For most, karaoke is nothing more than a dare, a spur-of-the-moment turn at the mic to belt out a rendition of Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This" or Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." The performances range from intentionally silly to drunken, the singing may be surprisingly talented - or (obliviously) horrible.

Spend some time working the local karaoke circuit and you'll see a few singers who take their performances a bit more seriously. Meet some regulars who make going to karaoke night real entertainment

Maggie Doherty, 20, Hempstead

Where she sings: After 9 p.m. Thursdays at Tin Alley Grill in Garden City (630 Stewart Ave., 516-228-3370)

Vocal training: Singing since childhood, fronting bands, taking voice lessons in college.

Favorite genres: Classic rock, folk, Motown, jazz and pop.

On a recent night, the DJ had to strong-arm those in the crowd to get up and sing, but the audience got strangely quiet when it was announced that Doherty was on deck. Her dead-on cover of The Outfield's "Your Love" generated sizable clapping and hooting.

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"It's amazing to hear compliments after performing," says Doherty, a Hofstra University student studying journalism. "It means that you've done what you've sought out to do - entertain people - even if it's just for a minute."

Ryan-Elizabeth Norton, 22, of Levittown

Where she sings: After 10 p.m. Wednesdays at Whoville Bar and Grill in Bethpage (339 Broadway, 516-931-9296).

Vocal training: None

Favorite genres: Pop, rock, R&B and country.

"I take singing seriously because it's what I love doing," says Norton, who is currently looking for a job. "But I do karaoke because it's a lot of fun too." And fun she had on a recent Wednesday night, excellently making her way through Kid Rock's "Picture" as a duet with a friend who was obviously not giving it as much effort. No matter, Norton has plenty of opportunities to perfect her solo act - she sings karaoke four or five nights a week.

Frank Cesare, 57, Patchogue

Where he sings: Thursdays at Lizard Lounge in Bohemia (4589 Sunrise Hwy., 631-244-7300)

Vocal training: None

Favorite genres: Anything (and everything) but opera.

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There's no shortage of patrons tackling selections at this nightspot. Many perform in groups, quickly fading back into the crowd. But Cesare makes not one, but three trips up to perform - smiling broadly, singing confidently. Cesare, a financial agent, does karaoke seven nights a week and keeps a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with a list of songs he's memorized - 196 to date.

Victoria McCoy, 41, Coram

Where she sings: After 10 p.m. Fridays at Viva Juan II in Selden (280 Middle Country Rd., 631-698-8172)

Vocal training: None, besides learning how to project her voice in the Marine Corps.

Favorite genre: Classic rock

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The karaoke scene at Viva Juan II is a big and busy deal. When McCoy sang her rendition of "The Timewarp" from "Rocky Horror Picture Show," she followed through with dancing, emoting and singing in various accents. The crowd ate it up. "Your true friends will applaud you no matter how awful you sounded," says McCoy, a homemaker. So getting cheers from strangers is sweeter.

Laura Senn, Anthony 'JJ' Antzakas, 53 and 58, both of Coram

Where they sing: Fridays at Kelli's Canyon Steak and Wing House in Selden (280P Middle Country Rd., 631-696-1133)

Vocal training: None

Favorite genres: Soft rock, country, blues and rock

Senn and Antzakas, both longtime karaoke regulars, spontaneously started performing together - he as a lead singer and harmonica player, she on backup, often wielding a tambourine through hits such as "Happy Together" and "Bad to the Bone." They take it seriously - but not too seriously. "It's not 'American Idol,' " says Antzakas, a machinist. "Nobody's handing out a recording contract."