I recently spoke with a friend I met through open mics, Krista Komondor, who has taken on the super ambitious project of performing 90 times over 90 days. After looking back at her 2016 calendar, she was disappointed to see she had only been on stage 2-3 times a week, so she kicked the year off with #90MicsIn90Days:
If I bothered to look back at 2016, I’d be surprised if I managed 2-3 mics per month. Krista said that forcing herself to do more open mics has transformed the way she thinks about it, turned it from a chore into something she actually enjoys doing for herself.
That’s the outcome I’d hoped this diary would have for me– I hoped it would give layers to the open mic hustle that would make it more fulfilling, meaningful, and tolerable. But it’s been three months since I wrote my last last entry. It was about the real and irrational fears involved with open mics and channeling fear as a motivational tool. But since then, I’ve ignored those observations, I’ve fallen back into the old habits that plagued me when I wrote my first Open Mic Diary: motivation depleted, self-doubt at the wheel. And in the wake of the inauguration, pouring creative energy into anything besides fighting fascism seems at best futile, at worst sociopathic.
But in my darkest hour, there is Mouthy.
Mouthy is a monthly open mic “for broads and others with big opinions” at Legion in Brooklyn. It is, in host Nayomi Reghay‘s words, a “friendly space for women, queer, trans and genderqueer performers” to work on stand-up, characters, songs, and stories.
I do not think that my comedy is niche, but open mics are generally hostile environments for talking about my unapologetically feminine life. I like shopping and musicals! I menstruate! Men have been shitty to me! An open mic audience is, usually, mostly straight men who aren’t very interested in whoever is on stage and are not going to make any special effort to relate to them. I could cater my jokes to them, or I can fight the uphill battle of getting them to care about my very strong opinions about Diva Cups. But the people of Mouthy are My People, they get me. I’ve been working on a bit about how it’s unacceptable that the director Kevin Smith has a teenage daughter named Harley Quinn Smith. It’s usually difficult to get an audience of Jay and Silent Bob acolytes on board with trash talking Kevin Smith. The people at Mouthy gasped as soon as I said “Kevin Smith has a teenage daughter–” and by the time I said “–named Harley Quinn Smith,” a woman was shouting “NO! No, no!” My people.
Mouthy is more structured than the average mic and so well run by Nayomi, who is optimistic, supportive, and graciously in charge. Comedians need to sign up ahead of time, but first-timers are welcome and accommodated. At my first Mouthy, I felt like a member of the secret lady comedian club of my dreams. Mouthy has a patron saint, Big Ang, the recently departed “Mob Wives” star who (again, Nayomi’s words) had “the biggest lips, the biggest tits, and the biggest heart on reality television.” We actually got the news that she had passed away during a Mouthy mic. Each mic is kicked off with “Lip Gloss” by Lil’ Mama (such a banger), then Nayomi passes out free cookies, leads the Cookie Pledge, and everyone promises to be their mouthiest selves and to honor those brave and mouthy enough to take the stage, for they are are the real heroes.
It’s a perfect mic for trying something risky or new in front of a supportive, engaged audience, but it isn’t coddling or misleading. On Wednesday, I ended a weeks-long open mic dry spell at Mouthy, where people actively listened, laughed when I deserved it, but mostly gave me polite, justified silence. I came away knowing I needed work, not feeling miserable or defeated.
I wish Mouthy was every week (or every day), but maybe it’s for the best that Mouthy is special and rare.
The next Mouthy will be Feb. 22. Follow Nayomi on Twitter for updates.