This column originally appeared on Stu Melton’s site, A Comedian’s Notebook, and is republished here with the author’s permission.
Top: Illustration by Anthony So
“What Your Microphone Grip Says About You”
By Stu Melton
Every stand up comedian has her or his or her or his own unique microphone grip; it’s what makes her or him (or her) special. I’ve collected a comprehensive list of ALL the grips that are out there. Every single one! If you tell jokes into a microphone, there’s a description here waiting specifically for you. I’ve been hunting different mic grips for years, and I’m proud to announce I have finally caught them all. I’m the Ollivanders Wand Shop of microphone grips. 22. That’s how many mic grips I’ve documented! TWENTY-FREAKING-TWO. I’m the expert! Here they are. Which one fits you?
What’s the deeeeeal with all these other comics trying to screw up a good thing? You’re classic. You like things the way they’ve always been. You’re a fan of comedic tradition. You wear a suit on stage. You write your jokes out word for word on a yellow notepad, scratching out an “and” here and an “or” there until it’s just perfect. Every word matters. Every breath counts. Comedy is an art. You’re not going to change how things have been done for decades; you just grab the mic and speak into it. You use the “continental grip” of comedy. No need to get fancy. No need to change things up. You’re a comedian. Just. Be. Funny.
The Lapel / The TED Talk / The “Look, Ma: No Hands!”
Whoa, slow down Mr. Expert Comic! You’ve been around the block two or three or four or five times. Why? Because you used to be a dog walker. Also, because it’s an expression. You’ve performed in all the clubs and you bet your gosh darn booty that every single one of those clubs knows how you like your sound set up. You bring your own equipment so your voice carries just the way you like it. You can’t have your arm restrained to a microphone like some comedy slave! You need both of your hands free so the audience can witness the brilliant hilariousness flowing from every appendage. You never know what can happen when you’re wearing a lapel mic!
The Lazyboy / The Chin Rest / The Beard Tickler
You’ve never thought about germs before in your life. You don’t wash your hands and you eat gum straight from the bottom of chairs at the comedy club. You don’t understand that sound is supposed to go into the microphone, not over the top of it. You like the idea of swapping face grease with other comedians, you sadistic fuck! You probably think that the dents in microphones are from being dropped on the ground too many times – but they’re not: the mic is just trying its hardest to get away from your face.
The “Idk Where This Mic Has Been”
You know all the dark places the mic has been. That chin rest comic? You’re well aware of his disgusting habits. You don’t want his chewed up lunch spittle anywhere near your hands or face. You can’t help but notice little things like that. So you back away. Let your voice carry. The mic will do its job; it doesn’t need any help from you. You’re smart, you pay attention, and…you’re a little anal. That’s what gets you ahead. You’re a hard worker and you deliver. Take my jokes or leave ‘em!
The Claw / The Snifter
You say really important things. REALLY important. You’re a revolutionary. I mean that’s why you’re on stage, right? The mic is an object of your mastery. Confidence oozes from your fingertips, engulfing the microphone from its base to the very tip of its head. Was that sexual? Yes, yes it was. Deal with it. People are lucky they even get to listen to your carefully-crafted craft: your poetry of efficiently worded wordly words. You’re a preacher delivering some serious learning unto your audience – nay, your congregation. You’ve already thought of everything that could be thought. You know everything. You’re brilliant. Oh, and you’re hilarious, of course.
The Thumbs Up / The “Faking It”
Despite your depressive comedic tendencies, you’re a positive person deep, deep down (like, WAY down). You think things like, “Hey, I think this joke is going to go really well today!” when you know there’s no chance of that happening. You tell other comedians, “Good set!” when they get off stage. Everyone knows you are A-okay with your life choices and you think being on stage is a big thumbs up! Why not work new? Throw some fresh material out there – it’ll totally kill.
The Mic Cord
You’re a bundle of energy. You get excited on stage. You’re loud. And you’ve never understood why there’s even a grip on the microphone, seeing as how you only ever touch the cord. You just want to jump up there and start waving that mic around, shake it like it can barely contain all the funny. The microphone jumps back and forth as it transfers your hilarity to the crowd, shivering down its spine as it reacts viscerally to (not your joke structure, but) your raw animal emotion. You get away with punch lines like “Am I right?!” and “You know what I mean?!” because you are right and people doknow what you mean, because you goddamn make them.
The Duck Hand
Either you’re a weird fella or you’re a lobster. Maybe you don’t even know which. You’ve never been very good at holding objects, but you are talented at making shadow puppets. People are surprised that you’re a comedian, given that you’ve never “picked up” on how to hold a microphone. It’s as if seeing thousands of other comics hold microphones has had no effect on you whatsoever. You’ve never noticed that you hold the mic in a weird way, so you’re just now realizing that it’s really awkward. Or you’re like, “Yeah some REAL weirdos do that – but not me!” And it’s you. You do that.
