More Mojo | Andy Nulman on bombing cover image
Why does every comedian love to talk about bombing? Find out from Andy Nulman, current CEO of Play the Future and former head of Just for Laughs.
Andy Nulman
Andy Nulman

And I realize, I realized at the end they said, you're bleeding. “What are you talking about?” And my face was covered in blood. I had no idea.

Thane Calder
Thane Calder

Hey everyone and welcome to the Mojo Moments podcast, I’m your host Thane Calder. Here’s some bonus stories from our first episode with Andy Nulman, former co-head of Just for Laughs. Never lacking in confidence, Andy talked about some of his biggest personal flop performances. So here it is: Andy Nulman bombing.

Thane
Thane

So let me, I don't know if you've seen Seinfeld's, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Andy
Andy

A couple of episodes.

Thane
Thane

So one of the things, there's so much discussion, like with every guy, comedian, dude, dudette, that he gets on, there's always, they obsess around bombing. You know, the bomb. The bomb. So why do comedians obsess with that? Do you know? Like where does that come?

Andy
Andy

Obsessed with...

Thane
Thane

With the bombing.

Andy
Andy

Of how bad it was...

Thane
Thane

Yeah.

Andy
Andy

Or how much fun it was?

Thane
Thane

I don’t know, they talked so much about it, you know, that show where it just went flat. There was no, you know, the...

Andy
Andy

Because in the end... Your job is to make people laugh and you know, that's what you're supposed to do. And the ones when it didn't work are memorable. They may either be painful, but by and large, most comedians I know who talk about it, love the stories, and,  I still remember, oh God, this is way, way back. I'll show my age on this one, 1989. We were booking the 1990 Just for Laughs show with Bob Newhart was the host that year. And I remember I was - and Richard Jeni, the late Richard Jeni was one of my best friends. Died by suicide, unfortunately.

But I was in Richard Jeni's apartment. Tim Allen was there, and these were just young comedians at the time, and they were, uh, Billy Elmer, the late Billy Elmer, and they were all sitting around the table telling horror stories and crying, crying with laughter. I mean, the world's worst stories. Like Billy Elmer told me a story. One of the funniest things I’ve ever heard - Billy Elmer was this big, heavy comedian. And he talked about one time they told him, “Billy, you're coming on stage, you get this big fat guy and you know, you walk on stage, you're sort of  like a sloth. You got to come out with more energy. You've got to come out with more energy.” So he goes on this stage. It's a club with a low ceiling, bounces on stage, "Hi everybody!" Jumps on stage, but he was also big, tall, big guy. Hit the sprinkler that was on top of the stage, basically knocks himself out. Lands like, you know, just does a face plant on the stage and then to- you know, knock himself out, and to add insult to injury, the sprinkler goes and soaks everybody.

But it was a whole night of stories like that. It was just astonishing. It was brilliant. So that's what stands out in your mind. And that's why, you know, I've told you before about that story about Tres Hombres and the ZZ Top tribute bands. You know, it's the greatest night of my life. It actually was a win, but it was, what was it called? The snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

Thane
Thane

Yeah.

Andy
Andy

But I have many stories, like some great speaker stories that, a complete bust. I had microphones taken out of my hand on stage. A guy coming on said, “Okay, that's enough,” and pulled the mic, right? That was a $10,000 speech that I didn't get paid for because it went so poorly.

Thane
Thane

So maybe that's why you're going to love these COVID interviews like this. No one can grab the mic from you.

Andy
Andy

Oh yeah. But they can always go like this. They can press the m- mute button and...

Thane
Thane

Just tell me a moment. Tell me one of your big bombs, okay? Give me a bomb story.

Andy
Andy

A bomb story. Um, let's see. There's so many there's so- It wasn't really a bomb... I mean, I can tell you a bomb story, that that speech I did for Century 21 where I had the mic taken out of my hands.

Thane
Thane

Century 21 you mean the real estate?

Andy
Andy

Yeah, yeah and I told...

Thane
Thane

Did you wear a brown blazer to do it?

Andy
Andy

It was the world- and I said, this is not going to work, guys. They said, no, we want you to tell stories about your life and Just for Laughs. And you know, and innovation and I looked down the list of other people speaking. It was the same thing at the Corrugated Cardboard Association of Canada. I did both exactly at the same time, I said, I'm looking down the list of other people and they're talking about cardboard and you know how to get more waves and cardboard, how to have curbside appeal and then me. It's not going to work. It's not gonna work. And, and I should have known...

Thane
Thane

Wait, wait, wait. Is this at the same conference?

Andy
Andy

No, they're two different ones...

Thane
Thane

Oh ok, two different ones.

Andy
Andy

But same result, which is not getting paid. And it was the most valuable lesson I learned because after the Corrugated Cardboard Association of Canada where it was such a bust, when Century 21 came up, and I looked at what they, and I said, this is not gonna work, it's not gonna work. It was 10 grand, 10 grand for an hour speech. And I say, “Wow, ah, I'll just get through it and I'll get $10,000.” But I realized it was some, one of the greatest things I've learned is anything you do strictly for the money will blow up in your face. Anything you do just for the money will blow up in your face. And I should've learned, I should have known. And it did, and I didn't. So not only did it blow up in my face, I didn't get paid, so it was a complete waste.

Thane
Thane

That's where they took the mic away from you, there?

Andy
Andy

That's at Century 21. Cause I just started talking I said, “All right, let's go.” And, well, you know, talking about my life and this, and I've learned this and any questions from the audience... And like people were just walking out. It was just walking out. Oh, I am saying, I'm just going to soldier on because I've got to do an hour to get my paycheck. And I kept on going and people just were leaving, leaving, and then suddenly maybe I had 10% of the audience left. And none of them were paying attention. They were all like, on their phones or taking notes or talking to other people. And then finally the guy just said, “Okay, we've had enough.” Our next speaker is going to talk to you about special keywords to put into your listing to get more sales. So that was, that was, yeah, I learned a valuable lesson.

And I mentioned before about this song I'm doing, the Springsteen song for this, you know, that we're doing online and all that. I once did this, it was a fundraiser. And I did this Springsteen song and I had a mic like the one I have in front of me now that sort of has these, this wire mesh on it, and one of the pieces of the wire was sticking out. One little piece, one like, hair of a wire was sticking out. And it was at a point in the song, I had to be dramatic. So I did this... and I, you know, basically I lowered my head and it just nicked my forehead. But for those of you who know anything about medicine that is one of the most vulnerable places for you in the human body, in terms of, you know, bleeding, you know...

Thane
Thane

It looks nasty when it's there.

Andy
Andy

And because of the fact that, you know, there, there's a very little bit of skin between that and the bone. Anyway, I didn't realize, I'm singing Springsteen - I think I'm doing great, I see the audience is like, they're horrified. I'm thinking like "wow I'm really reaching these people", you know, like they're loving this, they're like moved. And I realize, I realized at the end they said, you're bleeding. “What are you talking about?” And my face was covered in blood. I had no idea.

Thane
Thane

It should have been in like a Black Sabbath song. Bruce Springsteen with the blood or whatever. Who's the guy that ate the chicken live?

Andy
Andy

Um, uh, Ozzy Osborne.

Thane
Thane

Ozzy Osborne… Ah, we’re going to have a couple more of these podcasts.

Thane
Thane

Of course it was Ozzy Osborne! That’ll do it for today, and if you missed the full conversation with Andy Nulman, you really should check it out. So subscribe to the podcast, and you’ll never miss an episode again.

Thanks again to Andy, and here is Chris Velan to play us out.

Take care, speak soon.

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