Tuesday, October 14, 2014

8 Mics In One Night!

Conor & Nick at Shit Creek
On 9/31/14 - Conor Cawley and Nick Martin tried to hit every Tuesday Open Mic in Chicago (or at least as many as possible). They had fun, learned lessons, and were issued expensive citations by the Chicago police. Here’s what happened…

Shit Creek
Nick: The night started off amazingly thanks to this must try room. You have good hosts, a non-comic crowd, cheap drinks, a stage backdrop made from an abandoned fence and elaborate poo-based marketing tactics. There’s contests and trophies and they raffled off a bottle of whiskey to comics. Seriously, Miles and Levi go out of their way to make the room accepting and fun. As for my set, this was the first time I did the material I did all night and I watched it improve in the span of three hours.

Conor: I felt quite biased writing about this mic as it is my own. I host No Comic Left Behind at Weeds Tavern with Amy Shanker, who gracefully allowed me to take the week off. We took over the mic together at the beginning of this year and, because I rarely take a week off, she relished at the chance to have a week without me. And she got the always funny Blake Burkhart to back her up, which definitely didn’t hurt. At Weeds, we learned that getting bumped, forwards or backwards, can be a bit awkward. Even at my own mic, I felt terrible about showing up and going on right away. And although this long standing dive bar open mic has a natural coziness that makes for amazing comedy, stand up is a delicate art form. And throwing in two people on a adventure can make it a little more awkward. Luckily, we had a supporter of our adventure in the bartender, Derek, who emphatically told us, “Well, you better get on it!”

N: Conor and I are good buddies with the hosts, Mike Gellman and Noah Gutierrez (we run a Wednesday showcase called Good Times at Patsy’s every other week #shamelessplug). But that brings up a great point: the more friends you have, the more stage time you get. It’s a simple one for one equation. When I moved to Chicago, I silently railed against this. “Everything should be equal!” I thought naively, like an idiot liberal arts major. This thought is dumb; I am dumb. What you should think is, “Get a bunch of friends, live a better life.” Perhaps easier said than done, but definitely the thing to do if you want to succeed at literally anything ever. Anywho, I had a great set at Patsy’s. Some complain about the one-drink minimum, but when the room is full, the ceiling is low and the light is bright, and laughter follows. Also, the food is surprisingly great! Keep in mind: Patsy’s is a great room for crowd work because the crowd is 2 feet away from you. Use this to your advantage--talk to the crowd!

Tips For Doing As Many Open Mics As Possible.

Many mics requires a lot of planning. Take advantage of pre-signups on Facebook.

Timing is everything, you’ll probably have to go to the same bar twice for signup and your spot--give yourself extra time because missing a spot is worse than waiting for one.

Have a goal. Hit mics with a purpose. If you need to drill a showcase set, go to a mic with extra stagetime. If you want someone specific to see you perform, find out where they’re going through some kinda-creepy Facebook “stalking” (i.e. check the pre-signups).

If you don’t have a car, pick a side. Either east of the river or west. It’s very tricky to go back and forth.

Go to all the mics in the city. You’ll never know until you try.

N: This is not the Durkin’s you remember. Thursday Durkins was fun, but it’s the only mic I know that suffered from a great drink special (huge, $2 pitchers of beer has a downside). Also that god-awful speed dating is gone. Frank Francisco hosts the Tuesday edition of Durkins, a supportive room that’s great for newcomers and new bits. Before I went up, a gentleman did his first set ever and got a very positive reaction. The crowd engaged with my material as well. Again, this is another room you get to do more than 4 minutes. If you want to run a long set for people who might not have seen it yet, come on over.

Get Up, Stand Up
C: Get Up Stand Up was another open mic that neither Nick nor myself had been to before, which explained our fifteen minute delay caused by our inability to find the entrance. After discovering the entrance, we quickly realized we had been knocking/pulling on the door which is directly behind the stage… oops! But, as we discussed afterwards, thank God we didn’t leave. Josh Dunkin and the people at the Public House Theater run an incredible room. Though the open mic spots are sparse, the audience is plentiful and the setting is surreal. As Nick and I respectively took the stage, we had every audience members full attention and did a lot with it. Because I was driving the entire night, I didn’t drink at any of the open mics. But because we had such a great time at Get Up Stand Up (and it was the 5th mic of the night, mine and Nick’s personal best), I took a shot of whiskey with Josh. I had a feeling it couldn’t get much better than this. Get Up, Stand Up is proof positive that you need to break your routine and perform at all stages in the city. This is how you get better--finding hidden gems like GUSU and performing in front of comedy savvy audiences. If you take one thing away from reading this article: you absolutely must try this mic.

How to HIt Multiple Mics on Tuesday

Hit Shit Creek first. It starts earliest, and you can take the Halstead bus north directly to Weeds.

Patsy’s and Durkin’s are both on Diversey and easy to hit back to back.

Weeds has an online signup and is a great first mic if you’re doing East side or if you’re doing Lottie’s (take the North bus, it’s only a 10 min. ride).

Fizz goes late and has a pre-signup. Bar Bar goes until after 1, sometimes until 2.

