Too many comics?

Every so often some one, usually a not entirely succesful comic, complains that there are too many comedians on the circuit. Especially the open mic cricuit, where, by definition, the only requirement is willingness to turn up. Slightly more experienced open mikers murmur about culls, and pulling up ladders etc.

That may be true. It may not. As someone with only one foot on the bottom rung of the ladder I’d argue against a cull. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

It’s hard to know if there are “too many” comics on the circuit. It’s much easier to tell if there are too many comics on one bill.

Any show that goes much over two hours is going to struggle. The audience get tired and bored and fidgetty. If it’s a school night they need to get home to bed.

So why put 20 open mic comics on one bill. I know 20 x 5 minutes is only 1 hour 20 but it’s guranteed to double once you allow for the compere, breaks, overruns,  starting late, microphones breaking and everything else. Two hours 40 if you are lucky. I’m not usually lucky.

I don’t want to argue myself out of getting gigs or reduce the number of open mic spots out there but I don’t think it helps anyone when you are the 25th comic to come on, deperately trying to coax laughter out of a bored audience who would have left already if they weren’t catatonic with apathy/hoping to sleep with a comic/a comic’s mum/too embarrased to move.

I hear that this is particularly a problem in London – there are too many wannabe comics, not enough shows.  But if we want better quality gigs we have to accept that we will get on less often. The best open mic shows have waiting lists months long.

Sometimes you have to choose quality or quantity. Unfortunately there is a huge quantity of open mic comics. Quality? Better not to ask.


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