What if everybody out there just died and we had to run the world. Does anybody out there know how any of this stuff works? (thumps the mic) Why is that loud? Any idea? I’ve been a comedian for 16 years and I have no idea what makes a microphone loud! – Joe Rogan
Outside of rappers and maybe professional 4H auctioneers, there is doubtfully another profession that relies as heavily on the microphone as stand-up comedians. It is literally the only tool necessary to go to work. And it is necessary. Have you ever seen a stand-up comic with one of those hands-free, wireless microphones? The performance feels less like a comedy routine and more like a business seminar.
There are three components of a microphone set up: the actual mic, the cord and the stand.
A mic basically works by taking a negatively charged diaphragm and sticking it next to a positively charged plate. When you speak into a mic, the vibrations make the diaphragm vibrate, creating an output signal. No. I didn’t know that before I started writing this. I just want you guys to think I’m smart. Uh what other words can I use to pretend I’m intelligent…apartheid, constructivism, chaos theory, fiat currency. There.
Anyway, most comedians aren’t too particular about the actual microphone. When I’m yelling at an audience about Meow Mix, I don’t think anyone is too concerned that the mic is not picking up my sub- 150-hertz frequencies. No one cares about my ohm’s. Well, except maybe Michael Winslow. But to me, it’s really more of a visual thing. There are only a few styles to choose from.
I prefer the black-on-black with a slightly rectangular cage. The silver mic cage is classic, but I think it can be slightly distracting. I want all the attention on me. I don’t even want one singular person focused on how bright the mic is shining. I also like the rectangular cage because it just feels sturdier. If I have to knock the mic into a stool or against my head, I feel like I can go a little harder with the rectangle cage.
This section is just to say that I like a cord. Doing comedy even with a wireless, hand-held microphone is awkward. It just doesn’t have the same feel to it. That cord provides just the right amount of tension and weight. If you’re used to swinging around a wooden Louisville Slugger and someone says you need to play with an aluminum Easton, it’s going to feel strange.
The cord can also be useful if you need to act out a joke. Any joke where you need to tie a knot, to lasso something, to plug something in, you have a prop there at the ready. Adding even a touch of visualization to any joke is like adding salt and lime to a chicken dish. It just gives it a little more flavor.
The cord can be a tripping hazard and a distraction to some. When I started doing comedy, I was less concerned about making eye contact with the audience and more worried about spinning the cord in loops on stage. Luckily I broke that habit. It’s a common beginner mistake.
Cordless mics also tend to be noisier. Taking out and replacing a cordless mic, for whatever reason, creates an unpleasant rustling and thumping sound. Not a big deal, but it doesn’t help its case.
The Stand (Base, Clutch, Clip):
This is the part that I’m most passionate about. There are three components to the mic stand: the base, the clutch and the clip. All are equally important in their own way.
There are two real options when it comes to mic stand bases: the beautiful, heavy, round base OR the horrific, terrible, monstrosity known as the musician’s tripod.
This thing is awful. It’s usually has that bent arm so guitarists can strum. This type of mic is not meant for maneuvering. One of the first steps as a comedian is to take the mic out of the stand and move it to the side of the stage. This type of mic base is meant to be static only. Therefore, it sucks.
The clutch is where the top and bottom shaft of the mic stand meet. There are three options as far as I know: the classic screw in clutch, the medieval torture clutch or the new fangled, lazy, pistol-grip clutch.
I go with classic screw-clutch every time. The medieval clutch is rare (probably for a reason). The pistol-grip is starting to gain some popularity though. People think that it’s some type of groundbreaking technological advancement. I blame Facebook. But the pistol-grip is usually located at the top of the stand, near the clip. It places too much emphasis on the top of the mic. A mic needs to look balanced: top, middle and bottom.
The clip is the part where the actual microphone goes into when at rest. There are two options: the static clip and the spring-loaded. This one can go either way. A stiff static clip is just as annoying as a flimsy spring loaded one.
I’m fine with either as long as it’s not attached to the floppy top arm. I have no idea what inventor created this but they need to be sanctioned immediately. It provides no durability or any useful flexibility. More often than not, it just flops around like a beached dolphin.
I hope you found this post informative. Now when someone walks up to you on the street and says, “Describe to me your perfect microphone,” you will have an opinion to offer.