What You Say If Your Joke Bombs


By Gene Griessman

I watched Bronkar Lee, who’s a professional entertainer and speaker, tell a joke that bombed.

There was silence in the room, the kind of funereal quietness that descends upon a joke when it dies.

Bronkar paused, then with exaggerated contrition said:
“I will Never do that again… (another pause),“I promise.”

The audience laughed…twice, at a failed joke.

I call what Bronkar did a saver because it works like a life jacket. It keeps a presenter from drowning.

If you aspire to be a public speaker or entertainer (or already are one) create a few savers you can use when your material doesn’t work.

Johnny Carson, the legendary host of “The Tonight Show,” was renowned for his savers.

Here are a few: When just a few in the audience laughed…“Where did that laugh come from? Thank you. Always remember, it’s more blessed to give than to receive….You’re the giver and I’m the receivee.”

After another joke bombs, Carson wipes his face, then asks, “Is there a revolver in the house?”

Someone in the audience heckles. The audience laughs. Carson: “I’m dying and the guy in the audience is scoring big….I’m ploughing right ahead…”

There’s a beep in the audience…. “You know you’re not doing well when a guy in the audience calls for the paramedics…Does anybody remember what I was talking about?”

The audience finally laughs…”Thank you for your support.”

In this video of a delightful live performance, Carson repeatedly recovers from jokes that bomb.


Here’s a saver that I use in the Lincoln performance if one of the quips doesn’t evoke much laughter: “I thought it was funny when I heard it….Don’t worry, I tell these just for myself.”

Mine are simple little self-effacing quips, but more than once they have saved my life on stage.

THE Lincoln Quotation Book

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The Words Lincoln Lived By

“This is a book to cherish and share.”—Bill Marriott, CEO, Marriott International, Inc.

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A stirring, inspirational treasury of quotations from our greatest and most admired president, the book offers rich material for interpretation, reflection, and spiritual guidance.

You will also enjoy Lincoln Speaks To Leaders by Gene Griessman and Pat Williams.

Don’t leave yet. You’re in a goldmine. Check out the great power phrases and unusual quotations. 

Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and communication strategist. His book “TheWords Lincoln Lived By” is in its 23rd printing and “Time Tactics of Very Successful People” is in its 43rd printing. His training video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions and annual meetings all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, call 404-435-2225. Learn more at Atlanta Speakers Bureau or at his website. His latest book “Lincoln and Obama” has just been released by Audible.
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