For the most successful comedians in the world, working on comedy is truly a calling. But even the biggest names know that on your way to the top, you’re going to bomb. Probably a lot.
From executive producer Jim Carrey, the new Showtime series I’m Dying Up Here (screening now on CraveTV) takes viewers back in time to the 1970’s LA comedy scene. Trying to make it in stand-up, aspiring comedians spent the days traveling to clubs all over the country in hopes of getting five minutes at the mic.
The new series, based on William Knoedelseder’s book, boasts an all-star cast, including Oscar winner Melissa Leo, Michael Angarano, Al Madrigal, Ari Graynor, Clark Duke and more. While just about everyone in the cast gets their turn at bombing on stage, they’re not alone. Even the biggest comedians in the world have their own tales of delivering a joke and hearing crickets. Yes, even Jerry Seinfeld.
Check out 10 of the biggest comedians in the world sharing their stories of bombing on stage:
It must be nice as a comedian to know that even Jerry Seinfeld, arguably the most famous stand-up comedian of all time, bombed. In 1977, a then 22-year-old Jerry Seinfeld was asked to perform for $100 at a disco in Queens, New York on New Year’s Eve. Not only was Seinfeld’s act drowned out by the music, but his best joke was about being left handed.
The only thing worse than being Jerry Seinfeld and bombing is having to follow Jerry Seinfeld and then bomb yourself. That’s what happened to a 14-year-old Seth Rogen, who auditioned for the Just For Laughs festival following a surprise set by Seinfeld at the LA Improv. What’s the deal with following Seinfeld?
Being a comedian in a foreign country can be tough, especially when the people attending the comedy show talk through the entire set. Jen Kirkman had this experience in Dublin and unfortunately took the advice of a local bartender and published a tweet that probably should have stayed in the bar. Drunk tweeting never works out. Unless you’re the POTUS.
Between his blockbuster movies, his sold-out shows in arenas, and now a new book, it seems like Kevin Hart is untouchable. But as Hart told Conan O’Brien, his audition for SNL didn’t include the comedian’s knack for topical humour and timing that we see today. Instead, it was a three second impression of a basketball player no one knew.
After a short time playing clubs, Amy Schumer made it to the finals on the reality series Last Comic Standing. While this was a huge opportunity for the comedian, making TV audiences laugh is much different than making paying audiences laugh. As Schumer says, “There’s nothing louder than 5,000 people not laughing at you.”
Following a day of drinking with his team on a yacht, Hannibal Buress hit the stage at his show in West Palm Beach feeling less than 100 per cent. The comedian told Jimmy Kimmel that fans still bring up the event, but did point out that the people in attendance got a one of a kind experience.
While playing on a college campus, Whoopi Goldberg felt she bombed so badly that she returned the cheque to the promoters. It turns out the sound wasn’t working and no one could hear her jokes. Keep the money, Whoopi!
Playing at the legendary Apollo Theatre in New York is intimidating for any comedian. According to 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan, following a guy on a unicycle proved to be his downfall. Maybe it was opening with the dead kid joke, but we’re not here to judge.
Before making it big as Wayne Campbell, Mike Myers was playing clubs in England at 3 am. Unfortunately for the young comedian, political humour was in fashion and he was not a political comedian. Instead of being booed off the stage, Myers was encouraged by a sarcastic audience member. In truly Canadian fashion, Myers said the encouragements were well thought out and delivered nicely.
Bombing on stage can manifest itself in a number of ways. The comedian can forget their joke, the joke doesn’t land, they get heckled, or they have diarrhea on stage. Missing the punchline doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?
From SNL to Ghostbusters to Office Christmas Party, it seems that anything Kate McKinnon touches turns to gold. But like any comedian, McKinnon has had her fair share of bombs. Her advice? Console yourself by crying for 15 minutes in a Starbucks bathroom.
Catch up on the series premiere of I’m Dying Up Here now on CraveTV. Watch new episodes every Sunday at 10 p.m. ET and click here to see more great titles added to CraveTV this month.