What comedians stuff in their faces after they bomb onstage

Gif: Natalie Peeples
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The last comedy show I did before we all went into isolation was at Cap City Comedy Club in Austin, Texas, where I recorded an album. I was in the small room that Cap uses on weekdays when the crowds are light and the headliner isn’t a full-on draw. Still, put 70-80 enthusiastic people in there, even for a decidedly unknown comedian, and it’s electric. The room was packed and the show was everything you dream of as a comic. The audience was supportive, listening intently and laughing at all the right spots. They were chatty, but nobody was heckling, they were just... interactive. It felt like a real group of people, and I was having the time of my life up there. It was one of the most fun sets I’ve ever had, and until this whole virus thing gets sorted out, it’s all I have.

I miss live performance so much, I’m even starting to get sentimental about the bombs: the times I didn’t have it and tried desperately to pretend like I did, when a collective audience decided I wasn’t funny. God, I want to bomb so bad right now. I’m currently so deprived of human interaction that I’m getting romantic about the nights I went home and wondered, “What the fuck am I doing with my life?” I’ll tell you this: It’s better than nothing.

You hear horror stories about comedians bombing, and what nobody admits is this: It’s kind of exhilarating. There’s a rush that comes with being bad at your job. It’s a power move to hold an audience hostage. They have to sit there, and you have to find a way to make it work. The silence and the moaning and the uncomfortable realness of it all? It’s better than sitting at home avoiding human contact at any cost.

About a month ago I had to throw two rows of people out of the Velveeta Room in Austin. They were heckling the other comedians, and I finally told them they had to go. It took eight minutes of my set to get them out of the room (I was doing 12). One of them tried fighting the owner. Everybody was wasted. Things were so uncomfortable, I believe at one point I said, “I swear to God I’m funny.” Truly, I ate a big ol’ dick on stage. I was rattled, and afterwards, I found a replacement to cover my second show and headed down to Parkside restaurant. There, I ordered a plate of garlic Parmesan fries that I devoured in utter silence. Parkside makes its fries pungent. I mean, it’s seriously rustic. The parsley’s earthiness doesn’t even make a dent in the taste of raw garlic. The aioli was creamy and fatty, the Parmesan sharp. They get liberal with the salt, too, which I love. It was the in-your-face comfort food I needed. I ate every last fry. The next morning, I felt good as new and ready to put my last set behind me. I texted the owner to ask how the second show had gone without me, to which he responded, “Oh, it was actually really good!” That’s comedy. Absolutely brutal.

No regrets. I needed those fries to rehabilitate myself. Comfort food is universal. We all grieve, but what do people eat when they panic about their dreams not working out? I asked my fellow comedians what food they eat after they get done eating shit on stage. Here’s what they said.

Joe Kwaczala

When I bomb and I feel the need to eat my feelings, there’s really no time to spare. If I sit at a restaurant or diner and wait for food, I’m letting the failure marinate. Not good! So I always go for the instant satisfaction that only convenience store junk food can provide. Could be a Snickers bar or Swedish Fish, something like that. Sometimes I’ll go for the individually wrapped soft cookies that are usually sitting by the cashier. Fuck, I’ll even take that lone, remaining doughnut that’s probably been sitting in the case all day. Whatever it takes to get that food in my mouth quickly enough to forget about the recent past!

Amy Silverberg

Whenever I bomb terribly, I always want a Thanksgiving dinner: turkey and mashed potatoes all covered in gravy. So much gravy you can’t see any food beneath it. I eat it so fast I feel ill, and then I need to lie down. I’ve said on stage while bombing, “I’m gonna eat a Thanksgiving dinner after this.” I’m sure the audience was like, “Ummm, okay? Can you make us laugh once first?”

Vanessa Gonzalez 

I hosted a show back in February, and I usually love hosting. I take pride in setting up a good show for the rest of the comics, but at this particular show I did not do that. I don’t know what the hell happened, but the crowd was not having any of it. As soon as the show ended, I rushed to get my favorite comfort food I’ve had since moving to LA: a carne asada quesadilla with green salsa from Leo’s Tacos. It’s so good it makes you forget about the shame of bombing, feeling homesick, financial debts, bad decisions, etc.

Martin Urbano

When I lived in Texas, there was a Jack in the Box right next to my apartment. So on my way back home after a long night of bombing, I would treat myself to a traditional Munchie Meal, which came with their signature Hella-Peño Burger, French fries, curly fries, two tacos, and a soft drink. I am certain that if I continued down that path, I would be dead right now. And that’s why I decided to never have a bad set ever again!

Blair Socci

The last time I bombed hard it knocked the wind out of me. I immediately knew what I had to do, and that was go to The Spa.

And sure I know what you’re thinking, it must be nice for you, Blair, a very successful stand-up comedian to go to The Spa whenever you feel like it. And you’re right. I love to go to The Spa. So what I do when I need to rehabilitate my soul is I tell all my friends and family that I am powering down and then I close all the blinds in my apartment because my business is nobody’s business but mine.

And then I spend $42-44 hard-earned dollars of the money I make being a comedy tycoon on a large Hawaiian pizza from Big Mama’s and Papa’s and a bottle of ranch. And then I eat it on my floor in the dark with incredible ease until it’s gone. The next day I am good as new.

Megan Gailey

I get so annoyed when people ask, “Did you ever bomb?” Did I ever bomb!? Oh, I’ve bombed! I still bomb! Sometimes I get paid to bomb! My husband runs a show at Kusina Filipina, and I am lucky enough to get to do it a lot. I did a set there a few weeks ago and there was this old man and young woman who just wouldn’t stop talking. They kept pretending the old man was the young woman’s uncle, but they were cuddling and sharing a beer. I am from Indiana and even we do not do that with our “uncles.” My remedy for this sugar daddy duo was to be nice to the woman and mean to the man. They call this a “Classic Gailey” (only I call it that). Well, the man hated me so much he said he was going to whack me with his walking stick. Needless to say, the set got off track and I never fully recovered. Kusina Filipina’s kitchen had closed for the night so I proceeded to go outside, get very high, walk across the street, buy three tacos, and corner anyone who wanted to talk about the weird old man with me. The good news is, the taco stand on the corner of Eagle Rock Boulevard, in front of the Target, makes the best al pastor tacos I have ever had. Giant slices of spicy pork and pineapple piled onto homemade tortillas. I just stood there with meat sauce dripping down my hands, cursing this sexual Dumbledore. Then I was at peace.