When people hear I perform live comedy, they often say, “I could never do that. What if I bombed?”
Allow me to bring a recent report from the front lines. I’m still removing the shrapnel.
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I bombed this week. Badly. We’re talking Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Mike Myers’ The Love Guru combined. This measured on seismographs. Picture Sylvester Stallone running toward the camera in slow motion with a fiery ball of unfunny expanding behind him.
Bombing is often called dying, but it’s worse than death.
In fact, a doctor once told me that I might die while I was in hospital. I faced that possibility with quiet thoughtfulness. But when I died on stage, my response was something akin to a kid who drops his ice cream cone combined with those Palestinian women you see mourning on television.
I’ve failed before during my seven years of performing. But it was usually with other performers and maybe lasted 10 minutes.
But this time I was the sole performer and I was performing for, give or take, all eternity.
My job was to entertain people during a fitness class while they were on the floor doing their sculpting exercises. I pretended to be The Before Guy from TV commercial fame.
This earned me vaguely sad stares — the sort of looks I expect to get 50 years from now when people are saying, “They did a good job with the corpse.”
After this 30-minute ordeal, the positive voices in my head tried to cheer me up: This schtick has worked elsewhere, a half-hour is a long time for solo improv, etc. But it was a scattered message, like the Liberal party’s.
The negative voice in my head had the message discipline of Stephen Harper: “You suck,” it said, over and over.
When jokes bomb on television there’s often the sound of crickets, but, man, I’d have killed for a cricket. I’d have chatted it up, asked where it was from, what it did for living.
I would also have welcomed a tumbleweed. I could have left on it.
As to the question, “What would I do if I bombed?” You feel bad, like you were dumped from a minor relationship, or you lost a hockey game in overtime.
And then you get over it.
If you never leave the trench because you’re afraid of bombs, you’ll never win the war. Am I right? Who’s with me?
(Sound of crickets.)