And why do we Tank, Bruce?

Last night is fresh in my mind – amidst the maniacal savagery of slaying and killing and rocking it, that we Comics are supposed to do day in day out – some are brutal realities, some doe eyed delusions and some constructed crescendos – last night I was gently Tanking for 30 mins in a Comedy club.


It had been a gorgeous week – with no safety nets – since I had set out to do 6 shows of new material – each day exposing something new, and then learning to play it better the next day, and then again doing the same with something altogether else new!

This was the last night – and I knew I was opening with my weakest ‘new’ piece – I had a premise, I had my construction, and my gut told me it was weak – and I had a lovely post noon siesta with sub conscious premonitory disturbing imagery – like my Mind knew a ‘Tank’ night was up ahead… I had that ‘I told myself so’ moment…

I had a few options that lay before me…

  • Don’t do it – do it later – some other night – when you are feeling less vulnerable, or at least more delusional :)
  • Revisit that material – edit it – internalise it better – before you can release it before an audience
  • Start with something safe – and then slide into this when the audience is nice and warmed up

– Not doing it wasn’t an option – good stage time is rare – and I’d had 5 very good soul elevating shows, and a failure tonight wasn’t going to destroy me. Security blanket on!

-I had revisited that material on my laptop screen ‘enough’ – I had passed through all stages of Denial Anger Bargaining Depression and Arrogance (not Acceptance) and I was back to Denial – all this by myself – this one had to be released to an audience for more ‘clarity’ – I was lost right now with this ‘set’

– If the something ‘safe’ worked well and then this piece worked well after – I’d never know if it was the Foreplay or the Play that won the bride over!

I decided to go into it – start with the Weak ‘New’ bit and find your way through the darkness – i knew the show had a good host and fabulous closing act – I could take that chance… I did… and the rest is a blur…

I had a tough time from the 45th second… my premise drew a blank when I asked the ‘So how many of you have….’ – and everyone smiled back… like – ‘I don’t get the premise, but hey crack the jokes…!’ –

30 excruciating minutes – and I stayed Committed through it – I knew at the end of the show I’ll have an audio file at least – and i do…

Some jokes worked – some drew blanks – the Premise was chaotic and the flow was all over the place…

It was a slap in the face – and I came backstage buzzed and my closing act – a dear friend in my frat was like ‘What the heck happened man’ – I winced and asked him the tough question – ‘what did you think?’ – and I love him for what he did – he told me… It led to a discussion – more confusion, and some clarity, but basically more confusion…

I zoned off – watched the rest of the show – the other comics had a night tougher than it should have been, and I blame myself for it…

But the morning after… I bumped into another member of my Artistic Frat at the airport – I confessed – I said my Hail Marys – he understood, with a sly glee of ‘I’ve been there and not tweeted about it’ look in his eyes – we hugged – I felt like I could begin again…

(Thankfully if my conversation with him had started with me saying ‘it was epic last night’, the conversation would have gone no further! Don’t tell another comic ‘garbage’ – show it to them – they will love you more for it)


I am hungry to have a go at it again – get back to my laptop screen – hear the entire audio file –

See what was that joke that STILL delivered a laugh – that’s the recession proof bits in the set –

See where I ‘lost’ the audience – where I had to do crowd work to make a moment work – cut off that crowd work and see what remains of it…

If I hadn’t committed to it and instead had taken a cop out and done something ‘safe’ to deliver a good show – for salvaging my self-respect – I’d be the loser for it now… I am back to work thanks to that TANK last night!

I’m Grateful for that TANK – I’m not making a Thank the TANK pun here, coz my closing Act Actor of last night hates these puns… out of respect and love for him I refrain from using it although I have already stated it! :)

And why do we Tank, Master Bruce? 

So we can learn to pick ourselves up. (with a little help from our Friends) 

I Tanked last night – and I didn’t Tweet about it… but hey…. I Blogged about it!

Make your own Wounds – it’ll make you stronger!

Thanks to Neville the mad Shah, Biswa the magical Rath, Kunal the bum Kamra, and young Navin Noronha… u were all there! Danny, u were missed!

Karthik Kumar

@evam Karthik

March 1 – 10.30am – update

Appendix, Clarification, and Disclaimer: 

Bruce: ‘But what about my responsibility towards my Audience Alfred?’
This section is to clarify a key point to all younger comics – is it ok to tank for 30 mins and not revert to a ‘Safe’ set midway?! This is a query atleast 4 people have pinged and asked me… since yesterday. 
My answer: 
Your audience is everything – once you get on stage in front of them… 
In my Tank night, i never did stop trying to make the damn content work – i tried and tried and the audience honestly did have a good time – why? how? Coz i had many low hanging fruit rewards that seemed to work well, and the crowd work created quite the titters and giggles. 
Did the audience KNOW i Tanked? No. That much of an illusion one has to maintain – only my fellow comics knew how deep the TANK was – the audience would have just walked away saying, that guy was funny, but not as funny as the other acts. 
Don’t try anything at the EXPENSE of the audience – their Expense is what drives our craft. 
But continue to burn your new stuff – coz that is what Drives their ride in the longer term… 
And hey if you are a young comic trying to prove a point – do your Safe set until your point has been proven :) – do your new stuff in front of your mom, or mom like person… and when she gets bored of it, and you get good at working it, release it to that audience… 

About EVAM

Founded in 2003 by Sunil Vishnu K. and Karthik Kumar, ‘evam’ today is a profitable young thriving arts organization making people believe in the power of the Arts.
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One Response to And why do we Tank, Bruce?

  1. Sheky says:

    Sounds like a cricketer’s form – good all season, then suddenly a slump. Goes back to basics (domestic level, nets, fitness etc) and comes back rejuvenated and raring to go.


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