Somebody Has to Go in the Second Half...Tips for a New Comedian to Survive in the Philadelphia Comedy Open Mic Scene

The fine gentlemen at Rittenhouse Comedy (Paul Goodman, Jack Martin, and Brian Finnell) have put together this handy list of do's and don'ts for comedians performing at open mics. These guys know a thing or two about running an open mic - you can see for yourself every Tuesday at 9pm at Noche (1901 Chestnut St.)
Over the past two years, I have performed on numerous open mics, produced comedy showcases, and been part of the Rittenhouse Comedy team running a weekly open mic every Tuesday at 9 pm at Noche (1901 Chestnut). Before running a show, I had no idea how challenging it was to organize a weekly comedy show that hopefully makes the comedians, audience and venue happy. Here is what I have learned through trial and error both on and off stage.

10. Don't ask when you are going to go before the show starts. The comedians running the show need to collect the 30-40 names on the list and quickly come up with a line up that has BOTH the comedians and audience members interest in mind. It's not a meritocracy. It deflates the energy in the room by having 5 consecutive comedians with little to no experience start a show. That being said all open mics try their best to give new guys a chance to perform in a “good spot.” However, I have learned a lot about myself as a comedian and person by performing at Raven at 1am. Sometimes those lessons are rewarding like making a tired audience laugh after 4 hours of comedy and some are on a different level like $5 PBR/whiskey shots help you calm your nerves and also forget your material.

9. If you have some type of special request (work, bus, you brought a girl you hope to hook up with), let the guy running the list know ahead of time so they can make a note, but realize unless you support the open mic on a weekly basis it may not be able to be accommodated.

8. Find out how long the set times will be and when the light will be given. Most of the time the light is a cell phone that signifies you have one minute left. Wrap it up in that one-minute. As noted, there are 30-40 comedians on the list.

7. Do not say anything negatively about the room and/or the number of audience members in the room. It's disrespectful to the comedians running the show and the audience members that have stayed to see you perform. If you do not like to perform in front of small audiences, simply ask for your name to be crossed off the list.

6. Outstanding advice from the hysterical James Hesky. “The only thing I can control is my performance and not my placement in the line up. With that in mind, all I can do is try to kill it each and every time I get on stage.”

5. If you need to leave before your turn, let the guy running the list know. It’s embarrassing to announce a person who is no longer there.

4. Be nice and funny in that order.

3. If you're new to the scene, stay around for a few comedians after you perform. Comedians’ function as audience members and it's frustrating for a comedian to ask to go by a certain time and then not stay to support their fellow comics.

2. If you have an issue to address with the comedians running the room, address it with them directly AFTER the show through email, a phone call or preferably in person. Passive-aggressive Facebook post do little to help your cause and the morale of the comedy community.

1. Feel fortunate that you are a new comedian in an awesome comedy scene. At the time of this article, there are 6 free "night of" sign up open mics in the city of Philadelphia. Have a good time, support your fellow comedians, and thank you for your support.

Unsolicited Advice: "Being a Comedian While Maintaining a Family" by Mike Rainey

Comedians love giving advice, most of the time when they’re not even asked for it! Unsolicited Advice is WitOut’s chance to give Philly comics the opportunity to do just that, without looking like a know-it-all so-and-so.

If you are thinking of making a career in comedy, don't start a family. However, if you are an immature, reckless, simpleton who has no qualms about shunning the lifestyle of a well-adjusted adult in order to pursue your dream of becoming an entertainer, then continue reading as I will gladly show you how I've done it. It's of utmost importance to decide early on in life if one would like to pursue dreams or start a family and spiral into the abyss. Thirty two years into my life, I've decided I'd like to have a career in comedy, but I also enjoy providing for my family so I have to teeter somewhere in the middle.

