How to Die Gracefully

Every comic who ever graced the stage has died at some point. Eddie Izzard is famous for doing it for years before finding his voice. Having an audience not laugh at your material is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a new comedian. It takes guts to get up on stage and getting nothing but silence back can knock your confidence and sometimes this can be enough to make even the most promising new comic quit there and then. So how do you recover from stage death?


(Whiskey and crying go together like gin and…..crying)

1. Stay positive – It’s very easy to get out of a gig you’ve done badly at then immediately start telling yourself that you’re rubbish or you’re not good enough to be a comedian. This is one of many gigs you will do in your career and, trust me, one of hundreds more you’ll die at. Remember the gigs you’ve done well at.

2. Learn from it – What happened this time that was different to other gigs? If you’ve got a recording of it go over it and see where the audience does react. Is it how you stand? Is it your tone of voice? Is it the material itself? Comedians need to be open to changing aspects of their set if it’s not working properly.

3. Use any fee for something nice – If it’s a paid gig use the money to buy yourself something you want. You might not feel great about the gig but you’ll feel great about getting yourself a new DVD or pair of shoes. Turning the negative feelings you’ve got from the experience into a positive physical gift to yourself goes a long way to changing how you remember the night.


(I remember an audience and then nothing but latex and lube, so much lube)

4. Call someone you trust – Immediately afterwards call someone you know will make you feel better about yourself. You need positive reinforcement and as a comedian it’s other people who usually give it to you. If you have a significant other call them, if you have an insignificant other call them, if you have a rival comedian who will give you gratuitous placations but secretly love hearing about your horrible experience call them. There and then all you need is to hear someone’s voice.

5. Never blame the audience – They came to see a comedy show and your stuff just didn’t tickle their fancy, that’s ok they are well within their rights to laugh or not laugh at whoever they want. It’s not their fault if you weren’t to their taste. This is something a lot of bad comedians choose to do in order to feel better about themselves but blaming the audience only stops you learning from the experience.

6. Success is about falling 16 times and getting up 17 times – No matter what you’ve heard from anyone there is no such thing as an overnight success. Even the youngest of comedians has spent 5 years honing their jokes and their performances then taking their routine to hundreds of audiences across the country. They will have failed as much as you have, maybe more, and the “overnight success” you’ve heard about is really just regular hard work. Every time you fail see it as one less time before you succeed.


(Unless you’re parachuting)

7. Go home and write something – When you get back from the gig immediately pick up a pen and write something. At that moment you’re going to be feeling some pretty strong emotions and that is usually when a person is their most imaginative. Doesn’t matter what it is. You could write a blog about how the night went, a new piece of material based on the service station you stopped at or a poem about how jealous of the other acts you are. Whatever you do just get it out of you.

8. Sleep on it – You might find it hard to get to sleep after having a bad gig, I tend to stay up for the rest of the night rewriting things and trying to analyse where I went wrong but it’s never good for you to do that. Sleeping will help you process all the subconscious feelings you’ve had about the gig (shame, disappointment, arousal?) and give you more of an objective view about the whole event. You’ll feel a hell of a lot better in the morning.

9. Don’t dwell on it – If you don’t have any more gigs booked already then get some in your diary. You need to get back up on stage as quickly as possible to prove you can do it. It doesn’t matter what the gig is, open mic, headline slot, bar mitzvah, you just need to purge the bad one out of your system. You keep doing this and you’ll find you forget the bad ones as soon as you get off the stage.

Music students performing at Honourable Artillery companies web-480x309

(Or in fact as you perform them while the rain turns the ground underneath you into a dangerous blend of slippery and electrified)

10. You’re not alone – EVERY SINGLE COMEDIAN DIES. No matter how good they are, no matter how many gigs they do or where they do them they have died and they have died a lot. Comedians are creatures of ego and we try not to remember the bad ones so we don’t tell people about them but every one of us has died horribly at one time or another. If you’re not dying you’re not trying as one famous comic once said. You need to realise that not only have we all been there but we are all still there. Even the greats have bad days some times so you’re in good company.

And there you have it my top ten tips for new comedians on how to die gracefully and get over a bad gig. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to these so keep the feedback coming and if there’s a How To you’d like me to make let me know and I’ll try my best!


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