30 Worst Times Comedians Bombed on Stage
The only thing more funny than a good routine is a bad one.
Just like we can have a bad day at the office, comedians can have awful days, too—though their bad work days tend to be in front of thousands of people with iPhones primed to record every misplaced word. From awkward on-stage face-plants to confusing racist remarks to seriously misjudged “threats” of familial violence (in a joking manner, of course), these major fails are proof that comedians are only human. Read on to see the world’s funniest people at their worst. And if you’d rather see instances of your favorite comics hitting it out of the park, check out these 50 Amazing Jokes From Comedy Legends.
Kathy Griffin mistakenly thought Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom.
Last year, at a performance in Dublin, Ireland, the Irish comic managed to anger a few hundred people when she mistakenly included Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom. The overwhelming amount of disapproval from the audience immediately affected her performance, causing Griffin to visibly shake on stage and stumble through a brief performance. After more than two hours on stage, where her performance was compared to the likes of Lenny Bruce, Griffin began slumping on stage and her boyfriend rushed to catch the comedian as she fainted.
Brooks Wheelan’s guests were more interested in seeing music.
Brooks Wheelan, former Saturday Night Live performer and master jokester, broke the number one rule of comedians everywhere when he showed up wasted to a performance at Gator Growl, the homecoming festival hosted by the University of Florida.
While Wheelan often jokes about this performance as being “so bad, it was kind of fun,” many of the fans in the audience had no patience for his antics that night. For what it’s worth, Wheelan credits his bad performance due to his set time, which happened to be right in the middle of performances by Foster the People and Ludacris. And for more seismic celebrity drama, check out these 20 Craziest Hollywood Meltdowns.
Dave Chappelle smoked too much “reefer.”
Dave Chappelle has had more than his fair share of criticism over the years. Whether he’s being booed off stage in Detroit, Michigan for slurring his words and yelling nasty remarks at fans, or just simply walking off the stage in the middle of his set in Hartford, Connecticut, Chappelle always handles these insults like the seasoned performer that he is. When questioned about his audience troubles, Chappelle openly admits that there have been times when he’s smoked too much “reefer” before hitting the stage.
Further, Chappelle has always been open about the multi-million dollar contracts that sometimes require him to stay on stage for a full thirty minutes—meaning that, even if he’s not doing great, he’s still stuck performing to a less-than-amused audience.
Tracy Morgan joked about stabbing his own son.
But that’s not all: the worst part of the joke was the punchline, where he told audience members in Nashville that he would stab his own son for acting “gay.”
As you can most likely imagine, this did not go over well with fans. Many of them took to the internet, calling Morgan’s act offensive, homophobic, and “…the worst thing I’ve ever heard.” While the 30 Rock star labels himself an “equal opportunity jokester,” these jokes aimed at the LGBT community have recently been a common theme in his stand up. Numerous times on and off stage, Morgan has stated that he believes that being gay is choice—an opinion that isn’t winning him any new fans.
Charlie Sheen’s audience threw large objects at him.
Former Two and a Half Men star Charlie Sheen hasn’t seen a positive comeback since his glory days. His struggle with drug addiction over the recent years has led the actor on a path into failed marriages and multiple run-ins with the police (for instances of domestic abuse). Among a long list of catastrophically awful standup shows, the Detroit performance in 2011 was the most embarrassing for the actor.
After a series of completely inappropriate events and a few uncouth jokes about drugs, audience members began to throw items at the comedian while demanding their money back, to which Sheen replied: “I’ve already got your [expletive] money, dude.” For everyone’s sake, we’re hoping Sheen takes a long break from comedy. And for more embarrassing celebrity jokes, check out these 30 Funniest Jokes From Celebrity Roasts.
Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino insulted the wrong people.
In 2011, Jersey Shore star Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino made his first attempt at comedy on Comedy Central’s Donald Trump roast. As it turns out, the loud-mouthed Jersey boy should definitely not pursue a career in comedy—ever. In fact, it appeared that Sorrentino didn’t understand the purpose of a celebrity roast at all. Instead of crafting material based on the roast subject, he began launching insults at fellow presenters Marlee Matlin (“ugly”), Larry King (“old”), and Lisa Lampanelli (“fat”). For the time being, we suggest that Sorrentino sticks to what he does best: applying uncomfortable amounts of hair gel.
Bob Hope made an awful joke about Richard Nixon.
During the Vietnam War, Bob Hope toured various military bases as an effort to boost morale. Conditions of the tour were often edged with fear as the threat of assassination of the crew was very real. Many say that for every soldier watching the show, there would be one agent with a gun looking after Hope’s safety.
While this tour was wildly successful (footage of his performances appeared on NBC as a comedy special), Hope did lose some favor with the Troops when he made a joke about Richard Nixon’s plans to save the war. This joke did not go over well with the audience, who booed and rioted the stage, causing a showdown between soldiers and armed guards. Yes, even comedy legends have bad days.
George Lopez went off on the president.
