One of the first decisions a comedian makes upon reaching the stage is whether to take the microphone out of the stand or not. For television spots you’ll generally see the comic take the mic out and place the stand several feet away from where he’ll be performing. If your act requires your arms for gestures, you’ll leave it in. If you enjoy moving around the stage freely, out it comes. When I first get up there I usually leave it in and absorb the security that comes from having that buffer between you and the audience. Like a crutch, it’s a form of support. The stand provides some comfort, letting you know you’re not completely alone.
When I host a show I snatch it out of the stand with confidence, letting them know who is running the show. Sometimes the mic stand becomes a part of the show itself. In my very early days my opening line would be, “Ladies and gentlemen before I get started I’d like to acknowledge a very important person in my life who I could not do this without. Please say hello to Mr. Mic Stand.” Gregory K, a diminutive comic from Russia, asks me to raise the stand after I introduce him. He arrives on stage and gets his first laugh when he looks befuddled that the microphone is too high.
A lot of comics manipulate the stand with their foot, causing it to lean whichever way they want. When I used to host Funk Night at the Café Wha?, I’d do a little James Brown thing with the stand. I would smack it causing it to wobble back and forth without falling. The general rule is do what is most comfortable for you. If you’re taking it out, you want a clean smooth move. Fumbling with it looks like a visual stutter.
For many comedians the mic stand is a literal prop. You can lean on it many different ways. I’ve worked with comics who will put their chin on it.
As a club owner, you always want solid, sturdy equipment. Faulty microphone stands cause many on- stage meltdowns. The mic won’t stay clipped in or the clip breaks or it won’t stay up.
“This club has been open for 30 years and they still use the original 3 damn dollar mic stand!”
If you’re standing up there behind the mic in the stand, you’d better know what to do with your hands. (See Will Ferrell in Taladega Nights)
I’m not a fan of the underhand, old timey boxing announcer method of holding the mic. It is off putting and reminds me of the singers who hold the mic too close to their mouth and keep time by tapping on the end with their baby finger. Lately I’ve noticed a lot of comics using the crossed arms technique. You hold the mic in one hand and grab your elbow with the other. It looks like you’re making a speech.
The microphone and it’s stand is the comedians friend helping to amplify his jokes to the waiting crowd. It might be the second most important tool for the comic, right after his jokes.