Let's take out the trash...

Darren Maskell calls for more honesty on the open-mic scene

The consensus, it seems, is that the London open mic circuit is bloated with the public trying their hand at the comedy thing.  Maybe it’s because of the recent splurge of shows such as Britain’s Got Talent, the rise in stand-up on TV with shows such as Live At The Apollo, or people just desperate for a way out of their mundane and dead-end existence with the economy in tatters. 

With waiting lists at established open-mic nights at clubs such as Downstairs At The King’s Head and the Comedy Café being four months long, many from this glut of new comics have taken it upon themselves to set up their own nights.  Averaging 12 to 14 acts doing five minutes, with the inexperienced comic usually taking on MC duties, such nights are often staged in pubs not know for comedy. 

After the ramshackle of a night, the comics will moan and groan at the bar at the state of the circuit and the lacklustre acts taking up all the stage time.  But who’s to blame? It’s you Mr/Mrs Comic. It’s you.

How many times have you seen the same act do the same material to the same non-response? But you do anything? Do you question them? Tell them that you might find their set rubbish. Or do you mask any judgement with polite non-committal words that will not offend. 

The circuit has become too supportive, spawning a breed of delusional people unaware of their lack of talent because they have only performed in front of other non-judgemental comics who bum-kiss each other in fear that if they offend anyone, this will hinder their own rise in comedy.

It’s unfair to let Chortle critic Steve Bennett be turned into some ogre figure when the man explains his honest dislike of an act’s set.  I always pray that the next Chortle review will be just a list of comics that need to be culled. 

In my two years on the circuit, not once has someone told me they hated my act, or told me that I wasn’t funny or even how to improve on a joke. This isn’t because I’m a comic genius, this is because everyone is afraid of offending or see it as being destructive. 

But I say letting audiences being subjected to poor acts and ruining the atmosphere for others is far more destructive, and this is what you’re letting happen.

Do me a favour, if you see me perform and you think I’m rubbish. Please tell me, as I might be delusional and I don’t know it.

Published: 21 Jun 2010

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