Open mics are to comics what gyms are to bodybuilders. They are essential for strengthening and conditioning [comedy] muscles. Plus, flexing those muscles is always more fun in front of a crowd. Sure, you probably won’t see greased-up comedians donning Speedos, but there’s a first time for everything.
This list of weekly open mics in Pittsburgh is for comics of all levels, and for comedy fans whose laughter (or lack thereof) is paramount to helping the artists hone their craft. The resounding advice from experienced comics on the scene is that you will never feel 100% ready to make your stand-up debut, but you must start somewhere.
If you plan to perform, please arrive at the venue early to sign up with the host or secure a spot in advance on the “Pittsburgh Comedy Open Mics” group on Facebook. The Facebook group is a great resource to learn about other open mics and shows featuring your new favorite comedians.
Bigham Tavern321 Bigham St., Mount Washington. bighamtavern.com
On Monday nights, the Bigham Tavern in Mount Washington serves up delicious eats and an open environment for comedy in their spacious back room. The early start time aligns with Happy Hour, early enough to allow ambitious comics to hit another mic spot afterward. Comedian Matty Malloy hosts this new event, where performers are able to do five-minute long sets, and tells Pittsburgh City Paper that he plans to “work in occasional feature performers and guest hosts” as attendance continues to grow each week. He also coordinates monthly stand-up shows where more seasoned comics grab the mic.
Getaway Bar and Grill3049 Sussex Ave., Brookline. thegetawaypgh.com
A mix of comedians and laymen populates the Getaway Bar and Grill on Monday nights. There are diversions aplenty, from the dart boards and slot machines to the $5 Espolon cocktails and $2 Miller High Lifes. You can pick a seat at the bar or a table right next to the action. Local comedians take turns hosting each week. The atmosphere is relaxed and low stakes, making it perfect for a Monday pick-me-up. Head here after the Bigham Tavern for a funny doubleheader.
Willow Station3841 Willow Ave., Castle Shannon. thewillowstation.com
Willow Station is the “Little Engine That Could” of Pittsburgh’s open mic scene. Co-owner Dom DeMarco tells City Paper that supporting emerging comedians was an immediate priority when they opened the bar in 2021. Host Brandon Johnson introduces every performer with enthusiasm and never fails to plug their upcoming shows. A sign that reads “Ain’t NO CRYING in Willow Station” serves as a cheeky reminder to comics trying out their 3-4 minutes of new material. The bar feels like a community, thrilling comedians and patrons alike. Let the inventive food specials be another draw: kudos to whoever came up with S’mores Nachos.
Scarpaci’s307 Shiloh St., Mount Washington. scarpacis.com
Ronald Renwick has hosted the Wednesday open mic at Scarpaci’s for 9 years, making it Pittsburgh’s longest-running mic. The secret? The support of the owner and the host’s refreshing “live and learn” attitude. Renwick urges aspiring comics to come and try it. “You aren’t going to master the craft from your couch,” he says. “What you say or do on stage is your own business, but you have to be on stage to learn what works.” All of the usual suspects on the scene agree that Scarp’s is where all of the comics hang out. Come for the $1 wings, stay for the comics.
565 LIVE - Speakeasy and Stage565 Lincoln Ave., Bellevue. club565live.com
A basement speakeasy in the heart of historic Bellevue is home to one of Pittsburgh’s best comedic training grounds. Steel City Arts Foundation resident comic, Ronnie Fleming, hosts this open mic, which comes with a twist. With one featured comic performing a 15-minute set each week, the evening feels more like a “hybrid of a showcase and an open mic.” Fleming is excited about the burgeoning talent he’s seen at 565. He says, “the most rewarding part is seeing a comic who was a little green at first turn into a comedic force.” Check it out at 7:30 p.m. every Thursday night.
Mario’s Oakland Saloon116 Oakland Ave., Oakland. mariospgh.com/oakland
Ah, Thursday nights at Mario’s! Come and test your material in front of everybody’s favorite audience: beer-guzzling college kids getting ready to dance. When referring to the young median age of this mic, host Zivan Vasquez quips, “you’ll definitely find out soon enough if your Y2K one-liners or Nixon riffs hit with the youngins.” All joking aside, new and veteran comics alike are drawn to this mic in the upstairs area of the bar. Vasquez excels at keeping the crowd engaged and laughing. His hosting motto? “Momentum is King.”
Parkway Theater and Film Lounge
644 Broadway Ave., McKees Rocks. communityreelartscenter.org
Parkway Theater’s “Comedy on the Rocks” is the Friday night hot spot. This popular mic starts at 9 p.m. and is hosted by funnymen Trevor Austin and Corey Henderson. Austin describes the venue, which features indoor and outdoor stages as well as a private theater, as a place for comics to perform to “a weekend crowd in a club setting.” In other words, Parkway feels like the real deal. Comics certainly bring a T.G.I.F. energy to the stage, often sprinkling in light roasts and callbacks to others’ sets. Make sure you buy plenty of drinks and tip your bartenders generously.
2500 S. 18th St., South Side
At Corner Café’s Sunday open mic, comics deliver 10-minute sets in front of gold tinsel in the bar’s back room. Host Howard Lester implores folks to “come laugh, we make time to do everything else — let’s be a little lighter and not so heavy and intense all the time.” This is a great mic for more experienced comedians who want to try longer sets. The bar serves a heavy pour of Americana with its pool table, year-round Christmas tree, and affable regulars. Order an I.C. Light and stick around after your set to chat with the other comics.