Get Up Stand Up and Lotties both require some waiting; fear not, they’re both very very worth it. Hit these mics often.

Interrupted by The Cops

C: As two comedians with little to no directional awareness, Nick and I had to do a lot of texting and a lot of map checking. And in all the excitement of the evening, particularly coming from an amazing mic like Get Up Stand Up, I ran a stop sign… right in front of a cop. And as the shot of whiskey made its way into my stomach, I pulled my car over to the side of the road with bewilderment and silence. Because I had been doing things more illegal than running a stop sign when it happened, the sentiment in the car went quickly from “this will be a funny story for the article” to “AAAAAAAAAAAHH!!”

Fortunately, the officer hadn’t seen me texting whilst driving, which caused the running of the stop sign, and, after not being able to find my insurance paperwork, was handed two tickets and was told to have a good night. Thanks, Officer Buzzkill, I was trying.

N: I asked Conor if we should tell the cops that we were standup comics trying to do every mic in one night. Conor said, “Let’s make that the back up plan.” Good call.

Nick & Conor at Fizz
N: The wonderful Colin Bullock was kind enough to bump us in, but we didn’t do much with this bump besides eat it. I wouldn’t call our sets terrible, by my standards--one time, in 2012, a lady threw a shoe at me (that was terrible). But it was my worst set of the night (I blame the cops). It definitely wasn’t the rooms fault, as there were plenty of comics, a great PA, a dim, green backlight, and a great energy in the room. I think Fizz is going to be a big mic in the coming weeks. This set re-taught me, “Never think you’re awesome because you’re not, idiot.” but floundering around forced me to riff and find new punchlines. I read that bombing is actually good (link to Tommy Mac article)! When bombing, I try to get laughs somehow and once in a while, the mumbly new shit actually sticks. I’ve never counted, but I bet I’ve come up with some of my best punchlines whilst bombing.

N: We walked in just in time and went up dead last at Lottie’s, but thankfully the wonderful Mike Timlin put us up. The basement with backdrop bricks (a comedic staple) has been a destination for comedians for like half a decade. The architecture of the room allows laughs to boom off the walls and ceiling. This is the type of room Todd Glass would commend. After doing six mics, I felt kind of zen. I realized something: No mic set is a failure if you go in it with an accomplishable goal. My goal at Lottie’s was to do the bit I was doing all night as concise and punctuated as possible. And I did! I was able to forget who was watching (a problem I often have in good rooms frequented by scene veterans) and just focus on the funny. I was saying the words I’d already said six times, and this allowed my brain to trail-off helpfully. I could anticipate the next sentences. I was focusing. This is why people tell you to do your bit a bunch of times close together--it makes it easy to see how it functions as a whole.

Bar Bar
C: This open mic has been a staple of my Tuesday routine for months now and we knew we were going to end it here. As a late night mic that doesn’t start until 11 and often goes until close, we loved it as the finish line for our long and winding journey. Hosts John Thomas and Brett Moschel are some of the nicest guys you will ever meet and they run the mic the same way. At Bar Bar, I always have fun. Something about going up after 12:30 reminds me, “Hey, you can say or do whatever you want” so I do just that. It felt awesome, as always. Sometimes, just talking stupid is the best part of doing open mics. Don’t get too jaded to forget that you can do literally whatever the fuck you want. And as the night comes to a close, Nick and I stood in a circle with several comedians talking about the night, as so many open mic nights do. As I said to Mike Makings as we stood in a circle outside the final stop of the adventure, “I love Chicago Comedy. How else are you going to have 200 friends that will shoot the shit with you at 2 in the morning on a Tuesday night?”


Our idea was spawned after hearing chitter-chatter about there being too many Tuesday mics. While you might think ten is too many (see Honorable Mentions for the ones we missed), you are wrong. We learned something important from the experience: there is no such thing as too many open mics. We live in a huge city filled with comics of all levels, with comedy supporters in every neighborhood. And while your particular open mic schedule might feel extensive and inclusive, you’d be surprised at what else is out there. From a small theater up north, to the backroom of a bar you’ve never been to, this city is filled with opportunities to make strangers laugh harder than you’ve ever seen. Want to get better at performing? Break your routine, go to every room available, and perform in front of all types of people. And if you thought Tuesday had a lot of mics (10), it looks like Wednesday has more (12)!


LP Stadium - Because of a pivotal playoff baseball game, the mic started late and we were unable to attend. However, this new mic has its own backroom, foot traffic, great hosts and a good location!

4 Trey’s - RIP. We were devastated to learn this week that the incredible Four Treys open mic is no more. We wished we could add this Tuesday staple to our circuit but we were sadly a week too late. Four more Treys! Four more Treys!

Pressure - We were pressed for time, so the far-north mic was unfortunately out of our range. But we hear amazing things and were very sad we couldn’t squeeze it on the list… again, let’s blame the cops.

Written By Conor Cawley and Nick Martin
Conor and Nick are writers, producers and stand-up comics in the Chicago scene. And for the record they hit 8/10 mics in one night!!