, especially at a high-end jazz club.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Stand-Up Comedy Is HARD: All Around Losing (Episode 2)
  • Stand Up Comedy 3 Minutes Acme Comedy Club | Open Mic Funniest Comedian Contest
  • Open Mic Wise Guys first time


[MUSIC PLAYING] HARRY CHEADLE: Everyone I know reveres Louis C.K. even though he's a fat, bald, middle-aged dude who talks about his dick on stage. That's the great thing about stand-up comedy. All that matters is that you make people laugh. And like a lot of people who think they're funny, I've always believed that maybe I could do stand up, too, if I only took a shot at it. That was my first mistake. My name is Harry, and I've been a loser for most of my life. I thought I was done with my awkward phase when Vice hired me to write about politics, culture, and other important world affairs which should make me cool, but it doesn't. I'm still just a weird kid who creeps people out. This is "All Around Losing" with Harry Cheadle. So I'm out here in front of the Sidewalk Cafe where they have an open mic every night. I am incredibly nervous right now. I've written my set list on my hand. As you can see, it goes from porn to sex-ed to Obama at the end. And I don't think this is going to go well, but I'm also confident this is going to go well because I'm just a massive contradiction. But here I go. -Make some noise for Harry as he comes to stage. HARRY CHEADLE: You guys are really attractive out there. The terrifying part of doing stand-up is when you get to the punch lines. Are people going to laugh? Are they going to boo? Are they going to know I have no business being on stage? There almost has to be something wrong with you to expose yourself to a situation like that. But surprisingly, the crowd at the Sidewalk laughed at all the right times. [LAUGHTER] HARRY CHEADLE: Sex is gross. Sex is just the two weirdest parts of your body just colliding over and over. [LAUGHTER] HARRY CHEADLE: If I went back in time and talked to my 11-year-old self about the sex I was having, he'd be like, that's gross. And he'd be right, and I think I'd probably go to jail for talking to an 11-year-old about sex anyway. [LAUGHTER] Even the guy who heckled me was polite. I will, and I have a whole bunch of jokes about sex. I don't know. I guess I'm going to keep going on with the jokes I have in my head, if you don't mind. Oh yeah, let me talk more about sex for a second. Maybe I was just good at this? Thanks, you guys have been great. [APPLAUSE] -Harry. It's his first time, everybody. HARRY CHEADLE: I didn't do too badly my first time on stage which was surprising because I blacked out and have no memory of the experience whatsoever. When I came to, it was already time for my second show at Cha Cha's Comedy Club. On my way inside, I ran into Cha Cha himself, a spherical, Hawaiian-shirted, comedy guru who's been in the business for decades. CHA CHA: How long you've been doing this? HARRY CHEADLE: I've been doing like a week, honestly. CHA CHA: A week, right? -Please put your hands together and welcome to the stage Harry Cheadle. HARRY CHEADLE: When I have sex it's like I'm a blind man in a bouncy castle trying to kill a frog. It's not clear how that blind man got in that situation, like it doesn't make any sense, like why is he here. He doesn't have the skills or the tools necessary to complete this task. There are people out there who say like, oh, sex is this great, spiritual, life-affirming thing. Those people have not had sex with me because when I have sex it's not a spiritual experience. My second time out, I died on stage. Though actually dying is probably way less painful than what I went through. All Cha Cha's Strom Thurmond style comedy coaching did was distract me with thoughts of Mexican whorehouses. Before I did this again, I would need to get drunk, really drunk. I've heard that alcohol is supposed to make you more confident, but instead, eh, fuck, let me try that again. Have you heard that alcohol is a good way to calm your nerves? It's not. -Let's everyone please give a warm welcome to Mr. Harry Cheadle. HARRY CHEADLE: So you guys are really attractive for the open mic audience, anyway. Oops, I'm gonna take this mic off. The worst thing isn't not getting a laugh. Who's going to get laid tonight? Anyone? This is going to go really bad. The worst thing is knowing that everyone out there knew you were trying to get a laugh, and that you failed, and that you're not funny. Sex is disgusting. I'll wiggle it around in there for awhile. And like, oh yeah, that sounds great, let do that. And that's awesome. Actually, the worst thing is that you keep going after that. This sex material is terrible. That was my impression of trying to do sex material, everybody. It failed. That was good. Someone liked my material on bombing. Yeah, let me just talk more about how bad I suck. That would be great. Man, you know, always. And then but women, man. Yeah, that stills needs a little bit of work. Thank you, guys. You've been great. The best part is when it's finally over. -Alright, Harry Cheadle, everybody. HARRY CHEADLE: This stuff is the most difficult thing I've ever done. And if anyone can get any laugh from anybody in front of a crowd, that's like amazing. And anyone who does it for a long time deserves your respect or your pity, I don't know which. Jesus Christ. [MUSIC PLAYING]


Poetry and spoken word

Poetry and spoken word open mics feature a host, who is normally a poet or spoken word artist, poets and spoken word artists, and audience members. A sign-up is done before the show begins, so that the host has a list of names to call from. Some spoken word artists use pseudonyms or stage names when they perform. Poetry/spoken word open mics range from laid back, serene settings to lively sessions where readers and/or performers compete for audience applause. They are usually held in libraries, coffee houses, cafes, bookstores and bars.

