Stand-Up Comedy and Recruitment: How Not to Bomb!

by Vince Fabra

I love being on stage. I have a the pleasure of spreading the messages of Dynamic Recruitment and Social Excellence. Also, as a hobby, I regularly perform stand-up comedy. Presenting for Phired Up makes me a better stand-up comedian, and performing stand-up comedy makes me a better presenter for Phired Up.

Recruitment and comedy are two huge parts of my life. I always thought it would be cool to write a recruitment blog with a lesson learned from stand-up comedy, but a strong connection has only recently revealed itself.

Before I begin, let me quickly share two pieces of comedy vernacular:

  1. Bombed – Having unsuccessfully performed stand up comedy. Ex. – Did you hear about Vince’s set? It was bad. He bombed.
  2. Crushed – Having successfully performed stand up comedy.Ex. – The crowd loved Vince’s set. He crushed.

Stand-Up comedy is full of highs and lows. When first starting out, the lows are more frequent. Then, after some growth, it is a “win some, lose some” type racket. Once a comedian finds his or her style, the highs become the norm, but no matter how seasoned or talented the comedian, there will always be those lows; those BOMBS.

Every comedian does the same thing after he or she bombs. We place blame on circumstance. – It was a late show and the audience was tired. The guy before me really brought the energy down. The TV’s at the bar were really distracting. The host was terrible. It was really hot in the room. It was a bad crowd. – We are always quick to place the blame of bombing on the circumstances we were given. Sometimes those complaints are valid. Sometimes a late show or a distracting TV or a terrible host can put us in a hole, but we have to go on stage, overcome and be undeniably funny. If we crush, we are willing to accept the praise, but if we bomb, we immediately list reasons why it was out of our control.

Having worked in the fraternal world for the last six years, I’ve heard a lot of chapters blame circumstances for “bombing” in recruitment. – The university doesn’t like fraternities/sororities. Greek Life has a bad reputation on campus. We’re a commuter school. The IFC/CPC/NPHC/MGC did a bad job promoting recruitment. Our cookout got rained out. Not a lot of people signed up for recruitment. – The comedian that just bombed and the chapter that just bombed are guilty of placing the blame elsewhere.

I am learning a lesson as a stand-up comedian that I feel is relevant to fraternity and sorority recruiters – A true professional accepts responsibility for crushing and bombing. A true professional doesn’t look outward at circumstances but rather looks inward to sharpen their own act. A true professional uses failure to improve instead of passing it off as “There was nothing I could do.”

How do you avoid bombing at comedy? Preparation, commitment to the material, repetition, and a complete ownership over your successes and failures.

How do you avoid bombing at recruitment? The same exact answers to the previous question.
Preparation – Create a recruitment plan.
Commitment to the material – Stick to the plan. Create benchmarks to track your progress.
Repetition – Avoid “recruitment week” and continuously make friends all year long.
Ownership over successes and failures – When there is no one to blame except yourself, you’ll work hard to avoid that pride swallowing moment.

Have I ever bombed? YES. Does it suck? YES. Do you sometimes question why you would subject yourself to attempting to make strangers laugh? YES. But I go back up, because nothing feels better than crushing.