Fetch yourself a drink with some snacks and get comfortable, because you now have front-row tickets to a date where stand-up comedy truly stood everyone up. Ever uttered a witty joke with expectations higher than Burj Khalifa, only to be met with a silent room and chirping crickets? Whether you have or not, buckle up, because we’re diving headfirst into the abyss of failed comedy shows that were so unfunny, it’s actually kinda funny. 

Up first in this hall of shame: Megan Stalter’s HBO Max: Human by Orientation Pride 2021 special. The confidence with which Stalter beautifully strutted onto the stage was inversely proportional to the graceless manner in which her jokes landed. In those painful few minutes of my life, I could not help but feel huge respect for her unwavering confidence. Amidst her pointing and instructing the cameras and audience like a lost traffic cop, and reading excerpts from her new book with a “funny title”, it was tough to tell when the actual comedy began and ended. To be fair, I did laugh once when she quipped after stuttering for a while “What if this was two hours long?”. That definitely forced a teary-eyed chuckle out of me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that Stalter is a wonderfully kind person. But the girl, bless her kind heart, needs a joke intervention ASAP before subjecting millions to her comedic misadventures.

Talking about weird stand-ups without mentioning the crash and burn of Chris Rock’s 2022 Oscar performance is like talking about Will Smith and not keeping his wife’s name out of our mouths (see what I did there?). Before Rock landed himself in hot water with the Smith family, he was slinging jokes like a pro. He took off in the smoothest fashion, only to come crashing (or rather slapping) down at the end. Was it in bad taste for him to comment on Jada’s medical condition which she has been rather open about? Absolutely. But was it kinda funny in a dark, twisted way? Maybe. It’s like joking about Stephen Hawking running a marathon – totally inappropriate, but it might elicit a guilty giggle. Nevertheless, Rock messed up the moment he decided to joke about somebody’s condition without a heads-up or prior consent in front of billions. In a way, the slap was quite well-deserved (and if I may, pretty impressive).

Last, but in no way the least, failed show we’re going to talk about is Jo Koy’s 81st Annual Golden Globes performance. Koy’s attempt to wrangle laughs from Hollywood’s elite was met with the enthusiasm of a snail at a speed-dating event. If bombing a comedy show in front of regular people is awkward, I cannot even imagine the red-faced, uncomfortable feeling of cringe crawling up the spine while bombing one in front of Hollywood’s biggest names. Koy went from joking about celebrities in a riotous comedy special to watching the same celebrities disappointed with his (or as he pointed out multiple times, his writer’s) lack of effort. If Taylor Swift’s stone-faced expression wasn’t a wake-up call for him, I don’t know what possibly could be. Wonder if any of Koy’s team of writers survived to see the light of the day after the Titanic-level crash.

Watching these punchlines fail was like witnessing a car crash in slow motion – you can’t look directly at it or even look away, and there’s a weird mix of horror and sadistic curiosity. It’s a bonding experience. There’s nothing like it to bring people together, united by a sense of cringe and awkwardness. But hey, at least the artists get tons of material to work with for their next couple of gigs. When life throws you a curveball (or a whoopee cushion), laugh it off and just call it your character-building (or villain-origin) exercise. There’s nowhere to go but up when you’ve hit the rock bottom!

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