A Last Comic Standing Audition Is a Fake Audition

A lot of people have tried to talk to me about the NBC Reality Show, “Last Comic Standing.” I’m not a very good sport about it. I don’t even try. The show is fake as hell and abusive to the up-and-coming comedians it purports to be showcasing. I know this because I endured their “open auditions” in Los Angeles earlier this year.

I’ll first say that I have endured the American Idol audition process as well, and though I found it to be mostly futile, it is a satisfying process that allows each desperate wannabe to come away with the experience of being rejected by a teenage production assistant posing as a “judge.” Last Comic Standing shows no such decency.

I arrived at the Hollywood Improv on Melrose at 8 pm on the evening before auditions. By nightfall, there were easily 300 comics in line, and they all slept on the street. I didn’t get to sleep until 4am because as “witty” as comedians are, I guess not enough of them are smart enough to shut up before 4am. The production crews woke us up at 5 am.

They compressed the line, collected some release forms and then took their crowd shots and B-roll. Around 9am it started to rain. The Gods of Comedy were crying.  A comedian with foresight provided a small awning that protected about twenty people from the rain. The production crews shooed comedians out from under the awning so that they could shoot interviews with contestants in wacky costumes.

By noon, the line had ceased to move. About 40 comics had been seen, and we were told that the judges were taking a lunch break. At this point, the two outhouses provided by the production had overflowed. One of the outhouses was fixed briefly, but soon overflowed a second time. I’d found a coffee shop the previous night and never went near the foul things, but the lack of foresight was appalling. Craig Robinson, the host of the show, assured the comedians that everyone would be seen. At this point, the production staff began frantically trying to collect release forms. Many comics, sensing a double-cross, refused.

The line never moved again, and the rain worsened. At the front of the line, the comics who had camped out were huddled against a wall so that “booked auditions” could move to the front. These “booked” comedians were all of the “wacky” variety: prop-comics and costume wearing attention-seekers. Last Comics Standing had intentionally “booked” acts that were easy for the judges to ridicule. The producers have that little faith in the wit of their judges.

The judges saw forty or less “open auditions” in eight hours’ time, an absolutely feeble effort. To disperse the angry mob of no-longer-feeling-very-funny people, cameras were brought out and the comedians were told that they could perform for the cameras for one minute. Unstated, but clearly intended, was the follow-up, “…and then please leave.” I composed a song about my experience and then left without performing it. I played it at home after I’d dried off:

It is clear that Last Comic Standing did not intend to cast a single one of the 300+ comedians that responded to their “open call.” The “open audition” is a hoax put on to collect B-roll footage and create the illusion of open competition. I have since had it confirmed by a former employee that as early as the 2nd season, the show was being cast before the open auditions were held. The show is apparently run by a talent management company that uses the show to promote its own roster. I wish they would utilize their roster for their exterior crowd shots and mockery, or at least post a truthful casting call. It would read, “Wanted: Unpaid extras to camp out overnight at the Hollywood Improv. No pay, credit, food, bathrooms or shelter.”

That they would knowingly make unpaid extras of their comedic brethren is disgusting. That they have so little faith in the wit of their judges that they provide easy fodder is underhanded. They fact that they maintained the façade through pouring rain and unsanitary conditions is criminal.

I’m posting this with the hope that if this vile show is ever produced again, comedians will know to not audition and rob these shysters of the footage they need to sell their lie. Anyone who believes the show has any interest in presenting a fair competition should be slapped anyway, so I have no illusions about rehabilitating the shows ethics. Lets just make them pay for extras next time.

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9 Responses to “A Last Comic Standing Audition Is a Fake Audition”

  • Comment from Jerri B

    A few comments here:

    1. Welcome to Hollywood (or NYC). Open (AKA “cattle”) calls are always like this – not everyone gets seen for those either; whether reality show, tv show, play or movie.

    2. Just like with American Idol, reality show contests such as this are more about making a good tv show than they are about making everyone feel good about themselves via an audition. Of course they’re going to highlight the absurd people in the crowd – it’s just like “Let’s Make a Deal” back in the 70s.

    3. LCS has never ever stated that they were looking for the best amateur comedian, or the best open mic comedian, or best feature comedian even. They are looking for a HEADLINER – someone who can jump straight from this show into a nationwide tour without blinking an eye because they have a SOLID, killer 45 minute set (minimum) that they can use. If they were looking for “up-and-comers”, how long after the show do you think that newbie comedian would take to develop and hone a set worthy enough of the general public shelling out a minimum of $25 a ticket to see perform??? It takes years for a comic to develop and work out that material until it’s ready.

