I bombed my standup set for the first time last week. It was in front of about 20 strangers. I was so embarrassed that I thought about putting the mic down and running off stage. But, I didn’t and finished my set strong – even though by then I’m sure my awkward stage presence had already stifled any genuine laughs I was going to get.
While I felt like I was sitting in a fat L, I still knew I won something too. I have a better understanding now, that every comedian fails because it’s just part of the job. And there is a “right” way to fail too. Instead of giving up and running away, I faced the crickets and distant chuckles as if I was addressing my entourage of fans on TMZ. I learned that without failure, you simply cannot succeed at standup. Because in comedy, failure is as inherent to standup as death is to life. Just like you can’t escape dying, you can’t avoid bombing (forever). I reminded myself of the comedians I’ve seen at the highest levels get boo’d off stage and yet here I was, getting a big head – thinking I might be a natural and so proud of myself for excelling at something I said I wanted to try for the first time. Bombing gave me a much needed humbled respect for the craft – and I think everyone could use it in their lives, because I’ve heard countless people suggest that they should or could do standup after I mention it’s one of my latest hobbies…(Nike, just do it y’all).
This shit ain’t for everybody and it certainly ain’t easy. That means even if your first, second, or third sets go extremely well – 1. Keep going, and 2. Your fourth might be the one. I always question why I put myself through this when I walk up on stage. I’m not trying to make it big, prove anything (other than being able to say I’m funny), or adding it to my resume. In truth, it’s the feeling I get when I hear those first chuckles, almost like they didn’t expect me to say the things I had to say. I love making people laugh…friends, co-workers, strangers – It doesn’t matter. I have yet to come across anything more empowering than getting under a spotlight and commanding an entire room to react the way I want them to react – with joy. If bombing is part of the journey towards getting to those priceless moments, I welcome it with open arms.