Padraig Ryan

Padraig Ryan

Gimme five? That's just not enough

Padraig Ryan complains about the brevity of open-mic sets

Five minutes. That’s three minutes to get an audience to warm to you, two minutes of enjoyable comedy, and then you’re off the stage; and well done, you’ve warmed the audience up for the next act.

The state of open-mic nights in London is so frustrating because that’s what you’re working with. There are so many different styles of stand-up; thousands of uniquely different sets, and so many of them fall flat within the chains of five minutes.

I have yet to enjoy an open-mic night in London, either as a performer or audience member, due to the short spots, small audiences and crazy numbers of comedians on each night.

I’ve been to 12 such nights in the last three weeks, at 12 different venues, performing alongside between nine and 23 other comedians – and that last one was just painful. I was 21st, and stand-up stopped being funny many acts before me.

Surely everyone by now would have realised that for a night to be successful, so the punters really enjoy it and either return or recommend it to friends; and the comedians have time to connect with an audience, leave a lasting memory and actually perform, eight minutes is a minimum.

If a comedian really nails their five-minute set, then there are audible groans from the audience members when they announce: ‘I’m afraid I’m only doing a short set tonight, sorry.’

The audience wants more, the comedian has more to give, and it leaves everyone feeling pissed off. The next comedian has to come on in the wake of all this frustration. ‘Bring the last comedian back on!’ shouts the crowd, because a lot of the time styles contrast to the point where audience’s sensibilities are expected to switch instantly: From observational comedy, switch to surreal comedy, on to storytelling, now we’re at irony, oooh then look – impressions, and finally one-liners. That’s the first third of the show over.

Very rarely do all these acts hit, and hit consistently to make an enjoyable night. Comedians often outnumber the audience, and there are few things worse than performing to your peers. Low public attendance, is mainly down to poor promotion, location, lack of effort (Oooh check out our Facebook page), and the fact that most open-mic nights simply aren’t enjoyable.

Atmospheres are so poor that bad lasting memories are left in the minds of all the audience members: why go to your local open mic club every week when you can save up to go and see a top comedian every few weeks instead?

Somebody please set up an open mic night where there are between four and six comedians on, performing acts ranging from eight to 20 minutes, let a comedian play with the audience, enthrall the room, delight the crowd – be a stand-up comedian.

I’ve only been in the country three weeks so I can’t yet, but you wait, I’ll set up a Facebook page for one any day now…

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Published: 7 Feb 2010

Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2011

Super Crazy Fun Fun


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