BENGALURU: When people find out I do stand up comedy the most obvious question is “oh wow, can you tell me a joke?” After that obvious one, the second most asked question is “What do you do when nobody laughs? How do you handle it?”
The answer, oddly enough is that you don’t.
We live in a world where people think it’s all about them. So when they mess up they think the whole world is out to get them. When I started doing comedy, I would get nervous about this exact same thing. I’d do 9 jokes in a row, and the audience would be in splits. Then on the 10th I’d mess up the punch line, or fumble my words, or just tell a bad joke. And then when the audience didn’t laugh, I’d try to make a joke like “Oh that bombed” or “Sorry guys, I’ll do better next time.”
What I didn’t realiSe though is that the audience didn’t care, they were already with me from the last 15 minutes of all the other jokes. My own insecurities caused me to doubt myself, and as a result have others doubt me. The real world doesn’t work like that. So when I tell a joke and it bombs, now what do I do? I just keep going, as if nothing happenned and then I move on to the next joke, which hopefully works. And 99% of the time, when I get off stage and ask my friend about that one joke out of 20 that tanked, he or she will say “What? I didn’t even notice. You were great!”
I wish we all looked at ourselves and life this way. How many times have you had a stain on your shirt from that morning dosa on the way to work and thought “Oh damn it.”
You try to hide it, you get nervous, or you come into the meeting nervous everybody is noticing your stain OR you say “Uff, I spilled on myself, anybody have a napkin?”
People don’t pick up on these things and what you’re actually doing is blasting out insecurities when nobody was even asking to listen. Most people think confidence is about what to say and when. It’s also about what not to say and when.
The world doesn’t revolve around me, and I don’t revolve around you. The sooner we understand these things, the sooner we get to learn how the world actually works and, I dunno, start to enjoy it and make a difference it.
No laugh? No problem. No laughs for 30 minutes however…big problem.
On the same note, no stain, no pain. Draw attention to the stain, and no gain.
(Born in New York, this stand up comedian is now based in Bengaluru but travels to different cities on shows. He is popular for his sketches on city life, modern relationships and everyday absurdities. @smanak)