Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Anna & Erica's Not So Excellent Adventure

What You're About To Read Is True.

I'm doing my Rod Serling impression here in my office and I can feel my dogs judging me. (Hey, if you two can do better I'd love to hear it.)


I have been urged by a bunch of people (okay, one person) to share the story of auditioning for "Last Comic Standing." I'll tell you right now - this story has an anticlimactic ending. If you happen to own a t-shirt that reads "Life Is A Journey...Not A Destination," this would be the ideal time to slip it on, because that's how this story works.

For me, however, it was an unforgettable experience - in much the same way that eating bad clams on our family vacation to Cape Cod back in the 70s and ending up in the emergency room was an unforgettable experience for my dad.

It also helps to keep in mind as you're reading that I'm a total jackass who often drags perfectly nice friends into ridiculous situations.

So. This was a couple of years ago and I had just done my first standup show. Ever. A few weeks down the road, I'd be lucky enough to get booked at the Hollywood Improv and The Comedy Store, but none of that had happened yet. I had one show under my belt, along with my comedy bud Erica. (Her name is not really Erica but she's very funny nevertheless, plus I know she'd appreciate the glamorous nighttime-soap name. Feel free to imagine her with loads of eyeliner and epic shoulder pads.)

A few days after this first gig, I see on the Web (never a good start) that they're holding open auditions for "Last Comic Standing" at the Hollywood Improv on a Monday morning at 9:00. Having watched "The Secret" way too many times, I wonder this the Universe tapping me on the shoulder with yet another opportunity? (When, oh, when will I learn to turn the other shoulder?)

I call partner in comedy crime Erica and start pumping her up. "We'll have two minutes before the judges, so polish your best bits and iron your jeans or whatever."

There is much discussion as to when to arrive for the auditions. It seems like a good idea to get there early...say, 8:00-ish? It's a little inconvenient, I say, but okay. I get another call from her an hour later. She's been talking to some of her Hollywood-adjacent friends and has learned that people get to this audition REALLY early. Like the night before early.

What?? I'm not sleeping out on Melrose Avenue for this thing. They aren't giving out Peter Frampton tickets, after all.

We go back and forth and finally decide that I'll pick her up at 3:00 am, which should put us at the club at about 3:30. At this point Jon Bon Jovi (not my husband's real name) chimes in to say that we're crazy and he's washing his hands of the whole affair. (Well!)

Sunday evening - I pack. Never one to travel light (don't get Jon Bon Jovi started on this), I assemble a hatchback full of supplies that rivals a Red Cross airlift into Bangladesh: bottled waters, folding chairs, power bars, comfy socks, a bunch of bananas, wipees, hand sanitizer, my stage clothes and on and on. Once the car's loaded I go to sleep.

For five minutes.

2:00 am - I'm showering, dressing and running through my two-minute set over and over in my head. I pull up in front of Erica's apartment, which is in the middle of the one pocket of LA in which I have no cell reception. She's also mentioned that the front-door buzzer on her building doesn't work. An intriguing and challenging pickup situation indeed. Eventually, she looks out and sees me idling on the street and we're off.

[Side note: If you need to drive anywhere in Los Angeles, I highly recommend doing so at 3:20 in the morning.]

3:40 am - We get to Melrose and slow down as we approach the club. There's the front door...and there's a row of tents and sleeping bags that's a block long...make it two blocks...nope, three blocks of campers who have been living on the sidewalk for four days, protecting their places in line. The line of bodies snakes around the corner onto Crescent Heights and dribbles onto the sidewalk along a row of houses.

Stunned silence in the car. Okay, maybe a few expletives. "So are we doing this?" "Crap. We're here. I guess so."

4:00 am - We park and walk to the end of the line with our mounds of supplies and settle into our spot in the dark.

The previous season's winner on the show had been Josh Blue - a very gifted comedian who happens to suffer from cerebral palsy and has built a very successful act around his disability and others' reactions to it. It quickly becomes apparent that the woman in line on our left intends to capitalize on this fact, which she sees as the beginning of a trend.

On the sidewalk in front of her, she has erected a shrine of sorts to her son, whom she describes as a "yellow-bus kid." Included in the display is his 8x10 high school graduation portrait in a shiny gold frame, surrounded by clusters of other photos in smaller, assorted frames. At first we're afraid her son has passed away (
hence the shrine), but she explains:

"That boy who won last season - Josh Blue - he was a yellow-bus kid like my boy. They like that on this show. I'm taking these pictures in with me so they know I have a yellow-bus kid."

It's important to note that this woman is wearing a pair of frilly pink panties. On her head. With no trace of irony.

Erica and I shift uncomfortably in our folding chairs, clearly out-strategized by Ms. Panty-Head.

Directly to our right, next to Erica, is a young man in fatigues who says nothing through the entire ordeal but does a lot of twitching and gives off a VERY strong Mark David Chapman/John Wayne Gacy vibe. Right. And we'll be scooting THIS way toward our good friend Ms. Panty-Head and putting the purses over HERE.

