When you go to an open mic, it is important to sign up as early as possible. Most sign-up, show-up open mics operate on a first-come, first-served basis, though no one ever wants to take the #1 position. It is generally not good enough to simply show up at the posted sign-up time, either. For most open mics, you must arrive fifteen minutes early to obtain a prime position. For a popular weekly show like the Thursday night open mic at The Brainwash, you should get in line for the 6:30 sign-up no later than 8:45 on Wednesday evening.
The reason is that, no matter how devoted the "civilian" audience is, they have limited patience for open mic comedy. There's no quality control, so non-comics will end up sitting through fractured English, uncomfortable descriptions of sex, and so much bombing that the UN occasionally sends human rights observers to Our Little Theater. Anyone who hasn't left by the time #20 gets up is too shell-shocked to laugh.
So comics end up performing for other comics, which has two big problems:
1. They've heard your crappy material already.
2. They're big jerks.
I include myself in the jerk group. An example:
A comic was introducing a bit about a Chicago couple who named their son, "Wrigley Field", and how such a name might doom the kid to a life of misery. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of asking the "crowd" of comics what we thought two die-hard Cubs fans might name their son.
Bobby yelled, "Steve Bartman!"
Chris yelled, "Ryne Sandberg!"
I added, "Leon 'Bull' Durham!"
The comic tried to cut us off. "OK, no, they named him..."
Chris yelled, "Jerome Walton!" which cracked us all up. By now, things were rapidly falling apart. Sitting at the back of the room, we were far more focused on naming old obscure baseball players and giggling than paying attention to the remainder of the set.
By the time we got to Vance Law and Damon Berryhill, the bit had long since ended and we were officially jerks. I went up five comics later, and no one heckled or ruined my set, because they had all left. It was rough, but I have a feeling Bob Dernier would have understood how I felt.