Sunday, May 3, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 11:56PM
As a comic, sometimes you bomb. That means no laughter. The audience just stares at you. As you leave the stage, the applause is lukewarm, if at all, and maybe - just maybe - they're shaking their heads. This happens. It's part of the whole dealio. Hey, you want to eat a strawberry and not ingest any seeds? Then try a Jolly Rancher candy. But if you want a real strawberry...you're going to bite down on those crunchy little tan colored seeds that get stuck in your teeth. Crrrunch.
Now, I've only been doing stand up for about 2 1/2 years. For almost 2 of those years, I was a wimp and barely got out to perform. It's only been in the past year that I've been keeping up a kooky pace of getting on stage anywhere and everywhere I can. But in the past 2 1/2 years I have bombed three times. Yes, I've had a "bad set" quite often. But real bombing - the kind where you can hear crickets instead of laughter and you're sure the audience hates you - has happened three times.
The first time was at The Larchmont Country Club and it was my second time ever doing comedy in front of an audience. It was so quiet during my set, save for the operatic vocalizing that I used to punctuate one bit, that afterward, the ever gracious Rick Overton (that night's headliner), in an attempt to search for something to say, told me:
"You have a lovely singing voice."
The second time I bombed was December 6, 2007 (yes, we sensitive artists remember these details). It was a storytelling/comedy show where I read from my childhood diary. The response from the audience was so icy, I needed a jacket once I got off stage and my inner child had gone to her room and refused to come out.
After each of those bombings, I packed away the material I had used and it never saw the light of day again. And it took me a while to get back on stage.
Which brings me to the third time I bombed: Three days ago, last Thursday, at a place that shall remain nameless. Now granted, the setting there isn't ideal for comedy: chairs are packed side by side in to a small bar space above an Italian restaurant on La Brea. While you're on stage, people mill about in the back carrying on loud and often drunken conversations, oblivious to the fact that there is a real live person on stage talking in to a microphone. But no matter: this is the world of comedy and a gig is a gig. I took the stage at 8:35. By 8:43, that audience was glad to see me go and I was glad to oblige. Throughout my set there was silence. I caught a few rolled eyes. When I finished, almost no one clapped. The host jumped up on stage after my set, and actually made fun of me and how the audience didn't laugh during my set. And as I left the building, I understood why it's called bombing: I felt like I had just emerged from a war zone; I was stunned and shell shocked and needed a hug.
So why in the hell would I get back on stage after that? Because I am nuts. And because now, I don't give up quite as easily as before.
Tonight I had a show at The Comedy Store on Sunset in Hollywood. And I decided to use the same set I used for the show three days ago when I bombed; some of it was relatively new material and I wasn't ready to send it to the trash. I resisted the urge to re-write and tweak the material. After all, this was an experiment. So: same material, same set...would I get the same response? Stepping on stage, I launched in to my first bit and the audience roared with laughter. And then they kept laughing. And laughing. Aaah, the delicious, delectable, delightful sound of steady laughter. As I left the stage, there was hearty applause. Wow. Night and day. I felt humbled and grateful...and vindicated!
I do realize that so many factors come in to play when it comes to making people laugh: my energy, the audience's energy, astrological alignment, comfortable seating, comfortable shoes. But I now trust myself. And I stood by that set, even though 50 people on Thursday wanted to walk out on that set. So it goes to show: sometimes the audience doesn't know best. And maybe the next audience won't like that particular set. But I'm sticking by it.
So I just may break out my childhood diary again and revisit that set from December 6th, 2007.