Stand-up comedians use violent imagery to describe their successes. Jokes kill. On a good night, you slay the crowd. And sometimes you bomb.
You know you're bombing when your jokes are falling flat, when no one is laughing, when "stage fright" becomes "stage I want to crawl under a table and die."
Comedians aren't the only ones who bomb. You might have bombed while giving a presentation. Or on a date. Or while preaching.
There's a lot you can do to avoid bombing (rapport-building, structure, etc ...). But sometimes, the situation calls for you to let yourself bomb.
I had the mike at an event tonight and bombed. Specifically, I was running a raffle at a friends adoption fundraising event. I had a dozen or so small items to raffle off in two big sets ... while everyone is eating. My jokes fell flat. I didn't make a connection with the crowd. But it wasn't a big deal.
The things I would have needed to have done to avoid bombing would have distracted from the main point: my friends who are adopting and raising money for them. Me bombing wasn't a big deal.
Here's when you need to let yourself bomb: when killing would be a distraction. That's comedian speak. The rest of us would say it this way: it's okay to not get laughs if the only way to get them would be to sacrifice something more important.
There are worse things than bombing.