The Freestyle / The Idk Wtf is Happening Here / The Wildcard
You’re weird. And you do what you want. You don’t live by the rules. No one can tellyou how to hold a microphone. You hold it with two fingers like a hot tamale. You interlace your fingers around it like a basket. You put it behind your ear as an artistic statement. You’re not going to hold the mic like any of those other comedians, because you’re not “one of those other comedians.” Because you’re special. No one can replicate what you do. You’re not a hacky comic; you’re an alt comic.
The Spindly Fingers
You’re the kid who always held his pencil wrong at school and drank your apple juice out of a champagne glass because, not only did it look cool, but you also liked the way it felt all fancy in your hand. Hell, you’d still drink pretty much anything out of a champagne glass if it weren’t for society. But you do things your own way! Screw society! You call over your waitress at Denny’s and when you ask for your drink in “a flute” and she looks at you disapprovingly and maintains that the coffee will burn your fingers unless she puts it in a mug. It’s your life, so you go home and you make your dream a reality: you throw some coffee grounds and water into the coffee maker, switch it on, polish a dusty champagne glass, and pour yourself a flute of coffee. You pick up the glass and she’s right: it burns your hand. You picture the waitress scolding you for your scalding mistake. So, you become a comedian and hold the microphone like it’s a champagne glass.
The Double Clutch
You feel safe behind the mic stand. You’re a little anxious, so this is your safe place. You’ve got both hands on the wheel and you’re taking everyone to funny town. Two times the hands, two times the funny. You’re a weird act, so you like to harness the microphone and embrace for the impact of full-on weirdness to spurt out of the speakers. Won’t. You. Take. Me. To. Funny toooooooown!
The Cross-Arm Stance
The audience is your toy…your pet…your bitch. They laugh when you tell them to laugh. You’re in control and you have the power. It’s all about the power. You look tough, but you’re secretly soft on the inside. Just like your jokes, the arms you use to cross your body are a defense mechanism, shielding people away – keeping them away from letting them inside to know the real, honest, messed up you.
But you kill! You’re great at comedy! That makes up for it, definitely. Definitely.
You’re a softy. You’ve seen the abuse that microphone has taken from other comics. When you get up on stage, you hold that microphone gently. You lullaby the shit out of that microphone, because you’d want it to treat you nicely. You’re probably gonna have to speak up. Either that, or the audience will have to shush down. Or whoever is doing sound will have to turn you way up because you’re afraid of being heard too clearly.
You listen to rap and watch music videos. And getting on stage and speaking through a microphone is the only way people will listen to what you have to say about listening to rap and watching music videos. You’ve tried to lay down some sick beats yourself, but it’s just not your thing. You only touch the top 20% of the microphone because it looks really cool. You’re a poet. A wordsmith. An artist. You try to get laughs, but comedy is about more than just that. It’s about being real and true to yourself, man. And you’ve got that on lock. Also, let’s face it: either you’re black or you appropriate black culture.
The “Wait…This Isn’t A Microphone”
You’ve been doing shows non stop for 15 years. You haven’t slept for at least 10 of those. You don’t know what’s up or down anymore. You’re losing it. In the middle of lunch, you start complaining that your meatball sandwich isn’t picking up any sound and when you hit the stage at night you wonder why there are so many people watching you eat a microphone.
The “Hey, I’m Holding A Dog”
Okay, that’s not a microphone, that’s a dog. Is the dog going to tell jokes? Are you going to tell your jokes through the dog? I don’t think that’s going to work; she’s not even hooked up to the sound system. You’re not making any sense.
Wait, what are you doing? YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE HOLDING A MICROPHONE. And speaking into it, for that matter. You’re just taking a silly picture for people to put on comedy posters. Come on, stay focused!
The “Here, Smell This Flower”
Okay this isn’t even a comedian why is
This Is A Tree
It’s hard to believe that only 3 months ago, people didn’t know these existed.
Officially named “The Republic of Azerbaijan” and unofficially referred to as “The Land of Fire” for no particular reason, this Caspian-Sea-bordering semi-presidential republic is home to a town built on stilts, a weird crocheting competition, people who like to drink tea, and a lot of oil – not to mention that it’s one of only two countries that begin but do not end with the letter “A.” Just kidding about the “Land of Fire” thing. Not that Azerbaijan isn’t called that – it totally is – but there is a very particular reason why it’s called that. I’m not going to tell you what it is, but there definitely is a reason. Just so you know.