An Aspiring Stand-Up Comic Shoots Empty Open Mics Across NYC

In this week's installment of First-Person Shooter, we had an aspiring New York comedian document two open mics, one comedy show, and all the lolz in between.

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Apr 2 2016, 1:30pm

Welcome back to First-Person Shooter, a photo series that offers a brief vantage into the world of compelling and strange individuals. Each Friday, we give two disposable cameras to one person to document a night of his or her life.

There are a lot of aspiring comics in New York City and it's a hustle that pretty much has to be a full-on lifestyle if you wanna make it. And by "make it," we mean be one of the stand-ups who briefly appears on Louie in the periphery of the Comedy Cellar. Being a "famous" stand-up comedian in the city is about as likely as [hire comedian-intern to write funny analogy here].

Gina Ginsberg has been doing comedy for about five years and is well aware she's got a ways to go until comedy becomes her full-time career. That being said, she's grinding hard, doing open mics three to five times a week, as well as performing multiple booked shows in the Village and taking voice-over lessons to expand her skill set.

In this week's installment of First-Person Shooter, Gina photographed two open mics (including one in a comic book store) and a show she was booked on, all on the same Friday. She also snapped pics of her comic friends in between the lolz. We asked her some questions about what went down.

VICE: How was the Friday you shot these photos?
Gina Ginsberg: First I walked my neighbor's dog in Brooklyn. Then I went into Manhattan for a voice-over lesson in Hell's Kitchen. After that, I went to two comedy open mics in the Village before doing a booked show called Comedy as a Second Language in the Lower East Side at The Delancey. When the show was over, I headed over to the bar Welcome to the Johnsons with some of the other comedians. At the end of the night, I got a veggie burger at 2 AM with my friend Anders at Sugar Cafe and then fell asleep on the M train on my way home to Brooklyn.

Do you always do this many open mics in one night?
I often try to do open mics before a show to warm up. I know a lot of comics do three or even four in a night.

There is a photo of an empty comedy club—is that a regular occurrence?
I'm pretty sure this particular comedy club gets larger crowds at night. This mic was in the afternoon, so the only people there were other comics. I do full shows, but empty rooms are also a part of comedy.

The second open mic is at a comic book store. What's up with that?
Yeah that's a comic book store in the West Village called Carmine Comics. You have to buy a comic book to perform. I bought one for $1 called Birthright.It is a tiny store so it gets filled up with comedians who are obviously there for comedy, but also a few patrons who are good audience members.

What the strangest place you've performed?
I've performed at a few other bookstores in New York and a lot of dive bars. The weirdest venues I've done were out in Oregon before I moved to New York. I was the first woman to perform on a show in Salem at a Denny's. In college, I did stand-up in a lecture hall before Econ 201. I also did [a set] on a bus in Israel once.

How do you make it as a comic?
Write a lot. Produce other funny content. Don't be an asshole. I'd like to think that eventually the right people recognize your talent, but to "make it" in a mainstream sense is incredibly competitive. It is extremely hard to be successful in any art form in New York. It's not sustainable. After a few years, it gets old being poor. Obscure, ancillary day jobs (I'm a tour guide during the day) become less glamorous as you get older. I'm not famous, but still wouldn't want to do anything else.

Who's the most famous person you've ever seen show up at an open mic?
Famous people don't seem to go to mics. I'll be on shows with well-known comedians sometimes. They treat my level of shows as their open mic for practice.

Where can I see you do comedy?
In Manhattan, I run a variety show at Cornelia Street Cafe called Thanks for Sharing. In Brooklyn, I run a show called You're Welcome to Come at The Well. I also host trivia at The Well on Tuesdays. Follow me on Twitter to see more dates.

Follow Julian on Instagram and visit his website for more of his photo work.