How To Throw a Karaoke Party

you never know when you’ll need to know

I’m tired of looking for apartments, calling apartments, the word “apartments” and the syllables that make up the word “apartments.” Therefore, I will pass on this bit of wisdom I’ve learned over the weekend.

I thought it’d be a piece of cake, just walking up, renting a karaoke machine, taking it to a bar and letting people sing. It wasn’t until after I got the equipment that I realized I needed to be a bit more prepared. Luckily I had enough time to prepare, and I think we did a really good job at throwing the Bad Dog’s first Karaoke Smackdown.

First of all, to rent the machine, give yourself much more time at the rental store than you think you’ll need. I don’t know why but those musicians are on a different time/space continuum than we are. You just want to sign a form, they want to call information, your apartment complex, your parents, your first-grade best friend, and then they have to find all of the parts you need, the CDs you need, the speakers you need, and then they just randomly disappear sometimes for ten, fifteen minutes. Be patient. Bring a friend. Make fun of songs in the Karaoke catalog.

Buy more CDs than you’ll think you’ll need. No matter what you do, you’re gonna get someone you care about all upset because he can’t sing “Ebony and Ivory.” If you’re buying CDs for specific songs, make sure they’re really on the CD. Don’t just tell Anna she can sing “White Rabbit” and have her go up there and do her patented introduction only to find that the CD has “White Room” instead. She’ll sneer and then you’ll feel guilty.

The rental place might give you a listing of the songs you just rented with their corresponding CD numbers. Don’t just bring that list to the party. It will be destroyed by the end of the night. Get down all of the songs, the artists, the track numbers and the cd numbers and make about seven copies of that thing. You’ll make seven but halfway through the night there will only be three full copies of the list and two of them will be missing and the last one will be in the hands of your mic hog.

Make slips of paper for people to sign up. Get pens. Get lots of pens and lots of slips. Be specific. Go up to the mic and announce that you’re pretty sure “Donna Summer” isn’t there to sing and that “Everybody” is a hella lot of people.

I learned that one person DJ-ing while someone else hosts is a good way to make sure that the audience isn’t staring at an empty stage.

Make sure the monitor is in front of the singers. Some will just turn completely sideways to sing and you’ll never get to see their faces.

Eric doesn’t need a microphone. Sometimes he’ll just sing into the mic stand anyway.

If you have a problem, like the bass is making people’s ears bleed and you don’t know how to work the machine, just make sure Michelle is around. She’ll bust up to the mic and talk to people and make them laugh until you’ve got things under control again.

When someone gets all prissy on you and demands tempo changes so he can accurately sing a Neil Diamond song, calmly tell him that it’s just Karaoke, and if that drunk girl up there can torture us with “Killing Me Softly” and no one’s complaining, then he’s probably going to be fine. Notice that the flounces off in a tizzy, but don’t call him on it. Be the gracious host. Talk badly about him later, though. That’s your right, too. And make sure you let everyone know that he said, “I can’t work with this” to you. He can’t work with this? It’s a friggin’ mic next to a giant speaker playing some crappy midi file of Neil Diamond. That’s what it sounds like when Neil’s in Vegas anyway, dude. Calm down.

OOH, I’m still riled up about that. Sorry.

Now, at first you’ll have like, six song requests. But they will be from the same three people. As new people start putting in requests, move them up towards the front of the list. You want it to work where everyone gets to sing at least once, and the people that were there all night sing more than the latecomers trying to stuff the box. This rule gets tweaked a bit for crowd-pleasers. If they have a good show or sing very well, you let them sing just a bit more often. People don’t mind, and usually ask them to do duets with them. Notice the duets or groups, as that’s where you’ll get people that haven’t been onstage yet. And a group is a good way to knock out a bunch of new singers at once.

Throw away a request after it’s been done. There’s nothing worse than accidentally queueing up a duplicate.

Have the cd’s ready three at a time. As one goes in, take the next two requests and put them with the CDs. Then you just switch out as the singer is finishing up.

If the song ends with an incredibly long musical bit, but there’s no more singing, the song doesn’t have to finish out. Just fade the volume out and let the singer take a bow.

If someone protests for more than three “come on!”s, move on to the next singer.

Make a cut-off time for getting a song in. You don’t have to announce when it’s coming. You might not want to, as you’ll get a giant boost of song requests. You only have so much time. About an hour and a half before closing, if you’re looking at a giant pile of fifteen songs or more, tell them you’re done. Suggest people buddy up for existing songs if they have their hearts set on singing, and tell them they’ll have to come earlier next time.

People will get naked. People will get ashamed. People will be drunk. George Michael will call you the next morning and ask why you’ve tarnished his good name. It’s all in the name of fun, really.

And don’t tell me that you need me to stand next to you and make tempo changes as you sing your fucking Neil Diamond song. Are you paying me? Do I look like a producer? Are we cutting you a single? Are we in a studio? Do I look like your bitch? Just sing or go home, prissy.


Make sure your DJ gets constant supplies of alcohol and cigarettes. It’s the only thing that makes him forget that he hasn’t gotten to pee in four hours.

If you’re in the audience, and you’re near me or my friends doing Karaoke, you might get touched, or prodded, or humped, or maybe even fondled. Take it like the good-natured fun that we intend it to be. Please don’t beat us up. And get your hand off my breast.

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