Why start a Non-Toxic Open Mics Calendar?
The “Open Mic Scene” is the heart and soul of comedy in New York City.
It’s the gym where comics go to work out their material
It’s the playground where new friendships and creative partnerships are found and fostered
Most Importantly: It’s the ONLY way for new comics to enter the field
Yet somehow, despite being in one of the most “progressive” cities in the country, Open Mics in NYC are overflowing with homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, and overt racism (both on and off stage). Even more baffling, the mics in the East and West Village are some of the most toxic in the city.
If you are female, femme, LGBTQ, of color, or anything off-center of straight CIS male, just sitting in the audience makes you vulnerable. Particularly for new comics, finding a community of like-minded people can feel impossible if you’re going to the wrong mics. The result? These comics quit, and the dominance of straight CIS men in comedy continues unchecked.
Isn't stand-up hard no matter who you are?
Stand-up IS hard, regardless of your race, sexuality, age, ethnicity, etc. No one is saying that being a straight male automatically makes stand-up easy. However, it is undeniably true that straight men make up the overwhelming majority of people who do stand-up. 80% of the comics at Open Mics are straight men, which creates environments that are often antagonistic to anyone who is NOT a straight man.
And if you wanna get real, transphobia at Open Mics isn't limited to straight men: gay men, straight women, old, young, black, white...If you're gender non-conforming at an Open Mic, you're probably going to get harassed. I’m not even talking about the jokes that people tell at these mics (although they are often atrocious). This isn’t about being a “PC” comic, or being “supportive.” It’s about being able to walk into a room as a trans / gay / femme / female human being to work on your material without a bunch of CIS male cucks tripping over themselves to make fun of you with a microphone in their hand.
Open Mics are shitty, what can you do about it?
Actually, not all Open Mics are like that. A lot of mics have been popping up all over the city that are designed to combat this dynamic with one or more of the following tactics:
Sign-ups are limited to women and LGBTQ+ performers
Host expressly state that overtly transphobic, misogynist, racist, or otherwise toxic material isn't allowed
Mic advertises itself as safe space for women and/or LGBTQ+
The host is an ally who will vocally call out people for their toxic behavior on-and-off stage
So what, you think ALL mics should be ran like that?? ISN'T THAT CENSORSHIP!?!
No. I'm not saying that. If you feel censored, there are PLENTY of places you can go to tell your tired-ass premises about trans women. Last I checked, you should be figuring out how to perform for a wide variety of audiences, and the audience at these mics don't want to hear it.
But if you didn't include a mic on this calendar then you're saying it's "TOXIC?" Just because it doesn't cater to WOMEN AND GAY PEOPLE!?!?
I feel like you're yelling at me.... but no, that's not what I'm saying. There are a lot of great mics in the city that don't take these precautions. However, this calendar is currently a roundup of the ones that do.
SO YOU THINK WOMEN AND LGBTQ+ PEOPLE SHOULDN'T GO TO MICS YOU DEEM TOXIC?!!?!?
Um... no. The opposite. If you're a woman or LGBTQ+ comic and you have it in you to put up with the bullshit you'll experience doing regular mics, then PLEASE go out there and give it your all. It's vital that we make ourselves seen and heard and stop letting a bunch of jerks take over all the cool comedy venues. The culture won't change if we fully segregate ourselves.
Not to mention, ALL comics should try to perform for a variety of rooms and audiences to make sure you're becoming the best comic you can be.
I'm a lady and/or LGBTQ+ comic and I think the "safe" mics are dishonestly supportive. What do you say to that?
Thank god, a question that's not in all caps.
Look, there's a reason they're supportive: those audiences are hungry for performers they identify with. Do for them what you would do for ANY other audience: figure out what they want, adapt your material for them to the best of your ability, and try to have fun. If you feel like they're giving it to you too easily, there's plenty of rooms in the city who will respond with the silence and adversity you're looking for. Have fun, stay strong, come back to the supportive rooms when you're tired.
Are the "Non-Toxic" Open Mics guaranteed to be good experiences?
GOD NO. You'll still have to tell jokes to strangers who may or may not find you funny, which means you risk bombing, offending, being offended, and all the other elements of chaos that exist in the wonderful world of Stand-Up Comedy.
Specifically if you are Gender Non-Conforming, know that the litany of microagressions you experience on a daily basis might still happen at any or all of these mics, including misgendering (reminder: I say this as a "He/They" gender non-binary person who wears women's clothing on a regular basis and gets misgendered all the time). This calendar is not a guarantee that you'll have a bullshit-free experience. The hope is that these mics create space for you to identify allies and ask for help, speak up for yourself, or call out toxic bullshit without fear that you'll be belittled or harassed just for being yourself.