Finale Failures

It’s forty three minutes into my set at the San Jose Improv. I am standing blindfolded across stage from an audience member aiming a loaded paintball gun at my face. He pulls the trigger, an action which should bring the eight minute routine, (and the entire show), to its climactic conclusion. However nothing happens.

The audience chuckles nervously.

Without pause, I instruct him to cock the gun once. I hear the familiar “click-clunk.” I wait for the gunshot. Still nothing.

The audience smiles nervously.

Lowering my blindfold I cross to him and inspect the gun. It has malfunctioned. My finale is ruined.

The audience sits nervously.


Of course, the one time I didn’t check the CO2 levels of the gun is the time the trick fails. It was unprofessional of me.

Avoid the situation by always double, even triple checking your props- especially mechanical ones.

Makes checklists and make time. The reason, (not an excuse, mind you), that I didn’t check the CO2 was I was unaware that the house opened at 6:15 and not 6:30. Robbed of 15 minutes I had to rush and when you rush, mistakes are made.


Anytime I take the stage I have an Invisible/Ultra Mental Deck with me. It’s a backup for if any trick fails during my show. I’ve only ever had to use it once in the past, but I was thankful for it.

And I had the deck on me at the Improv show, but I had already performed it. Not because an earlier trick had failed, mind you. Still being on crutches, I was saving on milage by replacing my usual iPhone trick with the less movement intensive Invisible Deck.

It was my mistake to not have created a backup-backup prior to the show.


Forty three minutes is a respectable length for a relationship. The audience and I had been through alot together. We’d both made the other laugh, there’d been triumph and seduction, and, (while I’m always hesitant to use the heavy “L-Word”), it’s safe to say the audience and I were closer than just strangers. Ours could endure this sudden setback.

My audience is now watching a car crash at NASCAR. The race no longer matters- it’s now about whether the hero make it out alive. Nobody can cheer for him to cross the finish line in victory, but we can cheer an graceful recovery.

The audience will forgive us- we are only human. But our mistakes have robbed the audience of the finale they were promised. For me, at least, that’s a tough thing to live with.

My finale is ruined. I apologize to the audience about the technical malfunction as I cross to my case and put the gun away. I remove a half full bottle of Jack Daniels, which I’d made appear from nowhere forty two minutes ago.

I begin to chug the Jack Daniels.

The audience laughs.

I keep chugging.

The laughter grows.

Still, I chug.

The laughter becomes applause.

I mentally jot down “chug ice tea filled Jack Daniel’s bottle” as the perfect way to break the tension, expel the paintball, and stall for the time to think of what to do next if this ever happens again.

I also mentally jot down “make sure this never happens again.”

Nearly finishing the bottle, I set it down. Confessing to my audience that I don’t want to leave things like this, I retrieve a deck of cards from offstage (thank the Theatre Gods I had my close-up gear with me!) and launch into an abbreviated card to pocket.

The audience loudly applauds my rendition of Williamson’s 51 Cards to Pocket as I make it offstage, alive.

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