The comedy scene isn’t the first thing you think about when you think of Finland, so last night I headed to Helsinki’s best known Irish themed bar to find out why. Molly Malone’s have been hosting a regular stand-up open mic night on alternate Tuesdays in the top floor, before it fills up with late night punters. The show starts shortly after 8pm. I arrived nice and late, but still managed to see 8 acts, so there is no shortage of brave volunteers. You do have to be particularly gutsy to stand up on a stage in front of a room of people who expect you to be funny. You don’t have to be funny, but it does help, because that’s the point of the whole exercise.
I have to admit to being a pretty difficult audience member to please when it comes to stand-up comedy. I’ve been watching videos of Live at the Apollo and barely cracking a smile, so it’s no surprise that an open night mic did not cause me too many chuckles. No-one managed to force a laugh from me until the final act, which was Shaz Rahman, though there were one or two good jokes and amusing anecdotes in the previous sets. Shaz likes to claim that he’s the funniest person from Bangladesh that the audience has ever seen, so I did a YouTube search in order to be able to prove him wrong. The search for ‘Funny man from Bangladesh’ gave me this, and I’m really not sure what to say:
Part of the reason Shaz’s set went so much better than the others was due to smoother improvisation and prolonged banter with the audience. The spontaneous interactions went down much better than the prepared set. The audience had already been warmed up and introduced by previous acts, which must have helped.
Open mic nights are places to hone skills and test out material in short 3-5 minute sets, so it is to be expected that the experience won’t match up to the top professional shows, but I still feel that more candidates should step forward for this particular evening. There may be some hidden talent in comedy somewhere, completely unaware that this event is even taking place. I think that more people would step up, and the current performers would do better, if they were not performing to a deathly quiet room early in the evening: if they were performing in Molly Malone’s once it was busy, for example between the band’s evening sets, there may be a bigger and more lively audience available for the comedians to play off and the event would have more status and attract more interest. The cramped and tiny stage doesn’t help matters much either; If you watch the pros you’ll see just how much mime and movement they incorporate into their acts.
In conclusion, I recommend people to encourage their funniest friends to give open mic stand-up a shot, for people looking for a Tuesday evening drink to check these evenings out and for Molly’s to at least allow the best comedians of these nights to have a shot at performing 5-8 minute sets at busier times. I also recommend budding comedians to check out the dance moves in the video above and practise them on a local traffic island.