Open Mic at Groove Bar: Review, Experience, Video, and Lessons Learned

Jean Paul between Scylla and Charybdis

Jean Paul between Scylla and Charybdis

Jump to: My Performance (video) | Lessons Learned: Cut! / Fuz ’em (Kathleen McGee) / This is a Gym (Jean Paul) / Jokes When Jokes Don’t Hit (John Hastings, Gilson Lubin, et. al) | Ian Sirota KILLS

Why I Really Wanted To Do Well Tonight

Jean Paul was hosting tonight, and he’s traveled all over North America, UK, and the Caribbean with his act. I had to bring it tonight…

My Plan To Engage the Crowd

A lot of the crowd that came in early were of the African American variety. I’ve talked about the importance of getting the crowd invested, and I therefore crafted a series of jokes aimed at engaging them, because I wanted to get them on my side.

As always, I wrote down my notes carefully so that I would start strong:

crowd engagement and improvisation

Boy did that backfire…

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My Performance

Wowzers. That was rough.

I just wanted to go home after…drown my sorrows in a Big Mac combo (Quarter Pounder on the side, fries upsized). But then I rememberd something Darryl Purvis, a professional comedian, told me:

Write as many jokes as you can, see as many GOOD comics as you can, and perform as much as you can.

So, as painful as it was to sit in a room full of people that just saw me drop a WMD, I took a seat in the back, trying not to make eye contact with anyone.

As it turned out, tonight was one of the most USEFUL experiences of my short career.

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Lesson Learned #1: CUT! (via Meditation and Nick Flanagan)

making cuts to my comedy

In my first bit, 2-3 out of 6 lines get consistently strong laughs. The rest are hit and miss.

Resolved: I’m going to keep those few lines and discard the rest, even though that reduces what was once two and a half minutes to about 30 seconds. It has to be done. Nick Flanagan mentioned the same to me after the set. He said, ‘Sometimes it’s good to let a set build, but other times it’s better to condense a bit so you start strong.’

It’s tough to continually cut down a bit, especially when the original bit in its entirety had you laughing. Alas, the customer is always right.

Or are they? Mark Cuban wrote an interesting article about NOT listening to your customers.

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Lesson Learned #2: Fuz ‘Em (Kathleen McGee)

The entire front row consisted of young black women from Scarborough, which is a predominantly less then affluent part of Toronto, if you catch my drift. Kathleen McGee, a professional comedian that’s toured with Russell Peters, is a white comedian from Alberta. She couldn’t have had a more polar opposite front row to work with.

When I did my set, it was tough because the front row was talking and making snide remarks after almost every line. ‘Really?’ ‘Seriously?’

That probably happened to Kathleen, but she went up there and did her thing! She had everyone in the back cracking up, and even addressed the front row and played dumb when they didn’t get a joke.

Resolved: Fuz ’em. If you know your jokes are funny, and if you’ve gotten laughs at more than a few places before, don’t let an audience mess with you.

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Lesson Learned #3: This is a Gym (Jean Paul)

body shot

After the set, Jean Paul thanked me for going up first (which is called, ‘Taking the Bullet’). I dejectedly replied, ‘Thanks man, it was rough up there.’ Immediately, he responded:

It’s an open mic. there are no [fuzzin’] bookers here, there are no festival producers here, it’s just an open mic. If you were a boxer, this would be a gym where you’re putting in work and taking shot after shot. Keep doing what you’re doing man.

Resolved: While my instincts intially said NO, I have to kill wherever I go, after an hour I realized some people in the crowd weren’t laughing at hilarious material that I was dying over…so he was right.

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Lesson Learned #4: Writing Jokes To Use When Jokes Don’t Hit (John Hastings, Jean Paul, Kathleen McGee, Gilson Lubin, etc.)

making jokes about jokes to recover when a joke doesn't hit
When some of the comedians were having rough sets, they often made fun of the fact that the jokes didn’t hit. It sounds weird I know, making fun of the fact that your own joke bombed.

But these, ‘jokes about jokes’ KILLED last night, especially with the comedians in the room. And, since it got the crowd laughing, it helped the comedian transition to the next bit without having dead silence lingering in the air.

I’ve seen many comedians use this technique, most notably John Hastings. I’ve seen him compare a joke that didn’t work to a fetus born with birth defects, which KILLED.

Resolved: Create jokes for when jokes don’t hit. For example, ‘…wow. So that’s what Simon and Garfunkel were singing about. [hum Sound of Silence]’ If another joke didn’t hit, I could do a call-back (reference to the simon/garfunkel joke) by humming the next part of the song. Furthermore, I’m going to practice imagining that a joke doesn’t hit, and then follow-up with the joke-joke so that when I’m on stage, I’ll be prepared to deliver the instrument well.

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Ian Sirota KILLS

I leaned over to Nick Flanagan after his set and asked, ‘What’s his name!?’

Ian Sirota KILLED. I haven’t heard a set like that…maybe ever. It was so thoughtfully put together, with all of the elements of comedy I’ve studied on display for those who understood what to look for.

