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How to use open mics as a mental gym.

Originally when I started comedy, I had a goal in mind that indirectly led me to do my first mic. I decided to start doing comedy because I wanted to get better at public speaking for my job. And by “get better at”, I mean to say, I wanted to learn how to not shit my pants when public speaking.

So in deciding upon my newfound goal, I started looking at different toastmasters club around the city of Chicago. As I started Googling different toastmasters locations near me, I realized they looked a bit boring for my taste (no offense to toastmasters people).

So I decided to explore some alternative options. I looked into comedy courses and signed up for an affordable and well-respected one almost immediately after. It was a no brainer, I was a big comedy fan, and I idolized certain guys like Bill Burr and George Carlin.

And then I was off on my journey to wrangle my public speaking anxiety through comedy.

The class ended up being a great success and led me to do about 5 or 6 open mics and a show that was put on by the class which went really well. But the pain from the open mics was too much to bear so I put comedy on the back burner for about 2 years.

Fast forward to 2018, and I start doing mics again. After about 10 or so mics I quickly realized a few things that make open mics literally the best gym ever for public speaking practice.

Here are 3 reasons why:

1. Minimal Time Commitment

Starting out I did an open mic per week. From a time commitment standpoint, one open mic can take anywhere from a 30 minute (low-end) to a 2 and a half-hour (VERY high end). So on average 1.25 hours per week. That isn’t too bad.

If you are proactive about emailing the host beforehand to sign up, you’ll get stage time within the first hour. Go, do your set, and watch 3 or 4 comics afterward to support.

If you do the 2 things mentioned in the last paragraph for 3-6 months, then you will probably spend no more than an hour and a half a week, build a small network of comic buddies, and be drastically better at public speaking.

2. You Learn Humor as a Side Effect

The added benefit of this approach rather than a traditional public speaking club or forum is that you learn how to be funnier. Of the Scott Adams holy list of skills to add to your skills stack, humor is probably my favorite. As they say, no one can be angry with a smile on their face.

Not only will you learn to be funnier, but you will also meet funny, not boring people. This is my favorite part of standup. The characters you meet will

3. No One Cares if You Bomb

Most people in business are good at public speaking because they are “naturals” they were thrown into a situation where they had to perform public speaking activities, whether it be their first quarterly sales meeting, speaking at a conference, or presenting something to their team.

If this is how you have gotten good at public speaking, then great. But if you bomb in front of the C Suite on your first try due to nerves, you might want to seek some training.

The great thing about open mics is that they are completely pressure-free. It doesn’t matter at all if you bomb. Amy Schumer is not going to be in the audience. Sebastian Maniscalco is not going to be in the audience. There will be a bunch of up and coming comics, half of which aren’t paying attention, a third of which understand that its okay to bomb, and then maybe the rest that will judge you. This is both terrifying and relieving at the same time.

The point is that it doesn’t matter what you say at your first mic, or your 100th for that matter. It’s just a mic. It’s a workout room. It’s a mental gym It gives you a great place to hone the craft of communicating with a crowd while gaining the benefits of feedback.

How to Get Started

  1. Write 3-5 jokes – The goal here is to get 3-5 minutes of material. You do this by writing about 3-5 jokes. In the beginning, when writing jokes, you can go two ways. The first way would be to tell a funny anecdote that takes anywhere from 1-2 minutes. In that case, you only need about 2 anecdotes that would take up your time on stage.
  2. Find an open mic near you and sign up ASAP – If you live in a metro of a city with a population of over 300k, there should be an open mic within driving distance. Badslava.com and freemics.com are the two places to look. If you can, sign up in advance so that you hold yourself accountable to go.
  3. Rinse and repeat as frequently as possible – The more stage time you get, the more you will feel at ease when you have a speech with high stakes.

And that’s all folks. Pretty simple. Excruciatingly nerve-racking? Yes. But those are just evolutionary impulses that are preventing you from getting up there in front of a bunch of strangers to tell your filthy and disturbing jokes.

Snuff out those thoughts and get to it!

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