4:30 am - Lots of buzz in the line, rumors flying everywhere, a "sign-up sheet" (notebook paper) being passed down the line. Everyone's sizing each other up. "Dude doesn't look funny at all."

It's still dark.

7:30 am - The commuters are whizzing through the neighborhood, coffee in hand, giving us some (deserved) curious looks. The sun is now up. I'm desperate for coffee, but there are no bathroom facilities and stores with public bathrooms won't be open for ages so it's too risky.

Erica and I joke around but make sure not to waste our comedy mojo on the street. A man who calls himself "Caneman" videotapes people in line. He's wearing a coat that looks to be made from the pelts of a dozen bright yellow Muppets.

Ms. Panty-Head sniffs the air like a bloodhound, then reaches into her bag and changes the panties on her head from pink to white. Erica and I exchange looks. Is this conceptual humor? Are we just not sharp enough to decode it? We must observe this one closely.

I look around and take in the raucous, bleary sidewalk scene and it occurs to me that, in a single caper, I have brought about my mother's doomsday scenario: her daughter has spent the night on the curb in a sketchy part of town with a bunch of drunk people, one of whom is wearing underwear on her head, AND there are no clean bathroom facilities.

8:30 am - I have to go to the bathroom. The line doesn't seem to be moving so I leave Erica to guard our camp and I trot down to a service station at Melrose and Fairfax. When I return, the street is empty. Everything from our outpost is gone.

8:45 am - I find everybody. In the moment I'm in the bathroom (of course), someone in charge comes along and redirects the line up the street so it now curves around the corner of the club and way down a different side street. Poor Erica manages to haul all our stuff two blocks over. Erica is widely regarded in our part of the line as a stud.

11:45 am - Nothing has changed except our moods. Everyone is twitchy now and misinformation flows like sweat. The street is filled with profanity, loud music, cackles of laughter and two uptight white girls in folding chairs staring bitterly into their power bars.

1:00 pm - Erica walks all the way to the front door of the club to get a status report straight from the source. I guard the campsite from the unruly bands of prop comics who are scrounging for Fritos and cigarettes. She returns with those within a 50-yard radius crowd around to hear her tell us that the people from the show haven't even arrived yet.

Auditions have not yet begun.

The doors are still locked.

Everyone is outraged. Violence is contemplated, particularly against one comic who has been bugging the crap out of all of us for the last [gulp] NINE HOURS.

1:15 - 1:29 - Stony, exhausted silence.

1:30 - Gut-check time. I confabulate with Erica as to just how much bleepin' bleep-bleep we're going to bleepin' put up with from that bunch of bleep-holes. I mean, who the bleep do they think they are? Bleepers. Don't they know we bleepin' killed at our bleepin' first show? What the bleep? (Did I mention we both went to very reputable institutions of higher learning?)

Bottom line: If we leave right then, we can have Thai food for lunch before I drop her off and go pick up Morticia and Gomez at school.

3:00 pm - I walk up the alley at my kids' school, picking lemongrass from my teeth and wearing some very large, very dark glasses. I run into a dad friend - a TV producer/director who's been sweetly supportive of my comedy aspirations.

I tell him my tale of "Last Comic Standing" woe. He replies that his friend is the producer on the show. "You should have called me - I could have gotten you in for a private audition."


Epilogue: The following week, I hear through back channels that much later in the day, when the folks from the show finally made an appearance at the club, they let the first 20 people inside to audition...and sent the rest of the line home.

It's a tough town. Bring a folding chair.


shrink on the couch said...

You would have blown their socks off .. and the white panties off Ms. Panty Head.

*mary* said...


Julia@SometimesLucid said...

That's hilarious. It proves that's it's usually about who you know, not how punctual you are.

By the way, I love the updated blog design!

Lynn Kellan said...

My stomach just sank; how disappointing that the producers were late and only heard the first 20 people.

You made the right decision to leave!

Organic Meatbag said...

Holy jeez... now that is one hell of an ordeal...I wonder if they'll ever have auditions for a Gallagher III act? Prop comics unite!
Oh, and panty head lady? Thorazine prescription must have run out the day before...

Anonymous said...

I can't think of anything funny to say to that. That blows. At least you got confirmation you made the right decision in leaving when you heard only the first 20 got in. What do they say? 90% of success is just in showing up? I bet you beg to differ! You are my hero for doing stand-up - I watched a video of you - you're terrific! It was truly their loss!

Heather said...

Oh Anna, another blog post of positive perfection. This is making me all the sadder that I shall not be attending BlogHer and getting to witness you in person during your panel. I'm still rooting for a live podcast for those of us who stupidly decided to buy ginormous fixer-upper homes a few scant months before the Big Event and therefore must be stuck at home in said fixer-upper, bitterly stripping yet another hundred yards of heinous, 44 year old wallpaper instead of hobnobbing with the fantabulous like yourself. Le sigh.

Oh, and the next time the Universe tries to tap you on the shoulder? Try borrowing some of Erica's epic shoulder pads and you won't feel a thing! ;)

kristi said...

Ok THAT was funny!!!

and i saw you do stand up, it was their loss!! You are bleeping hilarious!!

