There is something tragical about comedy. I can't speak for other comics when it comes to what compels them to make others laugh. To me, personally, it is at first a narcissistic thing. The whole my-life-might-be-shit-but-I'm-still-going-to-share-it-with-you kinda thing can be both poetic and selfish at once. But comedy is also and to me mostly, about bringing happiness. That's why stand-up - paraphrasing Doug Stanhope - works better in bad places. Think of some shitty town or city where people are essentially unhappy, and that's where comedy thrives.
Some say stand-up is one of the bravest things you can do. That might be a bit of a stretch. Bravery is making love to a morbidly obese woman with a moustache. To get up on that stage to be judged by others can be one of the most frightening, surely, but is "brave" really the adjective we're looking for?
I think most of us comedians act in narcissistic ways, by telling the world about the good and bad things that happen to us, about our views on everything.We want to belong but we're not quite up for it. Comedians are natural loners.
No matter how bad or frightening you think comedy is, I guarantee it gets worse. To begin doing it is the most difficult bit. But at the beginning you're so shit you don't really care that much. You keep thinking "fuck it, I'll eventually get better". And that is the main issue right there, when you start improving. Your confidence goes up, you're getting good laughs, then the unexpected comes: You bomb.
Yeah. Your material is better, you're sort of funny, and then suddenly you have one gig that's really, really bad. I had one two months ago, and it is a hard thing to recover from. The worst part was that last time I gigged in that same place, my material killed and I felt, for the first time, like a comic. It was my first ever good gig.
This time it was the other way around. But somehow, I could tell, from the moment I walked into that room, that the whole atmosphere was wrong. The audience wasn't right for me and I was wrong for them. My material didn't suit this audience. My self-deprecating sexual jokes fell flat. My great ten minutes became the shittiest ten minute set in the history of comedy.
I couldn't get away, I didn't know what to do. I had ten minutes, that was all the jokes I had. So I just carried on even though my main desire was to abandon the stage and say, in a Eric Cartman voice, "Screw you guys, I'm going home!". Sadly, that could have been the wisest of choices. Those ten minutes became a long and very painful experience.
In the end, the only thing that will help any comic overcome bombing is experience, because it is never going to stop. Even my favourites Bill Hicks, Louis CK or Bill Burr have bombed badly. Some of those performances have become the stuff of legend and even been edited as albums - as with Hicks' Flying Saucer Tour - or Youtube sensations - like Bill Burr's Philadelphia rant.
Bombing is bad, but it happens. You don't always have to run away from a rabid midget, but from time to time, you might do. Shit happens.
It's all bombing is, a minor incident.
So don't stop.
Bomb better next time - it means you haven't given up yet.