|The view from my room at the Silver Legacy Hotel and Casino in Reno Nevada|
I am sitting in my hotel room in Reno Nevada reflecting on my November 1st show at Winners Casino in Winnemucca Nevada. I drove 1,630 miles over 3 days to get here.
If I were to tell you how much I made last night you would wonder why I do such a thing.
I did it because it was on the way to my next show and it paid the expenses to get out here. Then there was the opportunity to do an hour of comedy.
I believe that as long as you make the commitment, every show you do improves your skill at comedy. You can come up with a new joke, make an existing one better, come up with a premise for a new bit or you can learn a little more about dealing with the audience.
The latter generally comes from bombing. Bombing is a great learning experience for a comedian. It is important for a comedian to learn "how to bomb". When I say that don't believe that comedians everywhere should go on stage and perform horribly on purpose. I believe that as a comic you need to become comfortable when you bomb; because that is when the learning starts.
You see; as you begin to bomb you start to feel uncomfortable. As the bombing continues it will eventually trigger the panic that comes from "fight or flight" feelings. Nature has given us this emotion to protect us; a sixth sense that will get you out of a bad situation. It's there to save your life. Even so, it's not a good or productive feeling to have when you are on stage.
I think we can all agree that no one is going to die while bombing on stage; but that does not minimize the panic that you feel. This is the feeling a comedian needs to become comfortable with. Once you are able to push past the panic you are able to assess the situation for what it is. You can then figure out how to get out of it or what to do the next time to prevent it.
Which leads to the age old argument amongst comedians; whose fault is it. In other words, was it your fault or was it just a bad audience.
I will tell you it is my belief that it is always the comedians fault. I will also say that when I make that statement I don't believe that it means the comedian always makes a "mistake". In most cases it’s because the comedian has never been confronted with the situation he or she is in.
Therein lies the rub ... technically we are not talking about "fault" as much as we are talking about "inexperience". This is why it is so important to be comfortable when you are bombing; because as a comedian you need to be able to adjust to your audience. You need to be able to change your material, cadence, inflections, energy level or whatever you feel is necessary to connect with the audience you are in front of. Sometimes, you even have to abandoning your act. If you do have to go to this extreme your choices are to do crowd work or do your best "riffing".
There are times that "none of the above" will work. If you can't work through that feeling of panic you will miss a lot of the experience; you will be focusing on the wrong things. You will in essence "lose the lesson" this show is giving you. In the event something like this happens again you will not have any idea of what to do. You will end up repeating a bad experience.
If you are lucky enough to get to a point of being famous enough that people will buy a ticket to see you; the above may not apply. You have become a commodity that a club can resell; you do not necessarily have to do a great show.
The truth is that among comedians the "have" and "have not's" are distinguished between the comedians that draw versus those that do not.
If you draw there is a never ending amount of work you can book. If you don't do well in some venues versus others it doesn't matter, there are always more venues that will book you.
If you don't draw you have to be able to bring a great show every time you go on stage regardless of who is in the room or what the conditions are. If not, there is a never ending pool of working comedians out there that the club will use instead of you.
In the end it's all about making the club happy which means the audience must be satisfied that they purchased a ticket. That can be as simple as being able to say "I saw [insert famous comic name here]" or "man was that comic funny".
For the record … I had a pretty good show there. I had a good opening act that warmed up the crowd and they liked what I did.
I even learned something ...
Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created GreenRoomRadio.net a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is Vilmos.com.
Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/vilmosthecomic or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.