Greg Dean Answers Stand-Up Comedy Questions: How Should I Respond to Bombing?

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The worst thing about bombing is it’s so damn public. When you’re a beginner comic, mostly what you learn is what doesn’t work. So you’ve got to have a healthy relationship with shows that don’t work as planned.

Guideline 1
Are you judging bombing as failure or feedback?

If you’re framing a bad show as failure, then you’re doomed to join the hoards that have tried stand up a couple of times, bombed, and remained in that crater of humiliation.

If you choose to accept a bad show as feedback, then you’re going to take in the information, investigate what went wrong, and search for a solution. To do this, you must be willing to take responsibility for bombing.

Guideline 2
The meaning of your communication is the response you receive.

The meaning of your communication is not your intent. Most comics think, “I intended to make you laugh and if you don’t, fuck you, you’re wrong.”

You must be willing to accept the harsh truth, “I’m responsible for the audience’s responses in my shows.” Only when you accept full responsibility for how the show goes do you have the power to fix it.

Too often, I hear comics blame the audience for bad shows and say, “The audience sucked,” even when the previous comic crushed. As long as every audience is bad, then there’s nothing for the comedian to learn. Comics like this believe they are doing everything correctly, so they just need to find audiences that agree with them. Good luck with that.

This is not to say there are no bad audiences. There are. But the point is that even when the audience is bad, if you take responsibility for how it went, then you’re search for ways to turn around bad audiences.

When comedians take responsibility for their communication, now they have the ability to ask themselves, “What can I do differently? What else do I need to learn?” This puts them on the path of fixing the problem, rather than fixing blame.

Guideline 3
Search for Solutions

Ask professional comedians for advice or call me to schedule a private session or read a book on stand-up comedy. Find some techniques so you can handle it better next show. Do something to extend your knowledge.

This mind set puts you in charge because you have a working process for dealing with bad shows, rather than berating yourself until you hide in the crater of humiliation.

There are so reasons that can cause a show to go sideways. If you accept a bomb as feedback, then you can dig into the exact moment when things went off the rails. This is why I insist my students record every show. Not just to recall some ad-libbed jokes, but also to track the incident that you can handle better next time.

If you have a question, send it to Please put “Question” in the subject line.

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