Ann Imig said...

two uptight white girls in folding chairs staring bitterly into their power bars...

Holy crap, Anna. You paid your dues. DONE.

Great post, and that says a lot considering my attention span for blogs in about fifty words now. Even of my own words.

Brutalism said...

The panty hat thing is a head-scratcher. This is a great story.

Kelley with Amy's Angels said...

I bet you would have done well!!

This will be one of those stories you can tell when you're older to the grandkids (many, many, many, many years down the road)! : )

Anonymous said...

Oh, man if that happened to me. Trust me, something would have burned that day.

Oh well, their loss for not letting YOU audition.

Bunny Boiler said...

Well at least you got one thing right, they certainly were the biggest f*****g bleepers out there.

Aww, poor hon. Life is seldom fair. You went on to show 'em anyway though. eh? 'Twas their loss.

(And I love your writing.)

Alicia said...

ahhh no way!! at least you got a good lunch out of the deal!

Swirl Girl said...

I think I smell sitcom here.

Trooper Thorn said...

Maybe the show should be called 'Last Comic Conscious'.

Anonymous said...

so funny - almost spit out my wine on my laptop but managed to save it - whew - cat on lap wouldn't have appreciated it either - I so look forward to your posts - a lovely break from reality

Kulio said...


does everybody say stuff like,
"yeah but you got some good material from that experience, right? Right??"

I won't say anything cheesy like that.

HermanTurnip said...

My gawd, it's eerie the similarities between this post and my average Saturday nights...minus the epic shoulder pads of course... ;-)

Beth Kephart said...

That person who recommended that you publish the true account of your not excellent adventures is very wise indeed.

Is she a fading brunette by any chance?

An east coaster?

A fan?

When Pigs Fly said...

Wow. Aren't you glad you left? Next time a little networking is in order before doing such a thing. But, it did make for a great post.

Unknown said...

I would have loved to have seen this...

How about a re-enactment? Y'hear that BERNTHIS?

Peace - Rene

The Guy's Perspective said...

Funny Story in a sick way. Reminded me of the time I went to the Newport Jazz Festival w/out tickets. Thought for some reason I could just get tickets at the gate. I spent four hours in the car with my buddy and his NEW girlfriend. You know what I'm saying. We get to the gate finally, and they say sold out...and the exit is that way. We do a Uturn and I spend the rest of the day watching the my buddy and his girl fondle each other.

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K A B L O O E Y said...

That goes straight to TOP POSTS. Don't even give it a second thought. And the injustice is galling; you even timed your pee. The guys didn't have to time their pee, even Josh Blue probably had that matter taken out of his hands (sorry), but you held off on coffee and timed it. Tragic. But not as tragic as it was for #21.

Jeanne Estridge said...

I salute you for:
a) your wisdom in not hanging around any longer.
b) your courage to do stand-up in the first place. (I have a neuruosis that won't permit me to do public speaking - suck-o-phobia.)
c) not killing that guy who told you that he could have gotten you a private audition.

Anonymous said...

You definitely have to focus on the journey. I guess they really left the comics standing, or were they sitting by that time?

Farmers Wifey said...

Damn your blog posts are thorough! And damn, gotta love the eyeliner and shoulder pads, I lived in the eighties..

Anonymous said...

Oh no! I know you warned us of the anticlimactic end to this, but wow! Thanks for a good giggle though, as always when I pop in here.


Anonymous said...

Real stars don't do queues.

You're too good for all that!

Maura said...

That was a little more anti-climatic than I was expecting. I was thinking you had at least gotten in. But power to you and Erica for giving it a shot.

And I hope at least that those panties on her head were clean....

April said...

ugh! My worst cattle call audition, they still at least let us come in 10 at a time for typecasting!

My First Kitchen said...

Awesome story. I've missed your stories. And if you ever get that private audition, I'll actually watch the show and vote for you. Regularly. And tell my friends. And host voting parties. I'm serious.

Sorry for my absense here lately (not that you've noticed), but my first pregnancy has thrown a wrench into life, i.e. I constantly sleep, eat, and sometimes take a shower. That's pretty much it. I'm pretty sure I hold the record for Netflix movies watched in a week period.

g said...

I really enjoyed this post for many reasons:

First, I loved the line, "nothing changed but our moods." Damn, that's true. The whole story was great but
2nd reason to love it: I was pressured to go to that audition by my mother(my biggest booster etc) and I told her that it would turn into something like that and how miserable it would be and.... now you've confirmed it. Sorry you had to suffer but... and you seem much sharper than 99 percent of comedians so you should keep doing, whatever the hell that might mean or for what it's worth.

g said...

You've inspired me to write up my story on my one and only comedy audition in NY. Please, drop by and read it when you get a chance.

Julio said...

I fucking LOVE Rod Serling. This dude impersonated him at an Improv of MATCH GAME at a local Improv show and as he was Improving he Improved something SO Improvised that I felt improved to improve my impulsive and profane racial slurs...WOP DAGO! sry.

Paul Eilers said...

I HATE waiting in line.

That's all I got for now.


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