Bombing on Stage and Getting Called Racist

Lord of the flies what a time to be alive. I’m not gonna lie, I’m feeling pretty broken down right now. I just had one of the worst bombs of my life. I guess it’s kind of ironic now that I think of it. I was just talking about how I don’t care much about bombing anymore, and now it’s two in the morning and I’m a shell of a man from the performance I had five hours ago.

Comedy has a way of doing that to you. Any time you feel like you’ve got a grip on telling jokes, comedy is there to remind you that you’re a long ways away from where you could be. It’s a constant battle. I’m always getting knocked down and having to get back up. Sometimes it drives me to a point of exhaustion. Sometimes I feel energized. Sometimes I feel incredible. Sometimes I feel worthless.

Tonight was one of those situations that started off weird and just turned into a downward spiral. Last night I wrote a bunch of Will Smith jokes and rattled them off on stage and it went super well. I figured I’d start off tonight doing the same thing, but it went way differently. The host interrupted after my first joke to make a funny comment and I lost a little confidence. All of a sudden I felt like I was doing hack material, and I suppose I was.

I continued on, telling the jokes I had written down. I felt like the second one was my best, but after I told it I heard someone yell “boooooo!” I continued on and then aborted mission on the Will Smith material and went into a couple jokes I had been working on, but it was tough to get the audience back on my side. I had one guy laughing all the way through, but I was still flustered.

I started to tell a new joke I really like and it was getting some traction, and then a woman yelled “stop telling racist jokes on stage!” I think it was the same woman who booed at the beginning, but I’m not sure. I didn’t have a good response to her heckle because it didn’t make any sense. I was telling a joke about TPing someones house but instead of using toilet paper I climb on their roof and build a teepee. It had nothing to do with race, but I guess she was still upset about one of the Will Smith jokes.

I had been dealing with some pretty strong anxiety all day so I was extra sensitive and not as sharp and witty as I usually am. I felt like a douche bag, to be honest. I’m generally not a douchy guy, but I know sometimes on stage my character can come off that way. So I felt like a douche and then this lady was calling me racist in front of a hundred other people. I felt like the world was caving in on me and I had nowhere to go so I just cut my set short and got off the stage.

It’s the second time somebody has tried to paint me as a racist on stage and I know it won’t be the last time. There are a lot of people out there who are looking for racism around every corner, and if you’re constantly looking for something in this world you’re going to find it, whether it’s there or not. Instead of “comic trying to write a funny joke about a current event” her interpretation was “white guy tells joke about a black guy because he’s probably racist.”

I can’t change the way people interpret the world and I can’t change how they interpret my jokes. We all have our individualized lens through which we view reality based on our experience and history. The way I see the world is not the way you see the world, or the way anyone else sees the world for that matter. Maybe that woman has been a victim of countless acts of racism throughout her life and she thought “here we go again” when I started telling a silly joke.

I always say there are three levels to communication. There’s what you intend to get across, the words that actually come out of your mouth, and how those words are interpreted. Often times, what you intend to get across is completely different than what someone’s interpretation is. Things get lost in translation. In most scenarios, you can talk it out with someone and clarify what you really meant, but in comedy you don’t usually get that chance. People interpret jokes in all kinds of ways, and you can’t go through each audience member and explain what you really meant by something.

I accept that not everyone is going to like my jokes or even understand them and I know that I don’t hold racist beliefs, but it still affects me when people think that way about me. Luckily I have really great people in my life who support me and whom I can talk to about these kinds of things. I also carry a lot of confidence in my character. I try to be the best person I can every day and I know the reason I do comedy is because I love the creative process and I love trying to make people laugh.

Someone in the audience can say something terrible about me or even hate me, but I know I’m not trying to hurt anyone. If I ever set out to hurt someone intentionally or choose to hate someone, then I would really be disappointed in myself. So I guess the lesson is to know that as long as you’re doing your best to act morally and be the best person you can possibly be, it doesn’t matter what other people think of you. Do what you know is right, not what other people want you to do.

Jason Brendel
Jason Brendel

Jason Brendel is an author, poet, and comedian from Northern California. Navigate the buttons below to follow him on social media, make a donation, or purchase his collection of laugh-out-loud poetry on Amazon.

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