Doing stand up comedy in the beginning is strangely terrifying. Nothing is going to hurt you up there, but when you’re doing poorly the crowd feels your fear and they seem to amplify it with their reaction. They get uncomfortable and that makes you more self conscious about bombing. It can take years for comic to reach that point where they stop caring about bombing. It’s like learning to ski or ice skate. You have to fall down in order to get over your fear of falling down.
On Sunday, July 10th, my improv troupe The Sandbox Association performed during half time for the NBA Summer League Game at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas. There were at least 2000 rabid NBA fans there. Of the six people in our improv troupe, only three of us could be there. We did a game called “Sports Center.” This is how we described it on our website (seen in the screenshot above):
“The Sandbox asked for a simple everyday household activity and one basketball fan yelled ‘mopping’, and with the help of another audience volunteer the crowd witnessed the mock Olympic mopping competition narrated by none other than Sandbox newscasters.”
Many comedians I know remember the moment when they stopped being afraid to bomb. It’s usually a heckler they remember or some set when they did really well. For me it was this NBA halftime show. This was the single most brutal incident I’ve ever experienced performing in front of people going all the way back to doing stand up for the first time as a freshman in high school.
The fake “mopping” competition started and I went to TOWN, Jack! I was all over that floor like a spastic. The kid who volunteered to “compete” against me looked at me as if I was insane and quickly walked off. The crowd did not just boo us, they were ANGRY booing. They got up in droves and fled to the concession stands. “YOU SUCK!!!
In my mind I was glad they were upset. I wanted to perform harder to make them even more angry at me. It was a turning point in my life. That was the moment I stopped looking for validation from other people. Being on stage no longer frightened me. Speeches, presentation, comedy, acting, playing music, doing anything before an audience does not phase me anymore. I don’t care how large the crowd or how unprepared I am. That event made me fearless.
The organizer of the event apologized and paid us. We left a bit shaken and glad it was over. My two troupe mates said to me, “Wow you really committed to that.” And I said, “Yeah, the harder they booed me the more I gave.” They asked why. Why perform harder for people being that rude?
“Because, “ I said.
“Fuck ‘em! I hope I ruined their whole goddamn week.”