But the fact is writing a funny joke about rape trauma is not an easy task. In the last month, I’ve written a new 15-minute set all about it, and I’ll be honest with you… It is very hit or miss. I am bombing, to be clear. If you’re (mercifully) unfamiliar with bombing, it’s when you make a joke, and no one laughs, but you keep going, usually desperately trying to resuscitate life back into a dead room of unimpressed audience members.
Every comedian has to bomb in order to learn, but of course it does not feel good. Bombing with a set of new jokes about your rape, is a very particular not-good feeling. Sometimes after I bomb on a set full of trauma jokes, the next comic up opens their set with a gag in which victims are the punchline. The joke usually kills, a little relief for the audience after my set. I don’t think people do it to hurt me, but sometimes it does hurt. I get a little emotional. Fine. I full on sob in public. Last time it happened, someone asked if I was upset about my set, and I yelled out, “NO, OF COURSE NOT, IT’S ALLERGIES!”
Which is true. I am clearly allergic…to my vulnerability.
I don’t want to censor other comedians, but I’ll admit it can be emotionally exhausting for me to hear, especially knowing what everyone knows about me. Sometimes I actually catch myself forcing a loud laugh, just in case someone is looking at me, gauging how I react. I don’t want to let them see me not laughing at a rape punchline. “HAHAHAHA! WHATEVER, IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL,” I might as well say. “LOOK AT ME. I’M A NORMAL, NOT-RAPED COMIC! I’M NORMAL LIKE YOU! HAHA, I’M JUST LIKE YOU! YOU CAN’T HURT ME! I’M INVINCIBLE!”
(Out here in the real world, odds are no one is looking at me, and I’m not even crossing their minds, but that’s trauma brain.)
The scariest part of trauma brain is knowing that even if 95,000 people out there on the Internet are rooting for me, I can still find a room where I will be met with booing or the words, “Shut up.” That would be the case whether I told rape jokes or not—again, all comics have to bomb. But bombing while attempting to work through trauma is just a tough pill to swallow.