That Time I Bombed: Kathleen McGee learns a good lesson
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’m Kathleen McGee, a standup comedian that has been doing shows mostly in small-town dive bars and comedy clubs across the country for nearly 12 years.
I’m not an awardwinning comedian but I’ve been known to win crowds over. I’m also not exactly where I thought I would be in comedy, but I hear that it’s about perseverance and patience—at that’s what I tell myself when I make coffee for rich business men.
First standup experience
I used to tell people that my first time on stage was at Yuk Yuk’s in Edmonton because I wanted to make it sound good and I thought that was a good story. I do a lot of things for the story.
When I was starting in Edmonton, getting on that Yuk Yuk’s stage was very important and meant everything to me. But about a week before I won my first Yuk Yuk’s draw for stage-time, I told horrifying jokes about vibrators at a dive bar called Live Wire in Mill Woods, which is a neighbourhood in Edmonton that’s the butt of a lot of jokes. There were five people in the audience and they barely listened to me, but I loved it.
You’re definitely supposed to be a comedian if you go through that experience and want to do it again. Live Wire was bulldozed about five years later.
Life-changing comedy show
The first standup show I saw live isn’t too memorable but I do remember when I discovered standup. My brother and cousin were watching Eddie Murphy's Raw.
I was about 10 years old and probably mostly laughed when they laughed, but I remember watching this and thinking, “He gets all the attention?” That’s all this chubby, attention-starved little girl needed to see to realize that humour was where it was at.
After that, I really got into standup and comedy in general. I watched A&E's An Evening at the Improv religiously and became a huge fan of Saturday Night Live. I also rented Bill Cosby’s special from the library over and over... Yeah, I know.
I still can’t believe to this day that I’ve gotten to meet and even work with some of the comedians I grew up watching, such as Mike MacDonald, Russell Peters, and Kenny Robinson, to name a few.
Top three comedy specials/albums
Eddie Murphy – Raw It’s the one I watched over and over. It was the one I fell in love with and made me realize that being a standup comedian was an actual thing you could do. Also, the bit about his mother's hamburgers versus McDonald’s always killed me.
Harland Williams – A Force of Nature Harland stands in the desert and does standup in nature to no one. I love weird; I think I wish my standup could be more weird. This special might not be the most hilarious, but it is an amazing experiment to watch. Watch it on Netflix now.
Bonnie McFarlane – Women Aren’t Funny Okay, this is not a comedy special but it is an amazing documentary with an amazing take on the boring question, “Are women funny?” I love her comedy and this documentary was so hilarious. It’s a must-watch and Bonnie is a must-discover.
All-time favourite joke or bit
Sean Keane is a Canadian comedian that passed away before I even started doing comedy, but a Toronto comic once told me one of his jokes: “I almost choked on my vomit in my hotel room last night. In my defence, I was eating it much too fast."
It’s been my favourite joke ever since and I wish I had been able to meet him. He’s one of those comics that sadly was taken from us way too soon.
Something you saw that made you laugh but probably shouldn’t have
I’m a big believer that anything can be funny and I love inappropriate humor. But that one time that I saw a toddler faceplant while holding an ice-cream cone was probably not the best time. In my defence, it was really really funny, plus I don’t like kids very much.
That time I bombed
I’ve bombed a lot—that’s the only way you can get better. Comics that say they never bomb are also the comics that say they can headline when they barely have 20 minutes of material and are full of it. A good bomb can actually be pretty refreshing. It's another thing I tell myself to keep from feeling like a failure.
My worst bomb was actually a good lesson in not taking a gig you aren’t ready or appropriate for. A friend wanted me to do a show for her office Christmas party. I asked if she was sure and she said, “Yes, you’re hilarious!” I’m not a Christmas-party comic and I really wasn’t nine years ago when she asked me. She insisted, so I agreed and brought two more experienced comics with me.
I was supposed to do 30 minutes and I remember at about the five-minute mark, seeing my friend’s boss ran over to the other comics. I could barely make out what she was saying, but it was, “How do we get her off the stage?”
I pushed through and did about 15 minutes before bailing and leaving without looking at anyone.
I’m glad it happened because a few years later, I was asked to do my act at my 10-year high school reunion and I knew this time to say no.
Kathleen McGee headlines Yuk Yuk’s Vancouver Comedy Club from October 27 to 29. Check out her podcsast Kathleen McGee is a Hot Mess on iTunes and see her website and Twitter for full show updates and more.