Rocketship Comedy

The lifeblood of the Indianapolis independent standup comedy scene.

Three "Rules" for Open Mic's: From The Monday Show

The Monday Show

Jeff Vibbert at The Monday Show Photo by Sam Griswold for Rocketship Comedy

Jeff Vibbert at The Monday Show
Photo by Sam Griswold for Rocketship Comedy

Hello, this is the Monday show speaking. There has been many a blog written on “how to be an MC, feature, headliner, a guest setter, etc.” This is by no means a “how to run a show” post. Rather, it is a “this is how we do it because we think it makes sense for us” post. We aren’t expecting this to change your lives, but we hope that maybe there is something to be gained. We are proud of our show that started September 14th, 2015 and we think the following is part of the reason it’s going well for us.

These “rules” apply to the audience, but even more so the comics. In my experience, there are comics who seem to think they’re exempt from these rules because they’re the “talent.” They believe they are reason the show is happening. They go to a lot of shows watching a lot of the same people do a lot of the same jokes and HOLY SHIT DOES IT GET BORING. But we think these rules apply to the comics more than anyone. The comedians who have been attending countless shows set the example for audience members. Why should the audience respect the show if the comics on it won’t? Things that get treated like shit usually end up like shit, especially if the people treating it like shit are the ones who are benefiting the most from it.

It’s important to remember that these audience members owe us nothing. To be perfectly honest, it’s sometimes surprising and humbling that people show up. We go to open mics because we have to in order to get better. We’re trying out new jokes, half-baked ideas, trying to riff a bit, and even give crowd work a shot. Like most things, the first times you do something are bad. *Some exceptions apply.* The audience at an open mic is seeing you at your worst. But with comedy, you have to do it in front of people. Always. 

These are the rules that we enforce at The Monday Show and we have found that they have consistently made the show better. All of this falls under the umbrella of “pay attention, give respect to the show, to your peers, and to the audience”.


1.    No talking.
No talking. At all. Plain and simple.
First of all, as much as we like to think we’re great at multitasking, the truth is that if you’re talking, you’re not giving your full attention. A lot of what makes a joke funny is a single word or two, an inflection, a certain body movement. If you’re leaning over to your buddy and chatting about whatever, you’re missing out. You might miss the punchline, and now that comic gets less laughs and you’re getting having less laughs. Secondly, just because you’re whispering doesn't mean it’s not distracting to the person on stage. It can throw off their timing, which again, is pretty important in comedy. It can also be annoying to the people near you. They are all trying to give their focus to the performer and now they, too, will miss the punchline.

Let’s say there are seven people in the audience, four of whom aren’t laughing at a joke because of one person’s conspicuous whispering. No matter how great the joke is, the comic will think he or she is bombing. And they are, in the technical sense because no one is laughing.

Audience members don’t always know who is and who isn’t a comedian. If they see you talking, they see it as permission for them to talk as well. Now everyone is fading in and out of the show, maybe listening intently long enough to hear their friend on stage and that’s it.

It would be best to have as many people stay in the showroom as possible, paying attention, and laughing. However, if the urge to talk is uncontrollable, it would be best that you take it out of the room. In the case of The Monday Show, we have a basement all to ourselves with a full bar with a great menu and a kickass bartender/server. *Shoutout to Rachel Gatewood.* This means there is a restaurant upstairs and a hallway outside the show room where the bathrooms are located. These are all acceptable places to hangout and talk away from the show. If you take your conversations out of the room, you’re not hurting the show.

So we here at the Monday Show have adopted the quaint motto: “Leave the fucking room.”

Not all rooms are as fortunate as us in terms of this convenient setup, but there is always somewhere for you to go to respectfully carry on a conversation away from the show.


2.    Don’t look at your phone.
Don’t look at your phone. At all. Plain and simple.

The only exception is if you need it to set up for going on stage. For example, if you are recording your set or forgot a quote or a line, by all means, check your phone.

This section will be much shorter because it has all the same reasons as #1. We know most of us are addicted to looking at our phones: for checking Facebook, for checking our text messages, or for no reason whatsoever. These are all things you can do if you leave the fucking room. Again, if your focus is on your phone, it is no longer on the performer. The light from a smartphone, be it dimmed or eye-blinding, is still distracting to both the performer and audience members alike. The Monday show runs from 8:00 PM to 9:30 PM. We doubt that you’re obsessively checking the time, but recommend investing in a $10 wristwatch if that is the case. And just like talking, if members in the audience see you on your phone, they assume it is perfectly appropriate to be on their phones as well.

We hope you are noticing patterns here.


3.    Don't tell inside jokes.
We fervently believe you should never tell anyone what to do on stage. One of the great benefits of comedy is that there is no right way.

With that being said, we recommend not telling jokes to the back of the room and avoid telling inside jokes to your friends. Telling jokes to the back of the room is to tell jokes only for the comedians watching the show. Yes, there are times when the audience is 100% comedians and there might be a temptation to get a quick laugh by mocking a comic everyone knows. But those jokes will never play in front of a secular audience. Similarly, if you have brought your friends to watch your set and you tell a joke that only they understand, you are leaving the entire rest of the audience out.

If your dream is to crush it in front of other comics exclusively and never get booked in a club, or get a paid spot elsewhere, then go for it. Most, if not all, of us are guilty of doing it from time to time. Bombing hurts and telling those jokes is a nice little red button to ease the tension. Ultimately, it is a bad habit to form, one that’s hard to break, and definitely not worth it in the long run. Even if the audience is 98% comedians, that’s 2% of the room completely lost as to what everyone else is giggling about. They might feel like they just intruded on some weirdo convention and are not supposed to be there. And they’re not laughing, so they might leave just because the show doesn’t look or sound funny at all.


If you come to the Monday Show, this is what you can expect. If you aren't on board, there are plenty of other shows in our city as well as in others. We don’t care if you’re just starting out, if you’re a regular open mic’r or a seasoned headliner; you’re not special and you won’t get special treatment. So, please don’t be a dick. Comedy is the best.


- The Monday Show


P.S. We would also like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to WhistelfacE, the band who made the theme song for The Monday Show. You guys are great! Thank you!

This piece was written by Jordan Mather-Licht for Rocketship Comedy
You can follow Jordan on Twitter and Facebook

Background image by Pauline Shypula.