It really did seem like a good idea at the time. Thought I’d audition for “Last Comic Standing” when they had an open audition here in Toronto on Thursday. Perhaps it’d be a bit of a laugh and maybe even a wee bit of network exposure. Oh yes, I was well aware that I would have to stand outside in the freezing cold for a long time. I also knew that the chances of progressing very far were small. But what I didn’t anticipate was how much of a clusterfuck it would actually be.
Now, bear in mind, these are just my observations of what happened to me. There could well be many people out there who thought theirs was a great experience. But I’d be surprised.
So here’s what I knew going in…
- There were a number of people who have savvy managers/agents who were able to secure an “invitation” to perform. They wouldn’t have to wait in line, would be seen quickly and taken seriously. Though it was worrying to hear from a friend of mine that he was asked to wear something wacky.
- LCS is a reality TV show – their agenda might not necessarily reflect what is best for stand up comedy (and stand up comedians).
- It’s flippin’ February and the coldest, snowiest one we’ve had for yonks.
… so really, I have only myself to blame for my subsequent frostbite, exhaustion and despair. Having said all that, here’s how it went down.
I arrived to the Yuk Yuks on Richmond around midnight, having just finished a show at Betty’s. Friends of mine were camping out all night and rumour had it that the producers “might” hand out numbers the night before, as they did in Montreal last year. There were only a dozen people in line at that point. I hung around for just over an hour and no one else joined the queue, so thought I’d head home, organize my stuff, sleep for a few hours and return first thing refreshed and energized. Got home around 2:15, went to bed around 2:45, woke up at 3:45 (way too hyper to sleep), headed back downtown. Arrived around 4:15. I was number 14 in the line! Surely I’d be seen by the powers that be. Was already questioning my sanity by 4:25.
Beyond the almost unbearable cold, there was the frustration that there was virtually no one else in the line. I think there were less than 20 of us ‘til 7am. By 9am the numbers had grown to an underwhelming 40. I think there were something like 125 people who eventually joined the queue. Most of whom had a good night’s sleep and enjoyed the lovely sunshine of the day.
The people with invitations started to arrive. I was jealous, sure, but most (if not all) were great comics who deserved to be there. The shocking thing was the number of extremely talented invitees who left their auditions with a “thanks but no thanks”. And they had only auditioned for a lone woman producer. No sign of celebrity judges Dave Foley & Richard Kind. This did not bode well.
At around 9am, the camera crews started shooting outside. They did a few passes of the line. When the camera was on me, I was so punchy from the freezing cold and exhaustion that my comments ranged from “please let me go inside” to “I’m funnier than a 5th Grader!”. Sad, I know. Then Bill Belamy spent ½ hour trotting past the line on a horse dressed as a Mountie ( I shit you not) shooting intros and tags. Though he & I did have a moment. I’m certain he lusts after my comedic ass.
Finally, at about 10:30am, after the form-filling out, picture taking was complete, myself and 5 other of my line-buddies were ushered upstairs in a building next to Yuks. There, literally at the top of the stairs, in the foyer we met with a harassed young producer who told us to stand in a semi-circle, he would point to us and we were to tell a joke. I thought this was some sort of pre-screening, so started to un-layer right there, fix my hair a bit, you know, get ready. We all did about three jokes (though how much the producer actually heard is hard to know, between his chats with other members of the crew and phone calls he received). He said if they wanted to see us again, they’d call us by 2pm, or 4pm or maybe tomorrow.
Next was to another building (still not Yuks) to do the “funny booth”, which was a photo-booth type set up where we were asked questions and were to provide witty responses. This part was actually a lot of fun. For the first time, the cameras were rolling and a little focus was being paid to me. After that, we wandered out into the street, unsure of what to do next.
At that point we ran into Debra DiGiovanni (a wonderful person and great comic), who was doing some reporting for E! (I think) and NBC. She interviewed me and another comic friend of mine about the whole process. It was so nice to vent. Doubt it’ll make it to air, anywhere, but it sure felt good.
You’ll be shocked to hear that I didn’t get a callback. In fact there was only ONE person who lined up who made it to the evening show. He’s a very funny guy (named Derek Forgie), who auditioned doing some character work. Ultimately, though, those who made it to L.A. are all deserving, talented folks for whom I wish nothing but the best. Who they are is supposed to be top secret, but word is out. I won’t list them here because I’m pretty sure I signed a confidentiality form, among other things…but I’m sure you’ll hear soon enough.
I’ll wrap this up with lessons learned (and things I actually knew in the first place):
- get myself an agent or manager, pronto
- Cougar boots aren’t as warm as advertised
- Never, I mean, never, attempt to do a show after such an ordeal. I performed in a competition at McVeigh’s that night, but was so tired/delirious that, while performing would drift off and stare at the table candles and imagine they were teeny tiny fairies.