    4. Related to #3, if you have had enough stage time and years of experience working out your material, and you are in or near a major metropolis, then you have to have been seen by an agent at some point. If you don’t yet have an agent, then it’s probably because you were not ready and whoever saw you perform didn’t feel you were ready to sign just yet.
    (and if you don’t live near a major metropolis, then you need to move near one – or at least drive to one to perform. Agents don’t go to see people who live in the middle of the country.)

    Facts of Life.

  • Comment from admin

    Well, you’re not the first person to tell me “Welcome to the XYZ,” so I’ll just address your third point. You are correct that they need headliners, and since that is the case, the audition notice should read, “Wanted: Headlining Comedian with killer 45-minute set ready for a nation-wide tour.” This is not what they are posting. They are creating the illusion that there is an open audition process when there is not, which is an unpleasant lie foisted on their viewers and an irresponsible inhumanity shoveled onto their “open auditioners.”

    It makes the people who camped out super grumpy is my point. Next time I camp out, it’ll be for fun or a highly anticipated movie.

  • Comment from Canada Anne

    You know what? It IS a BIG sham. Though if you go in thinking that you are going to become the next rising comedy star, you’re dreaming. I went there with friends and camped out in the streets of New York by Gotham. We were lucky that week in March was warm and we didn’t freeze our asses off like in previous years. It was an adventure, it was fun. I did make it in to the judges round and then got torn apart. I wasn’t too happy about that for sure.

    I really think that they used me and my moose ears for fodder and to exploit me. Though that was my choice to wear the moose ears to get noticed and I did get some air time out of it. So it’s not that bad to be on national TV. I agree that it sucks after waiting for over 72 hrs to get into the audition, raising your hopes like you have a chance, when clearly you don’t, and to be shot down is really devastating.

    I wish I could tell you differently but the fact remains that unless you are a seasoned comic and already have a following, you really have no chance. I am actually surprised they even brought this show back. This proves that NBC has nothing else in the “Can” and figures they can produce cheap summer ratings! Then you have ABC who is airing that Japanese game show “Wipeout” which in my opinion has more class than “Last Comic Standing” does.

    When they first came out with this show, I really thought it would be the “American Idol” of comedy and raw talent would have a chance of being discovered. It’s not the case at all with this program. Even that show “So you can think you can dance” gives novice dancers a real try. If they see you have the passion and drive to really want it, they will put you on the show. In fact on that show, the judges took such a personal interest in one of the dancers, who was a novice. But because he had the passion and drive, they drove all the way to a farm in Ohio to award him a spot on the show. That show is about compassion and honing fresh new talent to shine.

    This show is total opposite. They are just filling up airtime. It really is a shame that this show is not better structured. I do agree they get people to line up so they have background extras for free. It is what it is unfortunately. My clip has aired all week and I’m not getting a cent for it. I am not getting a cent responding to this blog either. The question you need to ask yourself is “will you go back in Season 8” to try out and audition?? Mind you, if there is one.

  • Comment from jerri b

    But there’s no such thing as “honing” a “raw talented” comedian. It takes too many years to develop an act, learn the perfect delivery and timing that will work with a WIDE variety of audiences, etc. You can’t teach that. It has to be developed over a loooong time. It’s very different than having the ability to sing or dance.

  • Comment from admin

    I understand the show’s needs, but if they aren’t looking for new talent, there is no honest reason to hold open auditions.

    ps. Don’t knock singing and dancing. Both take quite a lot of work as well.

  • Comment from Don Blackburn

    I get what you mean, it is dishonest and cheap. My guess is they want to put on an entertaining semi fake reality game show and don’t want to be caught using extras to play open call comedians. I know there is legal ramifications when doing a contest that they probably have learned what lines they can and can not cross. The great thing about being truthful is that you don’t have to worry about the line at all.

    It’s too bad they can’t just say we’ve assembled some of the up and coming comedians to compete in “The Last Comic Standing.” because honestly as long as they’re funny I’ll watch. Of course TV being the insecure medium it is, will always use the template of a show that closely resembles the show they want to put on. As long as American Idol continues to do well all other contest shows will copy.

  • […] I wrote my scathing memoir about the “audition process” for Last Comic Standing, people have been pinging me to know if American Idol is any different. I auditioned in 2009 and […]

  • Comment from EveryBodyWangChung2Nite

    You all sound like bitter, dejected amateur “comics” who didn’t stand a chance, not because of the show’s setup, but because you have no talent. You can’t be the last comic standing if you’re still aspiring to be a stand up comic…

  • Comment from admin

    You didn’t read what I wrote did you? I could be the greatest comedian in the history of the universe or the worst, but it wouldn’t matter because they didn’t bother to SEE me.

    And do you know why? Because the show is rigged up the ass.

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