At a gala for juvenile diabetes in 2017, comedian George Lopez thought it would be the perfect time to test out his new Trump-themed material. Unfortunately, the audience members paid a lot of money to be there (upwards of $100,000) and really did not care to hear these jokes for a full thirty minutes. After a few too many Trump jokes, Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei politely asked Lopez to ditch the material, to which he replied, “Listen, it’s about the kids…I apologize for bringing politics to an event. This is America—it still is. So I apologize to your white privilege.” After a few more comments about the proposed border wall, Lopez was escorted off the stage and replaced by a local newscaster.
Mason Pryer couldn’t live up to his father’s legacy.
Richard Pryor is arguably one of the most prolific comedians of the 20th century, so it should make sense that his son, Mason Pryor, a comedian following in his father’s footsteps, should have inherited some of that talent as well. Well, as it turns out, he didn’t. During a performance at the Apollo Theater (no pressure), Mason’s first big-time gig got him an even bigger torrent of boos from the crowd. After a few altercations with crowd members, he walked off mid-set, making the comment, “I bombed when I shouldn’t have. I wasn’t funny.”
J.B. Smoove begged the audience to laugh at his jokes.
J.B. Smoove was anything but smooth at a set in Atlanta earlier this year when he literally begged the audience to laugh at his jokes. The night unfolded into complete and utter chaos as Smoove yelled back at audience members jeering at him.
Chris Rock joked about sexual assault.
Comedian extraordinaire Chris Rock made the wrong joke at the wrong time. During a performance at the Comedy Celler in New York City late last year, Rock was testing out new material—about sexual assault. For example, Rock joked that he wouldn’t be able to hire a woman because he would be afraid of getting convicted rape. Allegedly, he added, “They cry rape because they want money.” With all of these harsh words directed toward women at the beginning of the #MeToo moment, many people in the audience weren’t having it—so much so that a few women in the audience even began calling him a “sexist pig.”
Wanda Sykes got hostile with an audience member.
Wanda Sykes is yet another example of a celebrity bashing Trump to an unreceptive audience. During a performance in Boston in 2016, tensions mounted on and off stage as Sykes shouted expletives at audience members—even going so far as to throw curse words at specific audience members. “I am certain this is not the first time we’ve elected a racist, sexist, homophobic president,” she said, according to the Boston Herald. To the audience, Trump is no laughing matter.
Ronny Chieng was almost kidnapped.
Ronny Chieng, correspondent for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, was once met with an angry audience member, intent on kidnapping him. This exchange occurred during a performance at Bunbury when, during a particularly rough set, a member of the crowd yelled out that he was going to kidnap Chieng and teach him a lesson. Chieng decided not to stick around and find out what this lesson may be—and prematurely ended his set.
Sarah Silverman offended Bernie Sanders’ followers.
While speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016, Sarah Silverman made it clear that Bernie Sanders followers need to stop “being ridiculous” and vote for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. This demand wasn’t well-received at the convention, with Sanders supporters making it clear that they didn’t support this adjustment. Many fans in the audience booed Silverman and her guest, Minnesota Senator Al Franken, as they were told to stretch their time on stage—giving Silverman more time to make the audience even more uncomfortable.
Terry Alderton’s material wasn’t family friendly.
Terry Alderton, actor, comedian, TV host, and past goalkeeper for Southend United, had the distinct pleasure of turning a family-friendly event—the Invictus Games Closing Ceremony in 2014, a sporting event for injured enlisted, introduced by none other than Prince Harry—into one that should have required censoring. It was certainly not the sort of place to be testing out vulgar jokes—but that’s just what Alderton did. To make matters worse, Alderton refused to leave the stage until the audience heckled louder.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Jerry Seinfeld forgot his material—completely.
In Judd Apatow’s 2015 book Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy, Jerry Seinfeld admits to bombing his very first time on the stage. According to Seinfeld, he completely wrote out his act the night before and rehearsed multiple times before stepping out on the stage, but when he finally did, his memory completely failed him. “I stood there for about thirty seconds…saying absolutely nothing, just standing there, freaking out,” he said. Thankfully, he got up the nerve to hit the stage for the second time—and the rest is history.
Nick Cannon wore “whiteface” makeup.
During a halftime show at a New York Knicks game, the comedian, singer, and America’s Got Talent host donned “whiteface” makeup as an April Fool’s joke—gone immediately wrong. As soon as he hit the court, the crowd began booing loudly, requesting that he leave. After the ordeal, Cannon opened up to Rachael Ray on her talk show, telling the host that he thinks people shouldn’t take themselves so seriously.
Paul Mooney criticized a film.
Legendary comedian Paul Mooney made a name for himself writing content for Richard Pryor and Red Foxx—but that doesn’t prevent him from having the occasional off day. Things got off to an especially rocky start during his set in Dayton, Ohio, early last year. He grumbled about seeing the movie I Am Not Your Negro—multiple times. Even groans from the audience couldn’t deter his sudden leap from comedy to film critique.
Charlie Murphy threw his check at the audience.
