Thanks to everyone that came out and supported us in the prelims, very much appreciated!
Every comedian bombs.
"Bombing" in comedy, if you didn't know, is the act of going on stage to try and tell jokes, and not having anyone laugh at them. You stand up there, rambling, and there's just silence. Sometimes you can see the people staring back at you, sometimes the spotlights are so bright you can't see if there's even anyone out there to bomb in front of. I prefer the second scenario, because I can try to convince myself that I'm not bombing, it's just that nobody came to the show.
We've all done it. Some more than others. I've had my fair share of bombs already. Sometimes the audience just isn't feeling that show, and you see 6 or 7 comedians in a row go up and tell jokes to complete silence. Personally, I almost find that makes it easier to deal with, because I can tell myself I wasn't just the weak link in the chain that night. That's always been my biggest concern with bombing. The actually bombing itself doesn't bother me too much. It isn't fun, and I always want to do well, but I know it's part of the gig. And I mean absolutely no disrespect to the audience when I say this, but I don't really lose a ton of sleep worrying about what thought of me. I'm going to do my absolute best to make you laugh, and if I miss the mark, I apologize. But nobody can please everyone, and I don't think you can beat yourself up over it. I just use bombing as a learning experience, "this worked, this didn't", and I try to get better. Hopefully the next time you see me, I can connect with you better.
My biggest concern with bombing was, and still is, letting down the booker/promoter of the show. And the other comics. Being a big sports fan, I can't help but look at our shows like a game, and the comedians are a team. I want to help the team win. When it's my turn to go on stage, I want to do well, not just because it's an awesome feeling, but because I feel like I owe it to the other comedians to do my part for the show. When I bomb, and I go back to face the rest of the comics, I can't help but feel like they're looking at me the way a hockey team looks at a guy that scores on his own net, or a goalie that gives up a brutal goal (and trust me, I know that look). It doesn't get to me as bad as it used, but I still worry I won't get invited back to the next show. Like they look at me like a liability.
I know now that we all bomb. Almost every show I'm on, someone does. And it's no big deal. We don't hate him/her. Just climb back on the horse and try again tomorrow. I've slowly forced myself to learn that if I bomb on a show, it doesn't mean I won't be allowed back. If anything, I use it as motivation. If I stink on a show, and the person promoting it gives me another shot, I'm going to work extra hard to make sure that doesn't happen again. I don't want to let the team down.
I think part of the reason some comedians are so hesitant to write and try new material is because with new stuff comes a greater risk of striking out. There's really no way to know if something is funny until you go up there a few times and try it. Once you get some stuff you know works, it can be so easy to just relax and count on those jokes. There's minimal risk of bombing, and if you do, you can tell yourself it was just an off night, that material usually kills. I understand now why veteran comics say you have to bomb to get good. You learn 100x more from losing than you do from winning. The key is to use the experience to get better, and not to just convince yourself you did fine, it was just a bad crowd. I have the mentality now that no matter how bad the audience was, there was something I could have done to make it work. I listen back to the recordings, as painful as it can be, and try to figure out what I did wrong.
One night at the Druid, I bombed harder than I ever had up to that point. It still might be the worst set I've ever had, just awful. Earlier on the show, the MC, Lars, told a story about how one night, he told the audience his friend was coming to do a set. Lars wanted everyone to just be completely silent for the guy's set; don't laugh, don't heckle, don't take a drink, nothing. His buddy went up, did 5 minutes to absolute silence. And then after it was over, they let him in on the joke. So I finished my set that night, admitted I bombed, and shook Lars' hand. As I was walking off the stage, Lars says, "Hey Adam, remember that story I was telling about how I told the crowd not to make a sound during that guy's set?"
My eyes lit up. Maybe this wasn't my fault! He set me up! "You didn't....." I said.
"Nope, I didn't. You just bombed!"
At least I was responsible for the audience laughing once that night.
He apologized afterwards, and we had a laugh about it. It did't bother me at all. That night actually really helped me start to convince myself that the other comedians don't care that you bombed. Half of them probably weren't even listening. We've all done it, we'll all do it again. When you're learning how to walk, you don't just stand up and run around the block. You have to fall down a few times first. And you learn why you fell, and what you can do to not let it happen again.
If you're a new comedian, and you go out to a show, and you bomb, don't beat yourself up too hard. Nobody is mad at you. We've all been there. Just use the experience to learn. Record your set, and listen to it. And be honest with yourself. If you got 3 laughs in 5 minutes, you bombed. But make notes. Take those 3 laughs, and try to do that more, figure out what about those jokes worked. Don't get discouraged. Comedy is an intimidating thing to get into. The comics on your show that went up there and crushed, they were where you are right now. And they used those experiences to learn and get better. Be your own biggest critic.
Embrace bombing. Remember the nights you bombed when you go up there and crush. It makes them 100 times better.
"I failed over and over and over again in my life....and that's why I succeed."