How do aspiring stand-up comedians who aren't straight white men find success at open mics?
I performed at my first open mic recently and it didn't go well. I got flustered when no one laughed at my opening joke (which I thought was my best), and my delivery went from mediocre to utter crap in the minute that followed. The room was supportive and most other people sucked too so it wasn't a totally horrifying experience, but I'm eager to suck less.
I know: practice. I did, and I will continue to do so. But I suspect that my material would not have connected with the audience no matter how well I presented it. Of ~25 comics, I was the only woman (and probably the only queer person), and my routine revolved around experiences that men don't share and aren't socialized to understand. (My routine was not about anything so edgy as sexual violence, but for an example of the sort of thing I was going for, check out Ever Mainard's Here's Your Rape
. Every woman I've shown that to has laughed hysterically, but no man has even chuckled.)
Everyone was very nice, but I only got a couple small laughs. People did, however, laugh at a lot of racist (for the record, I am white, as were all but two people), sexist, and homophobic jokes, though none were so vicious that I felt unsafe. I was actually surprised at how little these jokes upset me—they seemed to be motivated by unexamined privilege and lack of originality rather than meanness, and they were delivered in that same unsure, please-think-this-is-funny way that accompanied most other material, my own included after my opening joke fell flat.
My ultimate goal to be able to effectively deliver socially incisive material to an audience who will appreciate it. I realize now how lofty that goal is. But, even as I understand the odds are against me, I'd like to query the hivemind about the most
likely way to get there. Should I try to develop neutral material while I hone my delivery skills as a stepping stone to doing the sort of stuff I really want? Relatively little of the material at that open mic (along with others I've observed) was actually neutral—most revolved around specifically straight male experiences—but some was. Should I seek out specifically women's or queer open mics? I'm in Chicago, if you have suggestions.
I know my delivery sucks and I seriously need to work on my nerves, but I feel that I really do have something valuable and funny to offer in terms of social perspective, and I think my ideas are better suited to stand-up than any other form. And of course I LOVE to make people laugh. But stand-up is a craft, and one that I've seen people never become even mediocre at after years of real trying. Anyone have advice on improvement there? How do you know when to give up?
If you don't feel comfortable posting your advice publicly, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org