Auntie Maes and Jeremy Ricci bring open mic magic to Manhattan

Comedian Jeremy Ricci did stand up for the first time in the basement of Auntie Mae's Parlor in 2012 at an open mic night. Roughly four and a half minutes of his first set were met with silence, but when one joke killed, Ricci was hooked. Today, Ricci hosts an open mic night once a month at the same bar he started in.

Ricci, a graphic designer and videographer by day, does comedy for the love of it. He said he enjoys local shows most because they are a place where no one has any delusions about their comedy.

“I love that because it’s all passion and it’s all authentic,” said Ricci.

After his first attempt that night at Annie Mae’s, Ricci slowly began to work out material in the basement of Auntie Maes, and various open mics in and around town. In 2014 he became the host of the Mae’s open mic, and now does paid shows monthly at Liquid Art Winery.

Thursday night Ricci began this month’s open mic with his own short set before giving a joke-filled introduction to the first of several comics who he would go on to introduce that night. Each comic approached the mic with a unique style from the last. Some were first timers trying out new material, and others had routines that appeared more polished. According to Ricci, that’s the beauty of an open mic.

“It’s magic at an open mic because when you go to any paid comedy show, you’re paying for all of the best material. You don’t ever get to hear it getting worked out,” said Ricci. “Which is a shame, but it’s cool if you come to these open mics, and for four or five months in a row you hear me work through these materials, and then I go to do a paid show at Liquid Art and I do it polished up and kill, it’s cool to see that process for people.”

It seemed for Ricci that the uncomfortable or unpolished moments are what make him love open mic nights and grow his comedy best. In fact, one of his favorite people to watch was the third comic to go up on Thursday night, Tim Sidorfsky, all because of Sidorfsky’s ability to make a room uncomfortable.

“Tim Sidorfky is just the best at getting this room to feel weird,” said Ricci. “That awkwardness is something that I really love. When he goes up I’m usually cackling but it’s because I’m watching the room and everybody’s discomfort.”

According to Ricci, the discomfort is what it’s all about, it’s how you know you’ve got the crowd hooked.

Ricci also noted that he enjoys Jason Salas, the second to last comedian of the night to go up. Salas seemed to be a crowd favorite that night; his energy was high, and he kept people laughing and engaged throughout his set.

“Jason Salas usually is really high and he’s all over the place,” said Ricci. “So it’s either gonna be a bomb or a tremendously fun set, and I love the unpredictability.”

For most, the experience of getting up on stage and bombing might seem impossibly embarrassing. And while it still may be, Ricci says that’s a space in comedy you have to cherish and get comfortable in.

“People don’t realize is if you’re bombing and it’s quiet, people are still paying attention to you. It’s when they’re talking, that’s the danger zone. The silence is golden. If there’s silence, you can still win.”

Apart from that, Ricci said doing stand up, bombing and taking risks is something that helps comics stay comfortable in a space of failure, a valuable lesson for outside the stand up stage as well.

Ricci has experienced a lot of those moments of growth at Annie Mae’s, the place where he started and has worked out most of his material. When he began it was a tough crowd of only a small handful of people.

“This mic is really important to me because when I first started here, it was just dead. But by the end of 2019 the mic was hot enough that it was ‘standing room only’ in here for every open mic for six months in a row. It was insanity. It was hot and everybody’s crowded around and at that moment I was like, ‘I just don’t want to let this die.’”

The open mic night took a hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19, but the Parlor, alongside Ricci, have slowly rebuilt and brought the comedy events back. Now, the basement of Annie Mae’s was full again on a warm Thursday night in May 2022, and Ricci continues to not let the gritty, strange, uncomfortable magic of a local open mic die.

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