Everyone bombs at some point. WitOut’s “Where Jokes go to Die” is where you can put your worst bits down for good.
by Mike DiEva
I should preface this entire article right up front by saying I am not a stand-up comedian. I won’t disrespect myself, or the real comics out there, by insinuating that I put in the necessary time and effort. I was just a kinda weird dude who wanted to kill time until he found some other kinda weird dudes and/or ladies to write sketches with. I decided to give stand-up a try because it was scary, and I wanted to see if I actually could. The verdict was a resounding “kind of.” I did some open mics, paid a nominal fee to competition-bomb in front of a handful of co-workers and my increasingly disappointed father. By the end, I was getting a decent laugh here and there, and I even booked a couple of real shows (thanks, Alejandro and Carolyn). And it was a lot of fun, even if I did meet with mixed results.
My first time on stage was at the Rittenhouse Comedy open mic at Noche. Well, my FIRST time on stage was a really dumbed-down version of The Nutcracker in third grade, but whatever. It was terrifying. I barely remember anything except a lot of sweat. Like, a LOT of sweat and no laughing. Luckily (?), I have the entire set preserved for posterity. I was so terrified of getting lost that I would fill three pages writing out every joke verbatim in the smallest, most illegible handwriting possible. The entire set was a rambling mess. The first sentence I spoke was about killing myself while in line at McDonalds, just in case anyone had any sympathy for me. I tried doing a joke about the Jeopardy computer that went nowhere interesting at all. There was one about the Third Amendment that I think one person even understood. I should burn this notebook.
Easily the most ill-conceived in an ocean of ill-conceived ideas was The Intelligent Blowjob Bit. This was the moment I finally choose to feel confident after two decades of crippling self-doubt. I’m sure it seemed great somewhere in the vestigial lizard parts of my brain. “You’re a smart guy. You can swear too much and still be articulate. You were the only person in your high school who even KNEW who Bill Hicks was, let alone GOT him, man. You can totally turn a slightly taboo subject on its head!” In my excitement about writing a joke, I completely forgot to not write a joke about the second hackiest thing imaginable.
Launch from the “other day” trope. Over-explain the news story premise in a really confusing way. Use too many commas. Turn away from the microphone to scream obscenities. Insult my imaginary girlfriend. Tag it with some self-deprecation.
I thought it was SO GOOD, you guys.
I am ashamed to admit how obsessively I worked on those eight lines. I took a Ginsburgian, first-thought-best-thought approach to the content, of the joke, but polishing the wording took me days. I spent three days deciding on the proper tone (fury, disbelief, dejection, etc.) for an exclamation of “fuck.” Not once did I stop to think about how every comedian I had ever disliked talked obsessively about sex acts, or to debate actually saying something of consequence. I wish I could say I was young and dumb, but I was 25 and almost certainly knew better.
In my defense, there’s comfort in the low-hanging fruit, especially for beginners. I believe James Hesky has a bit about how every comedian is constantly trying, and failing, to be funnier than a fart noise. And dick and poop jokes can be great in the hands of a trained professional. But when it comes right down to it, I was a tourist. I simply never put in the work needed to get to that level. Just as one can’t run before he can walk, one can’t write The Intelligent Blowjob Bit before he can write either an intelligent bit or a blowjob bit.
At least I was never fucking stupid enough to do a rape joke.
Mike DiEva writes sketches and other funny things, but should probably do it more often. He grudgingly lives in Delaware County with his girlfriend, two absurd cats, and a basement full of fancy-schmancy beer. Follow him on twitter @bison_factory
Got your own bad joke story? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.