Know what is the ultimate fear of any comedian? Bombing on stage. It’s a fear bigger than having no audience to perform to.
And there’s no comedian ever, who hasn’t bombed.
From the most famous ones you see on TV to the ones you watch live. Bombing is something unavoidable in your comedy career.
When you are all jittery and sweaty, stepping on stage to amuse the audience, one question that hovers your mind is, “What if no one laughs?”
Such are the times, you got to believe in your joke and make people believe that you are going to make them laugh. If they believe it, they will.
Since bombing is inevitable in a comic’s career. Let’s break down the phases of bombing on stage for you. Feel free to add a stage that I might have missed out in this list.
Presenting, phases of bombing
Phase 1. Denial.
You aren’t practically ready to accept what’s happening! Let me elaborate. You get on stage to a warm audience. Nice peeps, they look like they are going to laugh hard on all your jokes. But joke one doesn’t land well, neither the second, nor the third. Oops! That’s when the blackout happens. You think hard. Nothing, absolutely nothing comes to the mind. No joke, no punch to get them cracking.
Phase 2. Realisation.
Your mind awakens to the mess you are into, as you start feeling hot and cold at the same time. Cold sweat. Lights bright and heart thudding so hard that it will bounce out any moment. That one drop of sweat contemplating dripping from the nape of your neck. The death god of comedy seems to be lurking somewhere there.
Phase 3. Silence.
So yeah, right. No one laughed. And all you can hear is pin drop silence. All your oh-so-funny jokes had fallen on deaf ears. Palms sweaty, mouth dry. Brain refuse to churn something sensible to say and all attempts at recovering go in vain.
Phase 4. Panic.
Your tongue, otherwise swift and smooth as a ninja, reduces to a lazy-bone and mind turns into a black-hole, where the realisation is going but nothing seems to come out of it. Panic strikes, for you have spoiled your resume. You are now a comedian who cannot make people laugh. A good son or a daughter, a good employee, a good human being…you might be everything but a good comic!
Phase 5. Negotiating.
You try interacting with the audience. Haggle with them. Effectively bargaining to save that last bit of your respect. You think of old worn out jokes as a last resort. Your body is doing anything and everything to survive on stage.
Phase 6. Resignation.
You accept that you have bombed and resign. Every individual reacts differently to screwing up on stage. Some have a dramatic meltdown there and then. Others put the mic calmly into the stand and walk away accepting defeat. A few try interacting with people off stage to prove their comic worth. Acceptance may or may not be gracious.
Phase 7. Blame.
Blame comes easy.
“The audience, it’s not me, it’s them. They didn’t like my style.”
“Maybe I am not sleeping well.”
“It’s the office stress.”
“The performance before mine was too long to have bored the audience.”
The blame game doesn’t help, but it acts as a soothing ointment for the hurt ego. Also, it shuns away the mental load of making a fool of yourself on stage and being publicly rejected.
Two ounce of advice:
Be strong. Bombing doesn’t mean ending. You cannot be perfect, but sure can be near perfect. Think about it, if presenting in front of a judgmental audience was that easy, no one would suck at it. It’s just a process of your evolution from a caterpillar to a joyous butterfly.
Even if you bomb, don’t fret! Go home. Forget about that night. Think of yourself as the phoenix that rises from the ashes. You’ll be all set to face the world in your next performance.