I interviewed a writer once for a newspaper article, and he told me that he doesn't allow his students to use writer's block as an excuse not to write. He said, "Pounding those keys, is better than not pounding those keys. You better write something anyway. You can't wait on the lightning to strike, because what if it never strikes?"
As a result, I will be writing every day for thirty days, no matter what. Today, I will write about what I've gathered from doing stand-up comedy on open mic night four time in the last six weeks at tge Nutt Street Lounge. (That's actually the name of the street. How convenient.)
I have learned that if you are gonna get up on that stage, you better damn well WANT to get up on that stage. If you're not sure you belong there, the audience will sense that and ask themselves the same question: "Why the hell is he up there?"
If your stuff isn't funny, it's not the audience's fault... even if it is their fault. Who cares if you are so funny they aren't smart enough to get you? (That's what lovers and spouses are for.) It doesn't mean dick if you're too advanced for the crowd. In the end, they are the judge. If they don't like your routine, you better fix it. Or at least don't expect them to like it if you keep doing the same shit that never made them laugh at you the first time. They aren't there to be taught. They are there to laugh... or not. It's really up to you.
If you are bombing, acknowlege it. The crowd knows when you're blowing it. You know when you you're blowing it. But most importantly, they know that you know that they know you're blowing it. Go ahead and acknowledge the elephant in the room. Get it out of the way by making it part of the act (or the RE-act in this case) and then get things back on track.
Be yourself. Don't try to be what they want. That sounds like it conflicts with something I said earlier, but it really doesn't. What I'm saying is: be yourself, but craft yourself into a package they can laugh at. If you're only trying to be what they want, but not who you really are, they will smell it. People are dumb about a lot of things, but this is not one of them. I learned I do my best even if I'm saying outlandish stuff they don't support, because I at least get a laugh from those who say to themselves, "Wow! I can't believe this crazy fuck believes what he says. And I even more can't believe that he would have the nerve to say it. But he must believe it if he's dumb enough to say it. Who would lie about something so unpopular? I'm intrigued by this dude. He's kind of funny."
Always listen to the other comics that go on before you. It is amazing how sometimes a comic you don't know will talk about the same bizarre shit you were planning to joke on when you get up there. You need to listen, so when you get up there you can acknowledge that you're retreading some guy's topic, and then you have to show them why your take is different and why it's still worth hearing.
The lights are bright. It makes it hard to see the crowd sometimes. Don't acknowledge this. The crowd doesn't see it and the crowd doesn't care. Just pretend you can see them, and make your hearing more acute so you can work off of the noise.
Don't get so hurried that you talk over the laughter you've created. They'll stop laughing when they're ready. But if you talk over it, they will stop laughing to hear your next words and you have ruined the natural flow of the conversation. Yes, it's a conversation. Their part of the dialogue is the laughter. If you talk over it, you are interrupting them and it subconsciously offends them and the laughter will stay smaller. (I need to listen to myself on this point. I'm so bad at this, because I'm nervous that if I stop I will lose them. It's actually the opposite.)
It's okay to catch a buzz to calm your nerves. But don't get too drunk. The lights will make you dizzy and you'll be all over the place.
Try to look at everyone from time to time. If you pay attention to only one side, you will lose the other. Make individual eye contact with as many people as you can. But only do it at points in your act where you are so comfortable you won't lose your place.
It is okay to laugh at yourself. In fact, the number one thing I have found wins the crowd over is when you truly, truly believe that what you're telling them is funny, too. Not in a "Hey, I'm so damn funny way," but more in a genuine, "I know! I can't believe this shit is true, either!"
There are my tips from the amateur comic that is me. Maybe I should listen to myself. Then again, I've met me. Maybe I should ignore everything I just said. And maybe you should, too. I'm a dumbass.