I began my career in comedy over eight years ago. Around that same time, I found out my girlfriend and I were expecting a baby. I fuckin' love babies so I was pretty excited about the whole deal. Fortunately, once the baby came, my lovely fiance Jaime handled the brunt of the responsibilities while I caroused from open mic to open mic and performed roughly one show per weekend. This continued for about three years until my second daughter came along. I had to contribute a bit more at home, so comedy had to take a backseat now. I would wander into the occasional open mic and only do about 15-20 shows a year for the next three years. Then, Jaime and I found out we were expecting our final offspring, my son. When it comes to safe sex, Jaime and I have the planning skills of middle school rave organizers. If Jaime and I ever started a White Stripes-type band, we'd call ourselves Reckless Fuckers. So, logically, once our family starting rolling five deep, I decided it's time to dedicate myself to comedy.

Honestly, being a comedian with a family is an absolute trainwreck. I can't sit at the computer to write without breaking up a fight, cleaning up a mess, commenting on whether an outfit looks alright or not, changing goddam batteries on toys, answering why I'm on the computer, answering when I'm going to be off the computer, figuring out why the fuck one of the other four people or two cats in the house is crying, or just simply having someone stand over my shoulder as I type. Also, when I announce that I have to leave to do a show, the responses from the ladies of my home range from tears to anger. All in all, I wouldn't trade my life for anything. But please, if you have a dream to be a comedian and you do not have a wife or children, run with that dream. For the love of God, run like the wind! Or don't. The world is always in need of fresh roustabouts.

Mike Rainey is a Philadelphia comedian and host of The Donkey Show, a weekly comedy show on He is also one of the organizers of Comedians for a Cause.

If you’re a comic and want us to post your Unsolicited Advice, send us an email at

Unsolicited Advice: "Moving to New York" by Pete Kuempel

Comedians love giving advice, most of the time when they're not even asked for it! Unsolicited Advice is WitOut's chance to give Philly comics the opportunity to do just that, without looking like a know-it-all so-and-so.

Thinking about making the move to New York from Philly huh? Don’t do it man! Well don’t do it until you are ready. Of course only you will know when that is, but I don’t think there’s any need to hurry. It’s true you are probably less likely to get “discovered” in Philadelphia and yes, ultimately, if you want to “make it” in this business, you should make a move. I wouldn’t worry about that though. Try making sure all the local spots in Philly are recognizing your talent first, and then give the big apple a try. Philly has a great comedy scene with plenty of stage time and a good supportive community. It’s a really great city to develop who you are as a comedian.

I made the move to New York because of a job and not because I necessarily felt ready to take on stand-up comedy there. The move has mostly worked out for me, but making the transition into the New York comedy scene is a lot more difficult than Philadelphia or even Chicago, where I first started stand up. It takes some time to get any real comedy work at clubs or even the alternative comedy scene there. Shows will not be as frequent at first. That is why having established myself in Philadelphia was a great advantage to have over other comics in New York performing at my level. I could make the reasonable drive into Philly on any night of the week if I wanted to. I can’t tell you the amount of New York comics who have never had the opportunity for the valuable stage time I continue to get in Philadelphia. I will just say this, the occasional Philly show or open mic have kept me sane. Whenever I need to work on new material and I need an actual audience response to gage that material, I look forward to coming down and running through stuff there.

Speaking of actual audience, once you do get to New York, get out as much as possible, meet people. You can get on stage several times a night, every night. Be prepared though. Most open mics do not have much of an audience. You will be performing in front of crowds that are mostly just other comics. A lot of the time, they may not laugh. They will have seen you all week at every other open mic you do together. Don’t let it bum you out. It can. Instead use it as motivation to write as often as possible. There are plenty of friendly comics there too. For example, I live there. But it’s very competitive with a lot of hungry comics and it’s a much more treacherous scene to navigate. You have to be a bit more thick-skinned. Stick with it. If you are funny, you will get spots. It will get easier. I haven’t really figured it all out yet myself. Otherwise I would be doing more too. It’s not like you’ve heard of me. It seems to me, the old clichés are true for everyone I see having success at this. To recap: It’s basically, get up as much as possible, and write as much as possible. Work hard. Be friendly and nice to everyone. You are not better at this than everyone. Keep at it. Good things will eventually happen.

Pete Kuempel is a "Philly" comic who just so happens to live in New York City. We won't hold that against him, though.

If you're a comic and want us to post your Unsolicited Advice, send us an email at