The Art of Bombing

Allison Wojtowecz | September 19th, 2023 (Volume 1)
Ashley Wojtowecz reflects on her journey from “Shit-Faced Shakespeare” to stand-up comedian, sharing what she's learned through an endless amount of trial and error. She also shares her inside perspective on the rapid evolution of Austin's comedy scene, notably influenced by Joe Rogan's arrival and the opening of various comedy clubs.


It’s 2018. I’ve been out of college for a year. I’m working as a personal trainer and I had just landed a role in this company called Shit-Faced Shakespeare. Yes, that’s really what it was called, and we would really get one of the actors very drunk before each show. It was a ton of fun. I loved it so much and I wanted to get on stage more than I currently was, so I was auditioning a bunch, trying to get more roles. And acting is hard, you hear no a lot in auditions, but I had no idea how much that was going to prepare me for stand-up. While I was working in Shit-Faced Shakespeare, my main note was that I needed to “act more drunk”. I was really bad at going off script or talking to the audience. It was against your acting training. You’re supposed to stay on the stage. There’s a fourth wall here. You ignore everyone.

And I was trying to figure out, how can I be more fun? I was literally half a bottle of whiskey in not breaking character. So I needed to do something different and that’s when stand-up comedy came to mind because stand-up is the opposite of acting. Instead of a fourth wall, you need to break it constantly and convince people that you’re being real even if you’re selling them something ridiculous. So in case any of you guys wanted to know what it’s like to start stand-up comedy, I figured I’d break down some things to know about an open mic, because I have a lot of people asking me about this and we need to dispel the mystique. Okay, first of all, if you’re waiting for your chance to find an open mic and start comedy, you can do it right after this event. The comedy scene here has exploded and there are multiple open mics every single night of the week, so just find one and go.

Couple things to keep in mind when you do sign up for an open mic. There’s a time system and a light system. You have about three to five minutes depending on the mic, and when you see a light in the back, that means you have one minute left. If you see it again, that means you’ve hit your time and if you keep talking, that’s called running the light, and that’s a big no-no. You won’t get booked if you do that, so don’t do that. You definitely should and can write material before you do your open mic. A lot of people think they can just go up and riff funny things, but that’s usually a disaster. Wouldn’t recommend. You can bring your notes up, also. A lot of comedians are treating open mics like rehearsal, so no one’s going to judge you for trying new material with paper on stage.

Record your set if you’re trying to improve it. A lot of people don’t think about this. If you just want to try comedy once, that’s great, but if you’re trying to fix your jokes, record your set and listen to them because you’re not going to be objective on stage. Couple other things. You’re probably going to bomb your first time and many other times after that. That’s okay. And last but not least, you might not go up the first time you sign up either because the host is being a jerk or you chicken out. I definitely did the second one. When I started comedy, I figured nothing could be as bad as my first open mic so I kept signing up. And I’m glad that I did. I developed a system. I went up as many nights a week as I could, and then when I could, I would hit multiple mics in one night. So I could try new material at the new one, record that set, listen to it on the way to the second mic, fix it, and try again.

That’s how I was able to rack up my new minutes so fast, but I was really bad in the beginning, so I needed the practice. I was just falling into this routine when Jen Fulwiler walked into an open mic, and when I first saw her, I thought she was already a professional comedian, but it turns out that was her first open mic ever. I actually ended up showing her the ropes and we became fast friends, but I want to point her out because she’s a really good example of someone in the Austin comedy scene that’s making it so awesome today. There’s so many people who are taking their experience bombing on stage and moving that to real life. They’re just willing to take chances and it honestly works out in their careers.

For Jen, in one year of starting stand-up, she wrote a full hour of good material and then sold out a nationwide tour on her personal credit card. Yeah, comics are crazy. She booked all of the theaters, called them herself on her personal credit, card and just took a chance on selling tickets to her radio and book fans. And luckily for us, it paid off. I got to go on tour with her. We traveled across the country and I can’t tell you how many times we said, “Oh my God, what are we doing here? Who let us do this?” Well, that tour ended in February 2020. You guys know what happened next. We were not able to tour the rest of the year, but we got lucky because Jen actually filmed that special and sold it, which landed her the biggest agent you can get in the industry, all in under two years of doing stand-up.

I just want to bring you guys back to how I started this. She was not scared of failure in this scenario. So let’s dive into the Austin scene as a whole a little bit. I’ve seen it change a bunch. I’ve been doing stand-up for almost six years now, and when I started we just had two clubs in town. We had Cap City Comedy Club and the Velveeta Room, and honestly, the Velveeta Room was just like a glorified hangout for the comedians that lived here. Cap was booking the headliners, and you had enough stage time in town to get better at stand-up, but ultimately if you wanted to work in the industry and make any real money, you would need to leave, move out of town, go to New York or L.A. And when COVID hit, Cap City and the Velve both closed, and Cap City said it wasn’t coming back. So comics in Austin really thought we weren’t going to have anywhere to go.

And then Joe Rogan announced he was moving to town. A lot of you guys might be familiar with this part of the story. This is where people started paying attention to comedy in Austin. What a lot of you don’t know is he brought a ton of other characters and comedians with him who also moved to town between 2020 and 2022. The scene has exploded and I got lucky enough to hop in with one of the production companies early on so I got to work with people I had only been a fan of before. It’s been a ton of fun. Now, in 2023, Joe Rogan has finally opened his Comedy Mothership and there are actually nine comedy clubs in town. The original two were able to reopen and six others plus Joe moved in, and it’s honestly chaos. You can be an unknown, unfamous comedian, and if you’re funny enough, you can get booked every night of the week and be a full-time working comedian in Austin, Texas.

No one’s really seen anything like it before. We’re calling it a comedy boom. And, honestly, it’s the result of comedians taking chances again, because so many people had to move here and listen to Joe in order to make this happen, and we were all just sold on this dream of the “new comedy capital.” But it’s working. I’m personally getting to reap some of the benefits. Some of my favorite memories so far have been I’ve gotten to participate in and win multiple roast battles. I also got to have a short comedy special produced on OnlyFans and keep my clothes on. And I do produce a weekly show at the Creek in the Cave downtown.

It’s been a lot of fun and I just want to bring you guys back to how I started this again. These stories are fun, it’s been a lot of hard work, and ultimately I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t bombed my way through it. I can’t tell you how long it took me to develop my first solid 10 minutes of material, and sometimes I wonder if I even still have that. It’s a constant work in progress, and that’s how life is too. I think if we can take failure and make something good out of it, we’re going to get better at whatever craft we’re trying to practice. And if you can do that in life, I think that’s how you find ultimate joy. Thank you, guys.

Allison Wojtowecz
Stand-up comerdian and actress. Performs at the Creek & Cave every Tuesday.