Open Season, Open Mics for Comedians

By Biscoe, Ciara | AZ Daily Star, July 14, 2016 | Go to article overview

Open Season, Open Mics for Comedians


Biscoe, Ciara, AZ Daily Star


Some go up on stage on a dare.

Others are fueled by liquid courage.

And still others have long harbored a dream of being a world- class stand-up comedian.

On any given night in Tucson, aspiring comedians can wander into one of at least five Tucson open mic venues -- Laffs Comedy Club, Illegal Pete's and The Screening Room among them -- and take a shot at making people roar.

Arguably the granddaddy of them all is Laffs, where comedians line up an hour or so in advance on Thursday nights for their shot at stage time. You can tell the first-timers from the rest; they are the ones often hanging nervously around the bar before going on stage. The more seasoned open-mic'ers also will be drinking but with a more confident air.

"It's kind of like a hostage situation, but where everyone smiles," said Rory Monserat, who's been doing stand-up and open mics in Tucson for three years.

Veteran comics will tell the newbies the best way to get through the first-time jitters is to relax. The same advice applies to the audience, who should come with an open mind.

Most of the venues, including Illegal Pete's near the University of Arizona, offer food, which makes the open mic nights a perfect date-night opportunity.

But if the comedians do their job, you will forget about that burger and sloppy bar nachos and remember the punchlines.

"Why do you guys get quiet when you know I'm walking behind you?" open-mic newcomer Tony Bruhn asked the audience loosely filling Laffs showroom on a recent Thursday. "Just cause I'm blind doesn't mean I can't hear you. People act like I'm a dinosaur or something, like, 'If we're really quiet he won't know we're here'. "

On any given night, a veteran comedian will pop up among the newbies at Laffs. Last Thursday evening, Monte Benjamin, who has been doing comedy since the late 1990s, filled that role, telling the audience his strategies for surviving a traffic stop as a black man.

"That's why I always try to have a white person in the car with me. They can say whatever they want to the police, but if it was me it would go something like this: Police officer comes to my car. 'Sir, do you know how fast you were going? Can I see your license and registration please?' My response is simple: 'Officer, officer, look at my hands, look at my hands. I'm holding them straight up in the air and I am grabbing my license with my feet.' "

Judging by the rush of applause that followed, Benjamin was a hit. So was Bruhn on that Thursday last month.

Bruhn has been doing open mic nights since last November and is a regular at Laffs, The Screening Room and Mr. Head's, two downtown venues that host open mic nights on Wednesdays. Illegal Pete's near the University of Arizona has also joined the mix with a monthly Tuesday open mic night.

Several of the comedians who have passed through Laffs open mic nights have gone on to professional or semi-professional comedy careers. The club, which arguably has one of the biggest impacts on the local comedy scene, has the reputation among comedians of being the club where comedy can is more than a joke, it's a life's ambition.

Illegal Pete's is among the venues where open mic'ers will take the stage on a dare. First-timers sign up 15 minutes before showtime at 8:15 p. …

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