It really inspired me. One on hand I asked myself, ‘Could I ever be as good as that?’ On the other hand, when I looked Ian’s name up, I found out that the guy has been nominated for a COUPLE of Gemini’s. Phew. He’s a pro. He’s opened for NORM MACDONALD. ‘Nuff said. He’s a pro, and what one man can do, another can do…albeit after many years of hard work and dedication.

Michael Jagdeo


About Michael Jagdeo

My name's Michael Jagdeo, and I refuse to write about myself in the third person. I'm a Comedian from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to honing my stand-up comedy act, I maintain this blog and write the weekly comedy article for
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38 Responses to Open Mic at Groove Bar: Review, Experience, Video, and Lessons Learned

  1. JIM says:

    Wow the host got the biggest laugh at the end…making fun of you lol.

  2. Ali says:

    Fuck dude…what the hell happened there?

  3. Blair says:

    Still with the racial humor eh. It’s starting to come across that avenue is just an easy way out. C’mon man…write some real material.

    • The racial beginning was to play (ok I admit, pander) to the all-black crowd in the front. It didn’t work. By real material, what do you mean?

      • Blair says:

        Well really just anything NOT racial. Did the crowd in front get pissed?
        Ive seen some of your other vids…and when you do the black stuff…it doesn’t ever seem to go well. Why do you keep going back to it?

        • Hi Blair,

          You’re totally right. I deliver the black jokes TERRIBLY every time…

          I’m got laughs from the white stuff though. But you’re right: in gonna ban myself from the black jokes. I really thought that they would work with the black audience bc it is something talked about in the black community (tight clothes).

          As always, thanks for your input, Blair. It means a lot and I do take your opinion seriously and once again it helped me.



      • Blair says:

        Also, you may be West Indian…but who gives a shit about west indian jokes….
        It didn’t seem like anyone got any of your stuff. Like what if nobody knew how to finish that sentence you posed?

        • Hey there,

          First off, thanks for maintaining a dialogue; it’s helping me analyze last night in detail and see where my errors in judgments were.

          The entire front row, app. 12 people were completely West Indian. If they reacted like I sincerely thought they would have, things would’ve been different.

          If they didn’t say anything to the line I proposed that they finish, who knows? It probably would t have been good.

          Because I went on first, I didn’t realize how cold that front row was. They laughed LESS than the comedians, which is saying something.

          I know it didn’t seem like anyone got my stuff, but if you listen closely (like really, really closely) some of the folks got the cottage and white girl bit; not many, but some. And given that I was rattled at that point and thus delivering the jokes poorly, it means to me I have stuff with potential.

          What I need to do is practise my ass off, get on 5-7 stages in the next week and really work this stuff out to condense and rework the lines until I find what I’m looking for.

          Perfect practice makes perfect!


  4. Daniel says:

    what if when there is an awkward moment…you just fart. Then say excuse me. and continue with the set. Guaranteed laughs.

    • I’ll have to practise expelling air at will ;). D’ya think it’d help?

      • Daniel says:

        I meant that as a real comment. You could even try to blame it on an audience member. Get some banter going…then admit to it…then go in to your fat stuff. Talk about an awesome transition.

        • Hi Daniel,

          Are you referring to the way I should open the set itself? However I chose to open the set, it will have to give the audience a compelling reason to listen.

          That said, not sure if I could deliver the fart joke.

          Keep in touch, Dan. Thanks!


  5. Benson says:

    In retrospect…do you think it was the crowd or your material that was the prob?

    • Hi Benson,

      I think it was both. I’ve seen this material work well with the RogersTV crowd and with other crowds.

      That said, I didn’t deliver it the same way this time. I got uneasy and uncomfortable when the front row was showing their disinterest and I got silence where I normally got laughs.

      I hope that by creating jokes to make fun of myself, it’ll fill the dead air, get a laugh, and then boost my confidence and help me have more fun on stage.

      Comedy is a wacky-ass equation at times!

      Thanks for commenting, homie!


      • Benson says:

        Ah so the front row threw you off. Were they heckling? How are you planning on moving forward to deal with that kind of audience?

        • Hey Benson,

          It wasn’t so much heckling as it was a complete disinterest; maybe that’s the same thing.

          To effectively deal with this scenario in the future (heckling or random comments), I need to get much more stage time. I’m quick-witted by nature, but am still a bit out of my element on stage. With more stage time will come for comfort, and with that comfort will put my kind at ease so I can, ‘be in the moment’ rather than being preoccupied with thinking about what my next line is.

          Thats why I want to get on stage A TON in the next week.

          Are you in comedy as well?


  6. jenson says:

    Bring back the voting thing. So I can vote No….or thumbs down on this.

  7. C.Sheen says:

    Winner winner chicken dinner…
    Winner winner Sheeeeeeeen dinner.

  8. Chris says:

    I love the almost ad for Moosehead and the two guys right in front of the camera. Awesome!

    • Ha!

      A true open mic experience: guys ordering drinks whilst the comedians develop psychological disorders on stage.

      The mooseheads are literally Scylla and Charybdis, with me an Ill-fated ship that’s drifted off course…

      Keep in touch, Chris! You know what they say: you can’t fall of the floor…well, unless in my case you fall downstairs into the basement.


