I’ve only been doing stand up for a few years now, and I’m not too proud to admit that most the times I’ve performed it’s been at open mics. I’m still learning and that’s just how you do it; you go out, night after night, and do the work. Showcases might be the main event but it’s the open mics where all the work and training is done, where you can see the funny be created. So when Whitney asked for volunteers to do a write up of the local open mics I was more than happy to comply.
My plan was to try to get on every mic in a random week. I managed to get on all but three that occurred that week (two through miscommunication and another through (lack of) luck of the draw), and missed another two because the stages were being used for shows that week. What follows is really three sub posts: A quick break down of what to expect if you’d like to perform on a mic; an award for each mics I got on so you can know, as an audience member, what to look forward to; and lastly a brief summation of the few I didn’t manage to make.
Here’s the basic information:
*There are 11-14 mics you can get to in a week (some are every other week), with one at least every night except Saturday. They are located all over Portland, on both sides of the Portlandia divide.
*Most mics will allow people trying stand up for the first time to get on without any advanced warning but most would prefer sign up online (usually via Facebook) after that. If you’re going for your first time be sure and talk to the host to get more info about proper sign up procedures.
*Usually you’re given between 3 to 7 minutes to perform. Before your time is up the host will indicate that you need to wrap things up (usually by waving a phone or flashing a light). Respect the light; there are lots of other people looking to go up who all have to share the same stage and time. Most hosts will explain their personal procedures at the top of the show but don’t be afraid to ask them if you forget.
*Have fun. You’re there to make people laugh, not change the face of comedy or cure the world’s every woe, so have fun.
Open Mic Awards
For the mics I went to
Curious Comedy Theater
Best First Try Mic (tied), Only Improv Mic
5225 NE Martin Luther King Blvd
Sundays, 8:00pm–10:30pm for stand up; 1st & 3rd Thursdays 8pm for improv
Hosted by Gabe Dinger (Stand-Up), Various Hosts (Improv)
Bar of the Gods
Most Funnest Mic (tied), Coolest Location
4801 SE Hawthorne
Hosted by Nariko Ott
Oldest Mic (10 years+), Mic You’re Most Likely to do Karaoke After (starts right after)
228 NW Davis Street
Mondays, 9:00pm – 11:00pm
Hosted by Kevin-Michael Moore
The Real Comedy Spot At The Red Room
Funnest Mic(tied), Most Stage Time (8 min)
2530 NE 82nd Ave
Mondays starting at 10:00pm
Hosted by Angela Olson & The Real Hyjinx
Most Crazy/Fun Mic, Mic You Want To Avoid The Most if You Have a Fear of Clowns(each room has at least a few of them)
2432 SE 11TH AVE
Tuesdays, 8:30pm ‘til it’s over; Wednesdays 7-9pm
Hosted by Anatoli Brant (Tuesday), varying hosts (Wednesday)
Open Mic at The Tonic Lounge
Most Supportive Mic, Best Fun Mic
3100 NE Sandy
Wednesdays, Usually around 11 (depends on the showcase)
Hosted by Whitney Streed
Best First Try Mic (tied)*, Most Theatre Feeling Mic
16 NW Broadway
Wednesdays & Thursdays, 9:30pm – 11:30pm
Hosted by various comedians
Eagles Lodge “Let The Eagle Soar / Fly Like an Eagle” Open Mic
Most Newest Mic (this is it’s 4th week)/Most Unusual Location for a Mic4904 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Portland, Oregon 97215
Most Fridays, 8pm
Hosted by Faddah Wolf
And the Rest Of the Story
For the mics I didn’t make it to
Joe Hieronymus ’ open mic at the 7 Corners Bar (2020 SE Division, Portland, OR) is on Sundays and starts at 10pm. He books rotating hosts, usually local working comedians, and has been a strong supporter of the community since he first started performing a few years ago. The mic is most notable for it’s workshop atmosphere, as new jokes, and new takes on jokes, are strongly encouraged. Really the only thing that’s discouraged is bigoted or hateful material. Sign ups are in person, although if you message him ahead of time and are double/triple-dipping (going to more than one mic in a night) he or the host is usually willing to save you a spot.
The Blue Monk (2020 SE Division, Portland, OR) is also hosted by a rotating roster of comedians booked by Shane Torres Mondays, starting at 8pm. If that name’s familiar to you, it’s probably because he was recently voted Portland’s Funniest Person in Helium Comedy Club’s competition. His hope is that the mic helps others work out, polish and better produce their material, and he would appreciate if you’re not an asshole while you do it. Message Shane for a spot (especially if you’re double/triple dipping) or sign up in person.
Following the awesomely named It’s Gonna Be Ok showcase, every 1st & 3rd Monday of the month, in The Eastburn (1800 E Burnside, Portland) is an open mic, which usually starts around 10. Both shows are hosted by Barbara Holm, a recent transplant to Portland. Barbara is known for being outspoken against material that encourages violence, rape and other negative, harmful, stereotypes. This is a great room for nurturing honest, heartfelt material, the kind of stuff that’s well written, and well intended. For more information, or to sign up message Barbara on Facebook.
Dante’s (350 W. Burnside, Portland, OR) open mic is hosted by local legend Richie Stratton, following Dr. Proof’s Whiz-bang Science Hour (more than an hour), a variety talk show. I recommend going to the show, enjoying it and signing up afterward, especially since after the show is when sign ups start. Everyone is given 5 minutes, and a few performers are rewarded with drink tickets after particularly good sets.
Ending this round up of Portland’s open mics would not be complete without mentioning Helium Comedy Club’s (1510 SE 9th Avenue) Tuesday night mic. Sign ups are in person, at 6pm. From the names of those who sign up performers are chosen (theoretically at random, although preference appears to be given to both first timers and comedians who’re working for the club that week), and the official list of performers is posted at 7:30, with the show starting at 8. The show is hosted by any number of regular performers. I personally recommend maybe not doing your first time at stand up here; the crowd is very welcoming, which can give you a false confidence in your skills, and if you don’t do well it may be awhile before you go up again. Still, I imagine there’s nothing like saying you killed it the first time you performed, and at the biggest club in town no less.