I feel like I've been Punk'd. After spending 13 hours on the sidewalk outside of the Improv (at least I didn't camp-out the day before for the humiliation), I walked through the curtain, NBC cameras rolling, and had one of the Tonight Show guys pull a "Simon" (American Idol) on me.
The other guy seemed to like me, but that surely won't matter to the editor. They've now got a perfect sound bite (and I do mean "bite") to slam me in front of millions of people.
The details are this...
I opened with a bit about being a former USC linebacker... (paraphrasing) "three years on the team, came off the bench for one play as a Senior, but I did set a college football record that year because... I graduated. Teammates went onto the NFL, made millions of dollars but... I got my degree. They've got nothing to fall back on."
So, here's the slam from the Tonight Show guy as I'm walking off the stage...
"It's a good thing you've got something to fall back on, because it's not stand-up comedy."
What was weird is that I heard the other guy talking during my set, and he was saying "that's funny"... and they had me continue. I thought they were cutting me off when I heard their voices over the PA after my first joke, but when I asked if I should stop, they said, "No, go on". Well, according to what I'd heard from the people who'd auditioned during the day, that was a good sign. Some people were getting cut-off in the middle of jokes, 30 seconds into their set. The fact that they told me to continue was a good sign, right?
Even though I laughed it off immediately afterwards, the words of the guy who didn't like me still stung. He could've just said "Thank You", like the other guy. All day, people were saying all they'd heard was "Thank You", and that was that. But I guess his call-back to my joke makes for better TV. At least, that's what some people were saying to console me after my set.
The thing is this...
I know I'm not the best comic in the world. But I also know that after several years and several hundred times on stage, I'm not the worst, either. People have been known to laugh during my act. This guy's comment was the kind of thing you might say to somebody who showed up for this thing without any stand-up experience (and I know for a fact there were a lot of those).
Or, it's the kind of thing you say to comic #116 out of #120, no matter what kind of experience that comic has. Yeah, that was me. #116 out of #120, feeling fortunate to be in the last group of comics to be seen. I'm not sure how many didn't get seen, because they stopped numbering the applications somewhere in the #200's. I feel really sorry for the group right behind me. They showed up only minutes after I did (between 4:00-4:30AM), and didn't get the chance to roll the dice (the cut-off happened between 4:30-5:00PM).
Speaking of some applications not being numbered, there were some weasels trying to scam their way into the line by writing a number on their un-numbered applications. One of those weasels wrote #116 on his application. Well, luckily for me, I had about a dozen witnesses watching my back. We'd been sitting together for 13 hours, and weren't about to let some weasel take my spot (let alone cut in front of the hundred or more people behind me). That really made for a relaxing scene just before going into the studio. The weasel was getting very confrontational, yelling at all of us (and the production staff) as if he'd been the one getting screwed. Then, just as he was leaving, he turned to me and said, "No hard feelings". He put his hand out, looking for a fist-bump, and I told him to take a hike.
Anyway, it was a real natural setting for stand-up... hours on the curb, no audience in the studio, two "talent scouts" glaring in the middle of the room, various & sundry people staring from the back of the room... and the "talent scouts" talking over their hot microphones over the PA during your set.
Some other comics warned me about their experiences from previous seasons, and yet, I still had to live through it myself to believe it.
I may be on the verge of being seen by millions of people, and it kinda makes me sick to my stomach.
The funny thing is that I've been wanting to get on National TV for some time now, and may have finally gotten my wish. Unfortunately, if it does happen, it'll be as one of the suckie comics on Episode One.
Hey, I can still keep my hopes up. Maybe I'll be the "William Hung" of stand-up?
Joe "Be Careful, You Might Get What You Wish For" Palen