  9. Steve M says:

    I was liking the whole…” you have to walk upstairs to start at the bottom ” that’s a great line.

  10. mel says:

    I think you’re just not completing the set fluently. Prob cause you got thrown off by the hecklers. If you can make it through one without getting too nervous…you should be good. At that point you can probably tell what is getting the laughs. That said, there seemed to be some major disinterest by the audience from the get go.

    I’ve seen some of your other stuff…and what I have found to be the most funny, is when you make fun of yourself. Whether its the fat stuff, or you going up in Malvern…it seems real and I think it’s funny cause you are pulling material from what you know. The black stuff comes across as an angry general observation you are making and you are trying to convince people to take notice. If you’re going to go that route…maybe you make up a story about seeing a black chick in skinny pants….and she was low riding… (can’t continue with that joke or I’d have to charge you $) but you see what im getting at?

    In closing as I mentioned….I think there is some good material for you in the “making fun of yourself” area. Like talk about shit like not being able to get chicks…or not being able to piss standing up or sitting down ….not because you’re too fat…it’s cause your dick can’t get past your belt buckle. Or your dick is so small…your morning wood is vagina. A little fat, brown vagina.

    I guess a good example of this kind of stuff is Louie CK.

    I write jokes for people part-time so if you ever want to run an idea past me, I’d be down to listen.


    • mel says:

      correction…Louis CK. Louie CK is a fat fuck who owes me money.

    • Hey there Mel!

      Wow..agave you been doing comedy for awhile? Some great, and true, insights here.

      You’re right: I’m not completing the set fluently. Once I get more stage time and experience I’ll be able to deal with (and see more pro comedians deal with) hecklers. Yeah, major disinterest was there for sure. We would have also accepted complete and utter disinterest.

      You’re also spot on regarding people liking it when I make fun of myself. With regards to my angry delivery on the race material, I think I might try a calmer delivery next time (not the black stuff, but with the white racial humor). In addition, your insight on integrating self-deprecation in the other bits is also well-placed. Perhaps I can make the white people love cottages observation while making fun of myself I’m equal measures.

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. It really means a lot to me.

      Did you really write jokes for Louis?


      • mel says:

        Oh no…I didn’t write for Louis…I wish. I used to live in NYC and wrote stuff for some comedians new to the scene. Almost like a consultant. Actually, you should try taking a trip to a place like New York and check out the comedy scene down there. It’s always a good idea to observe how other cities approach comedy.

        Anyway best of luck…I’d like to see more of your stuff.

        • Hey Mel,

          Wrote for comedians in NY? Wowzers. That’s awesome!

          A number of the comedians in the Toronto scene have talked about going abroad to test the waters, specifically to Cali and NY. Perhaps they’ve grown out of the scene. Based on your experience, is that where/how comedians take the next step? Or do they get discovered by talent scouts?

          Thanks for the help, Mel! As always, I appreciate the help and insight.

          I’ll make sure to post subsequent sets. I think it’d be interesting to see how a bit transforms and comes alive through study, practice, and interactions with Consultants and Trusted Advisors like yourself and the others that have commented past, present, and future.

          Michael Jagdeo

  11. Mel says:


    Well I’ve just found a lot of people like to travel around just to get a sense of how audiences react from city to city. I mean, it can be brutal in NYC…but hey, if you can make it there you can make it anywhere. You don’t have to get a gig there, but maybe just check out a few sets. I do find that here in Canada, people have a much different sense of humour. Talent scouts will always be out so keep that in mind…I’d say the best way to get your name out there is to do exactly what you’re doing. You’ve got an online presence with this site (only bit of advice is maybe spice it up a bit. Get in touch with a designer if you know one…and maybe get it looking tip top). You’ve got your twitter account. I’m not on twitter myself….a lot of comedians are…I think it’s gay personally but it’s a good way to get noticed. Try dropping some funny one liners on there. You’re also doing sets pretty often which is good. Practice makes perfect. You will eventually become consistent…which is probably the most important thing. Think of it as a basketball team who starts off slow….they’re hit and miss for a while…but eventually in order to make the post-season, they need to go on a run.

    Nah mean.

    • Hey Mel,

      I feel you, I feel you…

      One of the reasons I like watching other comedians is to see how they overcome challenges that I’ve not handled well. For example, the way Kathleen handled the cold crowd that night by plowing through and playing to the crowd that was responding to her was AMAZING.

      I’m also playing close attention to how professional comedians handle the first 20 seconds of a set. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to start a set. I love improvisation, but sometimes the jokes I come up with don’t hit, which leaves me in a tough spot, and which also leaves me playing behind the 8-ball.

      Regards to the design of the site, I’m going to migrate it over to a hosted page where I can have complete control over the font and layout. For the time being, I’m going to change the top banner to make things a little more colourful.

      I think you’re dead-on with the idea of going on a run. My plan for the next week is to sharpen my 5-minute set because I have premises that work…but all of the jokes therein aren’t home runs.

      Word to big bird,


  12. Pingback: Anti-Jokes: How to Recover When A Joke Doesn’t Hit | Diary of a Toronto Stand-Up Comedian

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