5 Ways A Comedian Can Avoid Bombing On Stage

Photo:Rebecca Greenfield

Bomb – verb; past tense: bombed; present participle: bombing

Nowhere in the dictionary does it provide the comedic definition of bomb. Perhaps we should speak to someone at Webster’s because every night someone experiences the present participle of bomb whether at a bar, comedy club, library or basement. As you’re reading this, several comedians are bombing, are unknowingly about to bomb or have bombed recently. The odds of a comedian bombing is very likely to happen and isn’t based on chance like playing Bitcoins bonus codes.

Here’s the definition of the term ‘bomb’ from the Glossary of Stand-Up Comedy Terms taken from Greg Dean’s Stand-Up Comedy Workshop website:

Bomb – To perform a comedy show which gets no or few laughs

We have all been there. I bombed my second show which I talk about in detail here. I’ve bombed several times since then. The fact is, I’ll continue bombing as long as I’m doing comedy and as long as I want to get better.

In order to get some advice for writing this article I asked my peers for their input. Some doing comedy around the same amount of time (3.5 years), some 10+ years in the game. Each one of them gave me ideas on how to forget about the bomb, how to work through it but not one of them gave me advice on how not to bomb. When I asked why, they each said, ‘it’s not possible’. I figured out the only way to avoid bombing is to never do comedy. If you’re not bombing, you’re not trying.

With that said, here are 5 tips that can help you avoid bombing:

1. Be Prepared

Rehearse your material. Do it at open mics, in front of family members even your stuffed animals. Write, re-write and then continue until the jokes fit your natural style of conversation. I heard super talented joke-writer and performer, Mark Normand say on Let’s Talk About Sets Podcast that he recites his bits in front of a mirror with a brush. Whatever you have to do in order to get ready for each set, make sure you’re prepared for your set. If your wish is to wing it, be prepared for the audience to not respond.

2. Do Your Homework

A good way to learn about comedy is to watch other comedians. This applies to good and bad sets. See what they did while they were bombing, take notes and avoid doing that. If you know where you’re going to be performing, get a feel for the type of crowd you’ll be performing for.

3. Tailor Your Act To The Crowd

If you have enough material, you can decide which jokes you want to do based on who’s in the audience. If there are predominantly bros in the audience, go forth with the flatulence jokes. If there are couples, go with the divorce, marriage, family material. Sometimes you can write your set list once you feel out the crowd before you go up.

Side Note: Never Blame the Crowd

The crowd is not at fault for not laughing. They just don’t think you’re funny. That’s okay, they’re not for you. If you want to avoid bombing here’s a list of places you shouldn’t perform because they may not agree with your type of comedy and it will damage your ego to the point where you want to quit.

– Hipster Rooms
– ‘Hood Rooms
– Latin Rooms
– Caribbean Rooms
– Corporate/Private Events
– Children’s Parties

If you don’t think you should perform for any of these audiences, you should quit. Perform as much as you can in front of ANY crowd in ANY room.

4. Be Yourself

You started stand-up comedy because you believe you are naturally funny. A large part of being a comedian is making it look like you’re not trying. Be yourself, make a connection with the audience; they’ll enjoy your prepared jokes which mean you’re less likely to bomb.

5. Accept Bombing Is Unavoidable

Bombing is going to happen at some point. It means you’re growing, you’re trying something new. Eventually, it will make you a better comedian. Your favorite comedian’s favorite comedian has bombed at some point. Search online and it’s easy to find your favorite comedian tell a story about the time they bombed. Even The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon has a segment with famous professional comedians called Worst I Ever Bombed.

If you worry about bombing, guess what’s going to happen? Sometimes the negative energy is self-inflicted. Accept it, get better and utilize these steps to make the bombs less frequent.

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