Blog of Author, Comedian, Poet, Photographer and former Apple Genius, David Chrem

Stand Up Comedy and why I love bombing or failing

Stand Up Comedy and why I love bombing or failing


Stand Up Comedy and why I love bombing or failing

Posted by David Chrem. Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Saturday night was my third anniversary of doing standup comedy. I BOMBED so hard and it felt AMAZING. A week before, I had bar-none the best performance of my life. Standing room only, warm crowd, and I was sharp and present in the room. It was, in a word, electric. Two mentors reached out who saw the performance to give their congratulations. Unexpected. I was just over the moon. But, what goes up, must come down.

When I graduated from college, our commencement speaker, Pema Chodron, gave us the advice, fail, fail again, fail better. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this. In studying Tai Chi, we often heard similar language. Interestingly enough, this isn’t something that is necessarily encouraged in most of life. Not in school, not when working a job, or raising kids. In fact, it's discouraged more often than not.

The fact remains that we are not perfect beings. The game of life, in fact, does take trial and error. Even though sufficient skill appears to be magic, Stephen Curry, man, I think you a magician! But he isn’t. He works hard as hell, and all success stories, do. But it's easy to get discouraged by failing because society doesn’t encourage us to learn from it but to be, perfect.

I love when I bomb on stage, when I just fail, spectacularly, because its one of the few places in life that it's not only encouraged, but necessary. You might say, it's a safe space to practice failure. You instantly know whether you’re failing, it all starts with that first joke. It's like your business card, your first impression to the audience. But remember something; it's not just skin deep.

You can know your material; you can have rehearsed in front of a mirror. Gone to open mic nights, gone to classes, got great feedback, written and revised, etc. But that’s a small part of the story. A fraction. Where’s your mindset at? Something bugging you? Are you the kind of person who can put that aside when you go on stage? You’re lucky. I can’t always do that.

I did my best, stuck to my daily routine. I got where I was going early. I rehearsed. I dressed nice, my hair coifed. So fresh and so clean. But my head was somewhere else. I saw the crowd, middle-aged people. They weren’t sat in a cohesive group. It was a new club. People off to the side were talking. See, I’m already psyching myself out.

The difference is that I’ve done this enough that I recognized it, and although I could have tried to push the river, I didn’t. Why? Because I needed to have this experience, so I could learn from it. I could feel humility, and I could feel failure. I could watch my thought process. I could stop myself from reacting in the moment. From doing something stupid.

Like what, David? I’m glad you asked! Like getting drunk before going up on stage. Whether I succeed or fail on stage, its a mental and physiological state change. I don’t need to add to it, or worse yet, let my body become accustomed to the effects of alcohol AND comedy. There’s nothing like being up on stage in front of an audience, just you and them, win or lose, you always win.

Other stupid things you might do, blame the comedians, blame the club, blame the audience, or get really down on yourself. Doing this work, and it is work, is hard enough without adding shit to the pile. Don’t do it. You’re not a flower and that’s not fertilizer. It's just more shit, that you have to climb your way out of, to get back to a baseline. Sometimes, you need to make these mistakes before you learn how not to make them ever again.


So, one other thing before I let you go. We all have these things called, mirror neurons. Its the root of empathy and compassion. As Stephen Rosenfield says in Mastering Stand-Up, “When the individual become an audience, a transformation takes place. They stop feeling what each of them is feeling individually, and they start to feel collectively what the performer is feeling.” That’s ultimately what bombing is about for me, remembering I forgot that lesson AND to take it a step further. To learn from failure.

If I don’t create the feedback loop, transmit and receive, in the room with the audience. I'm not showing up, for them, or for myself, at that moment.

Later gator,

David Chrem

There is no spoon. Or why we don't hold our breath in meditation

There is no spoon. Or why we don't hold our breath in meditation

I got featured on ComicSeen!

I got featured on ComicSeen!