Each poet or spoken word artist is often asked to keep their performances to a minimum/specified time slot, giving each performer enough time to share some of their work with the audience. The host or MC acts as a "gatekeeper", determining which performers are suitable for the event. If a performer goes over their time limit, the host diplomatically thanks the performer for their contribution and asks them to yield the stage for the next performer.


Comedy open mic nights can be held at established comedy clubs, but are more commonly held at other venues with or without a stage, often the upstairs or back room of a pub or bar. Such nights give newer or emerging comedians an opportunity to practice and improve, with a view to getting paid work in the future. More experienced comedians may use open mics as an opportunity to work out newer material or a new character, as the audience is not paying in anticipation of seeing their normal act. In a typical open mic night, newer acts will get three or maybe five minutes of stage time, but more experienced acts may get ten or more minutes.[1]

There are booked shows, regular open mics and "bringer" shows. A booked show is usually booked week in advance with some lottery spots selected by pulling candidates' names from a hat. With a regular open mic, a person puts their name on the list and they go on when their name is called by the host. With a "bringer" show, each performer has to bring a certain number of people (friends, family members, etc.) to get on stage. Open mic shows may have no cover charge, a reduced cover charge, or a minimum drink requirement. Open mic comedy nights are most widespread in larger English-speaking cities with a well-established stand-up comedy scene, especially London and New York. In these cities, with a plethora of aspiring comedians, the greatest challenge may be in attracting an audience.[citation needed]


A musician performs open mic at No Name Bar in Sausalito, California.
A musician performs open mic at No Name Bar in Sausalito, California.

These shows provide an opportunity for emerging musicians to gain experience performing to a live audience without having to go through the process of getting normal music gigs, which is very difficult to do without experience or a demo recording.[citation needed] Open mics provide an outlet for singer-songwriters. Prior to their popularity, the only outlet generally were folk clubs, which were not always friendly towards creators of new music, preferring traditional, well-known music. They also suggested that music performed by acoustic musicians or solo artists in this manner would necessarily be folk music, a misconception that still commonly exists today. Some organizers have chosen the title "acoustic night" or "acoustic club" in an attempt to indicate an event run broadly on the lines of a folk club, but with a much wider range of musical styles.[citation needed]

Open mic events are most commonly held in the middle of the week or at the very end of the weekend when footfall through venues is low. They rarely occur on the hallowed Friday and Saturday night time slots when venues are busy with weekend revellers and any live performance is usually specifically booked, professional artists. The most common night for a UK open mic event is Thursday, followed by Wednesday.[2]

In the United Kingdom, the largest ongoing open mic-styled music contest is Open Mic UK, which regularly attracts 10,000 participants of all genres. The grand prize for the contest is an investment up to £30,000. The size of the event has necessitated that all participants sign up for performance slots beforehand, instead of simply walking onstage.[3][4]

Open mic blue jam, 2015
Open mic blue jam, 2015

A popular open mic arrangement in the United States is the "Blues Night". In this format a bar or club will dedicate a particular night, usually in the middle of the week, as being "open mic blues night". The establishment may supply a house band, typically guitar, bass and drums, sometimes a keyboard. Singers, guitarists, harmonica performers who wish to play sign up, usually with the master-of-ceremonies or host. This person is tasked with screening the performers, choosing and ordering, and getting the performers on and off stage in a polite manner.

Since the songs chosen need to be simple enough so that a band of musicians who have not played together can perform them without practice, blues standards are used. Songs might be announced as a "12-bar fast shuffle in C" or "slow 12-bar blues in F", or similar phrases, that should be familiar to all concerned. Lead singers, keyboards, horn players, (usually saxophones) and various percussion instruments are common additions.[5]

Strip club

In most strip clubs, amateur night is a contest held by the clubs themselves where women and men compete for cash by stripping just like their stripper counterparts.[6][7]

Rarer niche variations

The terms "open deck" (where deck refers to the kind of turntable used by a DJ) and "open reel" (where reel refers to a 35 mm film reel) are used for more niche open mic events where keen amateurs can meet to exhibit and critique their skills/artform. A decrease in the cost of consumer video technology combined with the powerful editing capabilities of modern PCs has caused an increase in the popularity of DJing and amateur filmmaking, but these types of events are still very rare.

See also


  1. ^ "PDX Comedy Blog". PDX Comedy Blog. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Open Mic Finder Statistics". Open Mic Finder Statistics. Retrieved 23 February 2013.
  3. ^ "2010 Winners". Open Mic UK. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
  4. ^ Almroth-Wright, Indy (December 6, 2008). "Twleve year-old 'Birdy' wins UK talent contest". BBC (Hampshire). Retrieved 2011-04-15.
  5. ^ rayray. "Phoenix Blues Jams".
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ [2]

External links

This page was last edited on 22 November 2018, at 20:11
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