Open Mic Show Notes

I hosted the late night open mic at Comedy/Bar last night. I don't want to brag about something like open mic hosting, but I have to admit, I'm really good at it. There is a lot I know about hosting that I could share, but I want to talk specifically about controlling the list.

The Most Important Rule of Hosting: Always try your damnedest to make sure the audience is having a good time. 

Part of this involves controlling the list in order to manage the energy level of the show. Let me explain:


There will be a mix of performers at every show. Each one has a different impact on the room's energy level. If you agree with this premise, then it's easy to classify performers as one of three types:


Will raise the energy level in the room


Will probably not impact the energy level in the room


Will lower the energy level in the room

This isn't just about experience. It can vary for one person from one night to the next. A highly experienced comedian who plays in a room with a completely unfamiliar demographic might blow it. This also isn't just about skill. Sometimes, a terrible comic brings 20 people to watch the show, and they blow the roof off for one night. When they come back in a week without their friends, they go right back to leeching the energy from the room on every set! 

As the host, you have to evaluate the room and decide whether someone who is on the lineup will be an A, B, or a C. You are not judging them: you are judging the situation.

Understanding what types of performers you have and how many of each is the first step in organizing your list. It is your job to spread people out to try and ensure the energy level in the room doesn't get completely wrecked. You have to try to organize the flow of the show so that you start strong with a Type A, sprinkle in the Type C performers with A and B performers in between them. Otherwise, your show will simply suck. 

Here are some straightforward rules to follow when organizing the list:

Rule 1: Do not start with a Type C performers

You always want the show to start with a lot of energy. As the host, you should be able to inject some energy into the room at the start, and you need the first comic who goes up to be able to build or maintain that energy. The audience is going to sense the direction things are going, so if the first comic who goes up after the host is already bringing the energy downward, then the audience is already thinking of leaving!

Rule 2: Try to avoid having than two Type C comics in a row

This is just a simple tactic to avoid wearing the audience out. It is not always possible to avoid having a bunch of comics in a row who will slowly sap the energy from the room, but do your best to separate them with people who can either maintain the status quo or possible re-energize the room.

Rule 3: Spread the Type A comics out, rather than having them go back-to-back

It's not a bad idea to use Type A comics to build the energy to a fever pitch, but usually there are not enough of them to go around. It's better for everyone to spread them out throughout the show to rebuild energy and keep the audience engaged throughout the night. Putting Type A comics together in a group will essentially get the audience to leave early because they will get tired and be disappointed by all the other comics who follow them.

Rule 4: Try to follow a Type B with a Type A, rather than an A with a B (this builds energymomentum)

Remember, the audience responds to momentum. If one performer is creating more energy than the last performer, then they will stay for the next performer to see if it gets even better. On the other hand, if the last performer increased the energy a lot and this one is not so great, the audience is losing interest. 

Let's demonstrate why this is important with a graph, showing energy over time. Assume you have 20 comics, with 3 type As, 6 type Bs, and 12 type Cs. It feels like inevitably the show's energy is going to get depleted, but you can organize the list to delay the inevitable!

Here are four different lineups with the same set of comedians. This is simple math: a Type A adds energy, a Type B doesn't change anything, and a Type C reduces energy. By spreading the Type As out and building energy, and by sprinkling the Bs and Cs throughout, you can make the show last longer!