Nineties kids called whatever we admired the bomb.
When no one laughs at a comedian's jokes, we say he bombed.
If the comedian inspires peals of laughter, we say he killed
tonight, or she knocked them dead. The act of killing creates
regurgitation of noise, the slayed leave satisfied, while
the defining characteristic of bombing is callous silence. Is
the distinction a matter of timing, of rhythm? Is the dying
dependent on creating a conducive environment? Or is it
about complicity? When the crowd rejects the comedian's
joke there is fallout without detonation, the dissatisfaction
crushing the room's morale. If the joke solves Mark Twain's
equation of humor equals tragedy plus time, the laughter
will become pandemic, and the comic lays claim to the kill.
Bombing in comedy is usually due to one
or more of the following factors: the word choice is stale,
the comic's timing and tone are asynchronous, their point
of view trite or overused. And Twain's equation is not duly
employed. Perhaps there was tragedy but the timing was off,
or tragedy was not employed with wit and grace. Some jokes
are too soon, others are insensitive to the audience's world
view. It is possible that the comic misread the room, was tone
deaf in their delivery. Without proper execution of these
elements the comic misfires and the joke does not land,
as they say in the business. It was a dud. The joke is unable
to light the fuse of the limbic system, thus no guffaw erupts.
If after discharging a joke only coughing and the clack of pint
glasses can be heard, the comic is marooned, left alone on
stage to wonder if this will be their last gig. It didn't land.
In 1950, American jet fighters struck the towns of Jayuya
and Utuado. It was one of two occasions in which the U.S.
bombed its own citizens. Apparently, some Puerto Ricans
were not thrilled about being occupied, so they organized
a rebellion to expel the invaders. In response to the staged
insurrection, the foreign sovereign bombed civilians. Now
if one were to make the analogy that the foreign sovereign
is to the island as the comic is to the club, then the imposed
citizenship is a joke that did not land, and the rebellion is equal
to heckling the comic. The hack foreign sovereign hates being
heckled, cannot tolerate having bombed, so they opened fire.
The bombing of the cities was a surprise. Surprise has long
been a trusted tool of the comic. It can be applied by exploiting
the ambiguity of a word or phrase, by abruptly shifting a story's
focus. The trick is to challenge your audience's expectations.
Here, no one expected they would bomb civilians. This one
landed. The hecklers were silenced. It was tragedy. Plus time.
Whereas with comedy, both comic and crowd are pleased when
the joke lands, this form of bombing leaves only the bomber
sated. Leaves only the bomber. The bomb lands. The crowd
demands their money back. But there will be no refund.
On Fordham road, two kings are busted for bombing
the Family Welcome Center. Their black and purple
throwie reads, Life B 4 Cash. The court will frame them
as felons, but their bombing is just impersonation
of the forefathers, the original tag-bangers who
slammed the Six Grandfathers -hallowed terrain
of the Lakota, the Cheyenne, the Arapaho, the Kiowa-
with a colossal burner of granite and mica schist
plugging Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Lincoln.
The former bomb is a joke that didn't land, landing
the kids on probation. The latter bomb is a desecration
of land, a silence bolstered by shrapnel of tourism.
The bomb was seen as a joke to some, though it isn't
Graffers bomb to exert their right to create, to reclaim
grifted territory. If you say you bombed the J train, your
claim has two concurrent meanings: First, it means you
branded the train, and thus the landscape, with your
personal style, so the train belongs to you, at least
until the city cleans the train or another writer bombs
your piece. Second, it means that you have beautified
a space that was intentionally made ugly by private
interests. So, you see, bombing is both an act of sedition
and addition. When graffiti writers bomb the surface
of a thing, they are planting begonias in an ash heap.
An antipode to when Clinton bombed Kosovo,
or when Bush bombed Iraq, or when Obama
bombed Yemen, or when Reagan bombed
Beirut, or when Nixon bombed Cambodia,
or when Eisenhower bombed North Korea,
or when Truman bombed Japan, or when
Trump bombed Syria. Those bombings
did not beautify, resurrect, or give birth,
though the bombers were aiming to lay claim
over a territory in an inversion of what graffers
call going all-city.
When comics bomb, the silence
it engenders is followed by yawning.
When graffiti writers bomb, the silence
it engenders is followed by awe
(or a summons). When fighter
planes bomb, the
(Multivalent in its application, the single common characteristic of bombing
is that in all scenarios the act is perceived to be an endpoint in, or interruption
to, a charted course, a proposed solution to a lack: of imagination, of resources,
of joy. Both the bomber and the bombed now inextricably coupled.
Both permanently altered.)