That Time I Bombed is where the Straight asks comedians about their life-changing shows, favourite comedy albums, and, a subject that any comedian will face at some point in their career, a time that they bombed on stage.
Who are you
I am a gross idiot. All my comedy comes from the truth. Whether it's from a horrific sexual experience I've had or some weird situation I've found myself in, like when a woman fell through the ceiling above me and onto my arm. (That really happened.)
I worked my ass off in Toronto for over 10 years doing improv, sketch, and standup, and then moved my ass down to L.A. where I am still working my ass off—maybe even harder now.
I offer brutal honesty about my life and about gross stuff that happens to all of us. A groan is the same as a laugh to me—sometimes I like it even more.
If you want more cheese, go creep on my bio.
First standup experience
The first show I performed at was at a place called Tommy Cooks. It was a shitty bar in Scarborough, Ontario.
I wanted to get a set in before I went to the Humber College comedy program after high school. I looked in Now magazine and saw that this show was really close to my parents' house, so I thought I would try it.
It took place in the front of the bar with a couple of lounge seats, no light, and a shitty mic in the corner by the window. The audience contained only three members—one of them being my friend that I had forced to come with me.
A drunk man at the bar decided to hate everything I was saying, even though he couldn't hear a damn thing I said over how drunk he was. He was slurring and falling over his stool.
He started yelling and I had no idea how to handle it, so I got super pissed off and ended up yelling at him for most of my set and telling him I wanted to fight him outside. He agreed to fight me so I left in a real hurry right after I got off stage. I am surprised I kept doing it.
Life-changing comedy show
On my 18th birthday, my friends took me to the Laugh Resort on King Street in Toronto. It's no longer there and apparently the guy who ran it is in jail for being a disgusting perv.
Regardless, my friends knew I was kind of getting into standup, so they surprised me. Debra DiGiovanni was headlining and I remember her making fun of me and I couldn't stop laughing. I was so happy to see a woman headline and she killed so hard.
The entire way home, we all talked about how that could be me one day and I worked until it came true. I owe a big thanks to Deb for being so amazing that night and giving some young punk in a dog-collar and knee-high, pink-and-black socks something to work toward.
Top three comedy specials/albums
Sebastian Maniscalco – Aren't You Embarrassed? I just recently watched Sebastian Maniscalco's Aren't You Embarrassed? on Netflix and think I actually peed six times.
His physicality is unreal. I actually rewound several of his jokes and was acting them out to my roommate. He is one of the first comics that I have been forcing onto all of my family.
The Final Frolics of Mr. Bean I have watched The Final Frolics of Mr. Bean more than anything else in my life. It was the only VHS we had up at my cottage for three years, and my sister and I would sit and watch it over and over and laugh at the exact same parts.
I couldn't get over how funny he was for someone who literally didn't speak a single word. I still watch a lot of Rowan Atkinson to this day. He is a genius and someone I have always looked up to.
Kevin James – Sweat the Small Stuff My parents were really into Kevin James and I didn't really know him, so they made me sit and watch Sweat the Small Stuff and I actually was crying laughing. It was so simple but he was so committed.
Seeing my parents laugh that hard was making me laugh harder at it. I think I just like really physical stuff because I am not into politics and I don't read a lot of stuff, so simple act-outs just make me laugh and this rubbed off on my standup as well.
All-time favourite joke or bit
I have no idea where I heard this—I feel like one of my buddies in college started doing it—but it's just a silly bit. It's when you are in a group of people and you get introduced to someone that is super nice, but as soon as they walk away you say, "WOW, what an asshole!"
I don't know why but it kills me. I do it all the time and it makes people go from super uncomfortable to laughing. I don't think I will ever stop doing it.
Something you saw that made you laugh but probably shouldn’t have
I laugh way too hard every time someone trips over a small curb then looks angrily back at it—it gets me every time.
But I would say the hardest I ever laughed at something when I knew I shouldn't have was when my friend was climbing into my second-floor window from her window. If she fell, she could have broken her neck.
I don't know why it was so funny, but I peed on the desk I was sitting at and then she almost slipped on my pee, which made me laugh harder.
I guess you had to be there, but the image of my friend, who is a small girl—I think we were 15 at the time—sneaking through a window because we weren't allowed to hang out: it was the funniest thing that has ever happened to me.
She was not happy about my pee.
That time I bombed
It was the Great Canadian Laugh Off at the Mississauga Yuk Yuk's. I think I had been doing standup for about four years at this point and I was past being super nervous onstage.
I borrowed my parents' car and drove two other comics there, who were also performing. It was a competition, so the top three comics who received the most audience votes that night would continue on. This meant that they would get to be part of the finals in Toronto.
I picked Mississauga because I thought it would be an easier group of comics to compete with, but it ended up being mostly Toronto comics as well. I guess we all had the same idea.
Aaron Berg was hosting and killing it. I picked to go onstage third which was—and still is—the money spot, in my opinion.
The show was sold out with almost 300 people packed in and ready to laugh, and everyone was killing. The audience was losing their minds over anything Aaron said.
When it was my turn to go on, Aaron gave me an amazing intro and I ran up ready to kill. The second I got onstage, I got so damn nervous. I started to speed through my first joke to the point that I had no idea what I was saying and neither did the crowd.
I watched people get uncomfortable and start to talk to each other. So I pushed onto my second joke, again speeding so fast. The joke was something about chips and I heard someone say, "What is she talking about?"
I just wanted to leave. I was way under my time and I mumbled something, then ran off stage. Three hundred people were now DEAD SILENT. Aaron walked back on and was like, "What the heck was that?" It got a bigger pop than anything I could have said. I was mortified.
I ran outside and called my best friend, in tears. I remember sitting on a curb when some creepy guys drove up to me and there I was, just looking up with my eyes bloodshot, still crying. They drove away real fast; I must have looked insane.
Instead of just leaving, I had to wait to drive the other comics home, one of which was able to move on in the competition and I couldn't even be happy. I was so embarrassed and upset with myself. It was the longest drive home of my life.
I have since tried so hard to not get so nervous during competitions and to SLOW DOWN, but to this day I can't help but to get nervous. I always have to remind myself over and over to just take my time.
I haven't bombed that bad since but have come pretty damn close.
Steph Tolev will be headlining the Comedy Mix from September 15 to 17. Her new comedy album Hot N' Hungry is available on iTunes.