Eddie Murphy’s equally funny but lesser-known brother, the late Charlie Murphy, met a tough crowd at Grumbling State’s homecoming show. After telling a few jokes that didn’t go over well with the audience, consisting mostly of students from Greek organizations on campus, one student yelled out “you suck!” and many joined in on the chorus of boos. Murphy then requested his check, threw it on the ground, and stormed off the stage. (But don’t worry—his management went back to claim the check.)
Amy Schumer took a few too many jabs at the president.
Amy Schumer angered many during her Florida set in 2016 when she called Donald Trump “a monster” and spent much of the evening roasting the president. After this awkward ordeal, Schumer penned an open letter to fans who decided to walk out that night, asking them how she could “think it was okay to spend five minutes having a peaceful conversation with someone with different views?” In the letter, which she read out loud at a set in New York’s Madison Square Garden, she joked about going into a rehabilitation facility in order to make everyone happy. But, as we often learn the hard way, you can’t make everyone happy.
Macaulay Culkin’s comedy band failed to cover a legendary tune.
Macaulay Culkin’s band, The Pizza Underground, are as strange and funny as you might think anything would be that’s associated with the Home Alone star. As you might have guessed, the comedy band does pizza-inspired renditions of The Velvet Underground tracks like “It’s a Pizza Day” in place of “Perfect Day.” Though, the band hit a sour note during a performance at Dot to Dot Festival in Nottingham, England, where they were booed off the stage in a matter of only 15 minutes. The crowd didn’t want a pizza them.
Kevin Hart’s audience just wanted to eat.
Yes, the Comedy Central all-star once bombed so badly that audience members resorted to protesting him in a “let us eat our crab!” chant. This crabby protest took place at a crab festival in New York, where Hart was set to entertain a crowd of hundreds—but they were more interested in their meal than they were in his routine. According to Hart, this kind of criticism hurt his ego worse than just being booed off stage because they were protesting him rather than just simply rejecting his performance.
Billy Connolly really hates it when fans use the restroom during his set.
Comedian Billy Connolly became the bathroom monitor from hell during his show in England in 2012. It only took a few fans getting up to use the restroom during his show to use the bathroom that eventually set off the comedian into a hysterical fit that was far from funny. These bathroom rants resulted in hundreds of fans walking out of multiple shows, angered by Connolly’s sudden interest in their bathroom habits.
Jo Koy used a homophobic slur.
Jo Koy, comedian and frequent panelist on Chelsea Lately, offended many in his audience when he used multiple homophobic slurs during his set. These slurs were elicited when a male member of the audience noticed that Koy’s zipper in his jeans was open, prompting the comedian to apply a slur to the man. Unfortunately for Koy’s public image, these remarks came after he reportedly told an audience of college students “something like if he ever caught his son in bed with another boy, he would stab them both to death,” according to an audience member.
Pablo Francisco fell off the stage.
Comedian Pablo Francisco was so disoriented at a performance in Sacremento that he actually fell off the stage, resulting in a short hospital stay that brought a lot of publicity. Many fans remarked that the Francisco couldn’t even make one coherent joke and that his sweaty, disheveled appearance seemed to suggest that he wasn’t all there. While it was never revealed why the actor was so out of sorts that night, many have speculated that he may have been using drugs.
Charlie Chaplin just wasn’t funny.
One of the first comedians to appear on the big screen, Charlie Chaplin didn’t amaze crowds with his wit when he was starting out. He began pursuing acting and comedy as a young teen, and often dealt with tough crowds throwing orange peels at him, rather than the coins he was surely after.
Mike Epps was too sober for his set.
Comedian Mike Epps, best known for portraying the character “Black Doug” on The Hangover, had the perfect first set: he was funny, charming—and also incredibly wasted. According to Epps, alcohol turns him into a funnier version of himself—a line of thinking we’re all prone to. The second time he hit the stage, Epps invited all of his friends and family to witness his comedic brilliance. But, of course, his act was done in a moment of stone-cold sobriety, and the actor totally bombed without the magic potion.
Shappi Khorsandi’s audience couldn’t find the energy to boo her off stage.
British comedian and author Shappi Khorsandi’s set was so awful at Glastonbury Festival that the audience couldn’t even find the energy to boo her off the stage—meaning she had to perform to a silent crowd for a full 30 minutes.
Katt Williams threw a tantrum.
Hotheaded comedian Katt Williams knows how to start a fight—though right in the middle of a stand-up routine may not be the best time. The fight broke out in Denver in 2012, right as Williams was starting to see great success with his stand-up career. A member of the audience started screaming at the comic, who then took off into the audience to confront the heckler. The resulting mess of police officers, security guards, and enraged fans put an end to the show immediately.
Omid Djalili fell and fell and fell—and ripped his pants.
British comedian Omid Djalili’s first set was a disaster, to say the least. First, upon arriving on stage, he slipped in beer and fell flat on his face. To make matters worse, when he grabbed the microphone to stand up, it ended up hitting in the forehead with such force that it left a three-inch gash. Then, the disorientation from the head injury was so severe that he plummeted off the stage, ripping his pants and exposing his underwear to the shocked crowd. And the most embarrassing moment of the century goes to… And for more great jokes, check out The Funniest Joke From Every Decade Since 1900.
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