Last Comic Blogging, Part 2

Reality Sets In — Tuesday, April 3, 12:30 a.m.

On the corner of Rural Road and University Drive in Tempe, Arizona, hundreds of potential candidates for the Last Comic Standing auditions are bivouacked around the corner of the Tempe Improv, some sleeping, some chatting, some playing cards, all leaving a mess of litter behind them. We had to move down to the first floor earlier in the night, which led to an intense, frantic scramble — everyone wants a better place in line, and line-hoppers are a legitimate threat. An unofficial sign-up sheet has made the rounds and been photocopied, but people still worry about squatters.

They come from all across the country: Albuquerque, Los Angeles, New York. Our good friend and former Denver comic Matt Conty, who moved to Nashville last year, is several spots ahead of us in line. Some people have been drinking and one giant black guy in a red shirt three sizes too small — perhaps like his heart — just decided to explode and let the entire line know that, "they ain't gonna be no cuttin'." Maybe it's racist to write that he talked like that, but he did, so go fuck yourself. Sometimes the truth is stereotypical. No one knows how anything is going to work and information is scarce, with reports of how things went down in other LCS audition cities passed around like joints. The Tempe Improv has given no real instructions other than where to queue; LCS has certainly not been around, except to move their equipment in and the result is a veritable refuge camp of comics surrounding this outdoor mall, a Somalia of dick jokes.

I've just returned to the scene of this heinous, heinous crime after six hours of sleep at our nearby hotel — a Ramada Limited, thank you very much — the first shut-eye I'd had in 32 hours. I also had not one, but two showers, putting me in a significantly better mood. Because I masturbated during the second one.

Earlier today, I was at a boiling point. We've got positions high in line — Harrison is #13, Andy #14, myself #15 — so we're alright as far as we know. Others have guaranteed spots, so they do not have to line up like morons. These include friends like Chuck Roy, Hippieman, Louis Johnson, established Denver vets with some TV credits. These are all comics with more credits than ourselves, more connections, more experience, and so rather than wait in line with the rest of the trash, they will simply have an audition time in a ten or so hours, trot in comfortably to that audition after a good night of sleep and then most likely move on to the evening show. That's one of the biggest misconceptions about Last Comic Standing: that it is democratic. Truth is, like anything, it's all about the connections. And so while idiots line up for their one shot at fame, the bulk of the people who move on to Hollywood and further into the show are the ones the producers already know about, the ones already given audition times. Such spots were once dangled in front of our faces through various contacts, but those audition spots dissipated into idle promises of "involved people on the lookout for us." This was a dubious promise, at best; hence our mad dash to get here before the crowds and ensure an audition. Many behind have no such assurances. I can't say that's a bad thing.

Gathered behind me are a collection of people so fucking pathetic and clueless that the ASU students who walk past us to class — or at least to popular drinking spots — have been openly mocking the entire lousy assembly. I'd laugh too, were I not among them. It's amazing how comedy seems to draw the most desperate and clueless and stubborn of all artists: people who eat shit for years, who never get better, who never get laughs or any paid gigs and yet for some unknown reason feel absolutely convinced this is their sole calling in life. Denver is chock full of these people, as I'm sure is any scene, but this line around the Improv is like their fucking Mecca: an awful combination of utterly inept comics and reality TV-star wannabes who talk openly and lovingly of MTV programming like My Super Sweet 16 and that show with the two hack whores trying to make it in Vegas because they didn't make it on Making the Band Season 79 and how great — GREAT — these people's lives are and if they could just make an impression here maybe THEY could be signed to a reality TV show!

No, fuckers: This is comedy, this is a craft, this is an art and sometimes it may wallow in itself — okay, most of the time it wallows in itself — but one person, one mic, one voice is a pretty amazing concept. I get the feeling sitting here right now that not a lot of people in this line ever thought about such things. But this is a tough business, they say, and in the shitty state-of-affairs that is pop culture, this Last Comic Standing is a good opportunity, probably one of the best. Do I even want this for myself? Not at all when I think about it. This is watered-down horseshit shoveled piping hot into the gaping mouths of the masses so that they can go down to the comedy club, eat fried cheese and point and say, "Lookie, ma! That there's the guy from the TV!" This is not art. There are exceptions to the rule, of course. Josh Blue, my boy, I feel has risen above and beyond what this show ever really intended or hoped for. But if I were ever to win this sucker, I would spend the next two years of my "career" railing against whatever version of me had been distilled to the American, NBC prime-time viewing public. I'm not even sure I want to be on this show. And yet here I am, sitting in line, longing for a shower and a bed again.

Who's the pathetic comic now? — Adam Cayton-Holland

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner