Fort Worth is a popular destination for top-tier comedians performing at Hyena’s Comedy Night Club, Four Day Weekend and Amphibian Stage, but open mic events are where local comedians work out new material in front of a live audience. It’s a critical part of the stand-up community, Nick McClanahan (@rev_mcclan) recently told me.
As the open mic organizer chatted with me outside Lola’s Fort Worth, booming thumps from DJ Samuel Culp signaled that another comedian had wrapped up his or her act. McClanahan said he relaunched his weekly Sunday Best Live Comedy Showcase to give locals a chance to hone their craft.
“We started right before COVID hit,” he said. We started it back up in “November, 2022. We do three weeks of open mic then a showcase. The showcase is based on crowd response. On showcase nights, it can get packed.”
Comedians from around the country visit Lola’s, McClanahan added, because the shows have a reputation for having a fun “hang.” The term was new to me. A hang, he continued, is the after-show banter between comedians.
Local comedian Colby Traber (@lolcolbytraber), who performed that evening and runs an open mic at The Lazy Moose on Wednesday evenings, said having a good hang is part of the camaraderie that draws folks to the field of stand-up comedy.
“We allow ourselves to be vulnerable” when we’re in front of an audience, he said. “It’s hard to understand until you do it. It’s therapeutic. There’s a level of trust that you give to the audience.”
Every Wednesday, local comedian Monna hosts STFU Open Mic at Twilite Lounge.
“Give me a hell ya if it’s your first time out at an open mic,” she cheered to a packed bar recently. “If you were ever told you are too much or not enough, you are exactly where you are supposed to be tonight. This is an open mic. You will see a lot of people who are really good and people who want to be. We create safe spaces for comedians to try some jokes out.”
Several comics delivered zingers, like Shahyan Jahani who works as a personal trainer.
“I make up injuries so I don't have to help my friends,” he said. “One time, I said I tore my hibiscus. I started dropping more tea names” that I’d injured.
On the back patio, I chatted up Bart Kumar, a Dallas-based comic who runs the Backdoor Comedy Club. Sporting an epic mullet, the comedian said his material often plays off his ambiguous brown complexion.
“Women in Florida are so overly tanned,” he told the crowd earlier that night, “they think I’m white.”
Like McClanahan and Traber, Kumar said he uses open mic nights to test out new material. He tries to fit his jokes to the audience and adapt the material depending on how audiences react. It’s a constant balancing act, he said.
Unlike other performing artists, he continued, comedians need a live audience to practice their craft.
Traber said comedy is just as therapeutic for performers as for audience members.
“It helps me because there were a lot of things that happened to me growing up that I didn’t realize weren’t the best,” he said. “For a while, I was focusing on writing jokes. Now, I go off the cuff and think about something that I found humor in. Some guys are good at writing quick jokes. Some people can grip you in a story and add humor throughout. You have to find a balance of what your strong points are.”