22 Comedy Open Mics in 7 Days
Joe Faina runs the Austin gamut so you don't have to
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
12:01PM, Wed. Jul. 1, 2015
Yeah-yeah-yeah, open mics.
Love ‘em, hate ‘em, take ‘em out to Applebee’s for some dinner and roofies, they’re not going away anytime soon.
But, no, we’re talking about open mics IRL here: The open mics that happen off-line, at comedy clubs or neighborhood bars or hotel lounges or, you know, wherever.
Did you know that Austin has approximately 25 comedy open mics each week?
Even for a town with a scene as, as, uh, as burgeoning as we’re blessed with here in the ATX, that seems a bit much, doesn’t it?
What might also seem a bit much … is if one person got it into their head to try and perform at every single one of those open mics in one week. Y’think?
Ladies and gentlemen: Joe Faina.
“It started with conversations I was having with other comedians in town,” says Faina, who moved to Austin in 2009 to pursue a PhD via UT’s School of Communication Studies. “Talking about the scene in general, trying to be a kind of advocate for the scene. Like when people travel through Austin, it’s a place where, if you do comedy in this city – if you’re at enough shows, you’re making the rounds and being as visible as you can, putting in the work – you’re going to meet people who are from the other major cities. People from New York and L.A. and Chicago and elsewhere. Because they’ll come into town – the big names, who you have a chance to meet, or even just people who are doing what most of us are doing here, but in their towns. And they’ll want to know what the scene is like.”
And what does Faina tell them?
“One thing I always tell them about is the website Last Gas Comedy – I believe it was Ramin Nazer who started that – because it’s where everything is aggregated. It’s where I first went online to find out about the scene.”
And they have an open mic list?
“They have an open mic list,” says Faina. “And at some point I was telling people that there were around 17 open mics. And then it just kept going up and up and up. And earlier this year, I was looking at the site and I realized that there are more than three open mics a day – just listed on the Last Gas website. And when I first came here, it was mostly the same people at every open mic, and now there’s, like, there’s different groups at the different mics. And so I wondered if anyone had ever done all of them.”
And Faina had done open mics before, had performed stand-up during his earlier college years out in his native Southern California and Phoenix, Arizona. So he wasn’t a total greenhorn by the time he hit Austin.
“I showed up in the summer of 2009, and was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna jump into open mics immediately, gonna do this stand-up thing for real, see what it’s like,’” Faina says. “I went to the Velveeta Room after I moved here, then just started finding where all the other shows are, and was jumping around to all the open mics. So I’ve been doing opens mics since then. And you hear about people in New York or L.A., they’ll do 25 or 30 open mics in a week. You hear these stories of comedians who will do nine guest spots a night in Manhattan. And I’d never heard of anybody who’d done all the open mics here, and I was looking for a way to kind of – it was a little bit of an attention-seeking thing – you have to promote yourself, you know, demonstrate that you’re putting in the effort. And I just wanted to see what it was like. Getting up every single day for a week and organizing where I’d have to go, figuring out all that stuff, and then actually going there and doing the stand-up. The point was not just doing all the open mics, but doing all of them in seven days.”
And now he has?
“Now I’ve been to all of them,” Faina concurs, “in one week.”
The comedian’s got a website where he recounts those let’s call them stand-up adventures: Yes, click right here to go there.
But before we vamoose this article, let’s ask the man who knows: Joe, out of all those open mics, which is the most popular? The one that’s been around for a while and is really successful?
“The most popular one is either Cap City Comedy Club or the Velveeta Room,” says Faina. “Cap City, it’s an email sign-up, and they’ll tell you if you make it or you didn’t. And if you don’t make it that week, they’ll tell you how many people were on the list. And they get like 50 to 75 people signing up every week, for an open mic that has about 25 spots. The place is packed, too, and there’s always more regular people than comics in the audience. Cap City does a really good job of getting people out. People like going there because it’s up north – I think that draws a different audience, unlike all these mics that are Downtown – and it’s on a Sunday, there’s not a lot going on on Sundays.”
And the Velveeta Room?
“The open mic at the Velveeta Room,” says Faina, “it’s kind of notorious in terms of how challenging it can be, how hard it is to get on the list. It’s on Thursdays, and it’s soooo popular. It’s iconic – it’s where all the comedians hang out on a Thursday night – you go down there, you’re gonna see everybody, including the people who were at Cap City that night, a lot of times: Whoever’s hosting or featuring – or even headlining, sometimes – they’ll finish their show at Cap City and come down to the Velv and hang out, maybe go onstage.”