By Kenny Soto
You're on stage at your favorite local bar in front of a crowd of strangers who have been sitting around for hours, drinking and waiting impatiently for their friend or relative to perform. You've got a live microphone and a handful of minutes to make them laugh.
Nine times out of 10, whether you're on stage or in the audience, a stand-up comedy open mic night is pure torture: A parade of (usually unfunny) amateur "comedians" telling offensive jokes, one after another. Fortunately, Boston is blessed with some bright young comedians, who you'll catch perfecting their craft at the city's open mics. Any of the free nights are worth a shot (Rule No. 1: Never pay for an open mic!), there are a few that guarantee laughs -- or, if you dare, the chance to make a fool of yourself in front of a crowded room.
Mondays: Sally O'Brien's (335 Somerville Ave., Union Square). The first time I attended an open mic at Sally O's, the show was the definition of comedy hell: Participants went on for what seemed like hours with some of the worst material the world has ever heard. Thankfully, I gave it a second chance, and I'm very glad I did. Since host Shawn Carter (a.k.a., Jay-Z, HOVA) took over the show, Sally O's has been a breath of fresh air to the Somerville comedy scene. Prize giveaways and contests also add excitement to the best "quick and dirty" (every comedian gets two minutes, and the show ends by 10 p.m.) pro/am comedy show in town.
Tuesdays: The Middle East (472 Mass Ave., Central Square). If you have never performed in front of a crowd before, The Middle East is the place to start. Host Rob Crean is one of the most supportive mentors to young comedians around. Also, this open mic is one of the few in town that actually draws a crowd besides comedians and their friends. While there's nothing wrong with getting up in front of a group of comedians, it can be tough to get a genuine reaction, positive or negative; The Middle East gives you a better impression of what it's like to perform in a real comedy club in front of paying customers.
Wednesdays: Tavern at the End of the World (108 Cambridge St., Sullivan Square). Tavern at the End of the World is one of the best places to rub elbows with Boston's up-and-coming comedians (and win a sex toy while you're at it). If you're a young comedian looking to network, this open mic can't be beat: Any given week, you can expect to see the best of the best perform. The only issue is that there's no time limit, so sets tend to run a bit long; you can decide if that's a blessing or a curse.
Thursdays: Grandma's Basement at Howard Johnson (1271 Boylston St., Fenway). A block over from Fenway Park sits Grandma's Basement, one of the most popular and smoothest run open mics in town. Shows tend to run really late, meaning that if you hang out long enough, there's a good chance you'll catch some of the biggest names in Boston comedy coming by to try out new material after their professional show is finished.
Every Other Thursday: Rafferty's (10 Snow Rd., Marshfield). If you're one of the lucky ones with a car, you owe it to yourself to make the drive to the 'burbs to check out the scene at Rafferty's. Their shows are, hands down, the best open mics I've ever been to. Many open mics feel like a bunch of wannabe comedians competing for laughs, but Rafferty's open mics feel like a family getting together to tell a few jokes. Host Chrissy Kelleher's stand-up, as well as her support for young comedians, has made her one of the most beloved figures in the Boston comedy scene. Whether you're there to perform or just to watch, stay until the end: Bi-weekly headliner Rich Gustus is worth it.
Where would you recommend for open mic comedy?
Photo by xkcd
About Kenny -- I'm a professional blogger and entertainer. In my spare time, I enjoy Boston sports and exploring all of the adventures that my hometown has to offer. You can connect with me on Twitter @RealKennySoto.
The author is solely responsible for the content.