I was intrigued when I received the news that NBC was bringing back “LAST COMIC STANDING” for an 8th season, after a three-year hiatus. Even better news, was that a professional working comedian like Wanda Sykes and her production company, “Push it Productions, Inc.,” along with Paige Hurwitz, were going to be helming the new series.
Wanda Sykes is a real working comedian in every sense of the word. She has had much success in an extremely competitive business.
Stand-up comedy is a very unique art form. Only someone who has done it professionally, at the highest level, would understand how to showcase the comedians and their process. Not to mention this year’s judges, who alone bring so much star-power to the show!! Roseanne, Keenan-Ivory Wayans and Russell Peters–I mean that panel of judges is simply world class!!
Having said that, I’m not really a fan of reality television per se, but this opportunity excited me. To get on a major network television show at prime time, is just an unbelievable opportunity.
Could I pull this off?
How deep into the competition could I get?
The challenge of coming up with a clean set for television every week is just something I don’t practice regularly. Plus, considering whatever the show’s challenges would be…I mean, this ain’t “Words With Friends.” No need to blow a gasket on national television in front of 15 million Americans.
I’m a club comic mostly. I haven’t really done a lot of late night television…which I’ve always wanted to change. This felt like a good challenge for me. One I could grow on.
Also, stand-up comedy is a subjective art form. Some people like Rembrandt, while other folks like Picasso.
That said, the exposure to a larger main stream audience is what drives me. I got excited at the chance to get outside my comfort zone.
I decided to send an e-mail to the producers of “LAST COMIC STANDING.” I also called my agent, Jay Schacter (Prestige Talent), to follow up as a backup for good measure.
I’ve been blessed to have performed all over the world and I have worked on my acting and stand-up career at the same time, but a reality television show? That’s something I haven’t done yet.
I have quietly gone about booking acting jobs on television sitcoms, as well as tv dramas, both large and small parts. Even small supporting/guest-starring roles in major motion pictures. I’ve had my own Comedy Central special, as well as produced my own hour-long special, called “Alive & Kickin’.”
After waiting for a short time, I got the call. I was formally invited to audition for Season 8 of “LAST COMIC STANDING.”
I had a brief meeting with the producers and writers of the show. From that, I got a good feeling they would be able to present “LAST COMIC STANDING” in a new format and not have the talent look as ridiculous as in years past.
On the day of my audition, I was having such an extremely busy afternoon.
Earlier in the day, I had auditioned for a new pilot, directed by one of my good friends, Patty Jenkins (Monster, Arrested Development, Entourage). John Wells (ER, Shameless, Southland) is casting the show, and I wanted to do well. John is a notoriously tough casting director, and you want to be on your “A” game when you get the chance to be in front of him.
I was also reading in front of my good friend, which I find to be extra stressful for some reason. It’s tough auditioning for people you know. All the writers were in the room; it was packed. It was for a series lead to play a Federal Agent.
I usually get cast for those kinds of roles. I’m often a detective, cop, or a working class, blue-collar type.
That said, the audition unfortunately did not go well.
In fact, it was horrible. I struggle with anxiety, and sometimes it gets the best of me. It’s almost like a borderline panic attack. In order to do well, I need to be more relaxed and comfortable, and this afternoon, it got me.
I don’t care what anyone says, the auditioning process is a nerve-wracking experience. You’re always trapped in a small room with 5 or 6 people sitting almost on top of you. It’s important to relax, because it’s just an audition. You have to get out of your own head to be successful in this business.
I walked out of that audition kicking myself in the ass. I felt like I blew another opportunity. Oh well, shit! There are good days and there are bad days.
I often prepare by memorizing everything, because I don’t like to waste anyone’s time, especially mine.
So, I had an off day, so what?
That said, I didn’t really have time to spend beating myself up about my bad audition performance, because I had to immediately jump into my car to run to downtown Los Angeles to do a radio interview.
After that, I immediately had to jump back into my car to drive through 6 O’clock Los Angeles rush hour traffic, over the hill to Universal City Walk to the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club for another audition. There is nothing easy about being a performer in Los Angeles.
I was still in my suit and tie from my earlier audition. When I got to Lovitz, unfortunately, I was a little late. I was then ushered into the greenroom to wait my turn. While waiting in the room, I was greeted by executive producer, Page Hurwitz, and head writer, Jeff Stillson, as well as several others. My good friend, Hugh Fink, who is also one of the writers on the show, popped in for a minute to say hello. If you hang around this business long enough you meet a lot of people.
I’ve known Hugh for many years. We go all the way back. As far back as the L.A. Cabaret, which no longer exists. I’ve also done some guest star spots on a few shows he’s produced, like Betty White’s show entitled “OFF THEIR ROCKERS.”
Finally, they called my name. I walked onto the stage, and this time, I was relaxed. In fact, I was killing it. My audition lasted about 3 minutes, before the fire alarm went off. Oddly enough, that was not the first time that’s happened to me.
It happened one other time at a club in Cleveland, Ohio called “Hilarities” inside the Pickwick & Frolic. This club is run by one of my favorite club owners, Nick Kostis.
About 12 minutes into my first show, a sold-out Saturday night, the alarm starts going off. We had to evacuate the building. I wound up finishing my show on the sidewalk in front of the club between two fire engines. Interestingly enough, someone had a video camera and filmed the whole thing. Now, that tape is on the internet. Many people have told me that they came out to see me live, due to watching that clip on YouTube. Amazing.
So, during the LCS audition fire alarm moment, we all exited the building. As we were standing around waiting to go back in, I spoke with some of the writers and producers. They explained that they are trying to produce a hit comedy for NBC over the summer. There’s a lot of resentment for what they made comedians do in previous years and they acknowledged that. That made me feel better about participating. Finally, we all walked back into the building. I finished my audition happy and confident.
A few days later, I received the news that I would be performing on LAST COMIC STANDING (SEASON 8) for the Invitational Round. Just goes to show, no matter how difficult your day is going, there is always the next opportunity. So, here we go!
Here is the clip of me performing on the sidewalk after the fire alarm went off in Cleveland, Ohio.