NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” has selected five Seattle comedians for call backs in Los Angeles on Nov. 3-4. The five were among 44 Northwest comedians that performed at a showcase at Seattle’s Parlor Live on Sunday, Sept. 28. I spoke to all five Seattle comics about the experience. Additionally, Portland’s Nathan Brannon was also selected for a call back.
Q: You’re on the road more than a lot of Seattle comedians; did that give you any kind of advantage in preparing for this?
AW: The road helps overall, but live shows and TV have different timing and editing. I’ve learned a lot over time from mentors and even watching LCS.
Q: What were your expectations going in? Were you confident or nervous?
AW: I flew in that afternoon with one hour of sleep while having an allergy attack – so I was a mess. I was on 50mg of antihistamines, shaking and couldn’t think. I was mispronouncing words. I told Jubal (Flagg), “I hope I get my speak to work. I mean mouth.” That’s all I wanted.
Q: How will this exposure affect your career?
AW: I’m living in my car, so it’s all uphill from here… Right? RIGHT? RIGHT!?!
It did a lot for Seattle comedians Jeff Dye and Ty Barnett. I’m proud that 5 of the 5 comedians that moved on are Seattle comedians. And I’m glad the audiences came out to support like they did. Phenomenal.
Q: What have they told you about the call back process? Will you be performing for judges only or a showcase for a live audience?
AW: All I know is that LA is about to have a lot more funny and a lot less vitamin D.
Q: You do a lot of improvisation and sketch work; does that give you an advantage going into a competition like this?
EM: I think every performer they are looking at has an impressive and unique skill set. The people they select are going to be some of the best joke writers in the country. I can only hope that my jokes, which are the only ones I know how to make, are what they are looking for.
Q: How did you prepare for this and were you nervous going in?
EM: This month marks ten years of telling jokes on stage, I have never not been terrified before getting up there, but there are some golden moments were it is the safest place in the world. Seeing my wife in the front row really helped.
Q: Is it difficult to perform knowing your being judged and competing against your peers?
EM: All I can do is my best and the fact that this is a competition doesn’t really change anything.
Q: Has NBC told you anything about the next level auditions?
EM: A lady is going to call me and tell me when to get on a plane.
Q: What kind of effect can this have on your career?
EM: Good things are already happening.
Q: How nervous were you going in?
ES: OH MY GOD. I was SO NERVOUS. When I started doing stand-up, a friend and fellow comic Travis Vogt once gave me the best advice which was “Never expect to stop being nervous. You will never stop being nervous,” which is true. Knowing that it is okay to always be nervous is somehow calming, is that weird?
Q: How did you prepare for this show?
ES: I’m really bad at prepping for shows. My routine usually involves having a drink, reading trivia about movies on my IMDB app and then scribbling down some bullet points of what I want to talk about on a note pad I inevitably lose at the end of the night. I like to keep my sets somewhat conversational, so I don’t practice them aloud or anything. I just have subjects or stories and remind myself of the main points and punch lines, then try to present them in slightly different ways each time. I’m sure this is all incredibly unprofessional. I didn’t do anything much different for this show other than I wore new eye liner and made sure to wear my lucky Michael Bolton t-shirt.
Q: You had to go on first, which is usually a kiss of death in a comedy competition; did that give you confidence or make you nervous?
ES: It’s a lot of pressure because you have to set the tone for the room for the rest of the show and if you suck, it could negatively affect comics after you who now have to waste their energy resetting the mood. At the start, people are anxious to laugh and the energy is high (which is why a bad set can easily send it spiraling in an awkward way) so it’s possible to benefit from that. Plus it’s always good to avoid any extra time pacing and freaking out.
Q: What have they told you about the call back process?
ES: I actually don’t know much other than I’m flying down to L.A. in early November for the network auditions. Which is EXTREMELY EXCITING for the aforementioned reasons, but also because the taco truck I wanted to go to in Highland park on my last visit was closed and now I have a legitimate reason to go back ASAP to rectify that.
Q: How nervous were you going in and did you think you had a shot?
GR: Truthfully I wasn’t that nervous. Putting the auditioning for NBC aspect of it aside, really all I had to do is make a sold out comedy club laugh and I know how to do that. That’s what I do every week, except for the sold out part. I did think I had a shot. I’m sure every comic there did at least a little bit. Overwhelming optimism in the face of long odds is 100% necessary if you’re going to be a stand-up comic.
The biggest challenge of it was only doing 3.5 minutes. Trying to pick material that does well and tells the Last Comic Standing producers what you’re all about is pretty impossible in that short of a set. I just gave up trying to craft the perfect set and decided to start with the joke I wanted to start with and keep going until I ran out of time.
Q: What have they told you about the call back process?
GR: I know I’m doing the next round of auditions in L.A. in November. I know it’s still not the televised portion of the show. Probably the most exciting news to me is they’re paying for the flight.
Q: How nervous were you going in and did you think you had a shot to advance?
AR: I was pretty nervous. I think there is a perfect amount of nerves and I was just beyond that. I’ve done a few other high pressure sets this year, one for “Laughs” TV show on Fox and I had different approaches to all of them. I’m still learning how to handle it.
I couldn’t help fill my head with music from “8 Mile” and imagine what else could happen. I just tried to pick a set that would stand out and define me with some of my best jokes for three minutes. Thankfully it worked out. I think that’s the toughest part. Am I choosing the right material? What are they looking for? That’s probably where the nerves come from. I’m talking it out with myself via this email.
Q: How did you prepare?
AR: Preparation I guess is different for everyone. I flew in from Oklahoma because I’m in the middle of touring. I’m best if I don’t have a ton of time to over think it. I got in, I had lunch with some friends, I went to the mariners game, took a nap and then it was time to go the show. I had already picked out what jokes I wanted, I just had to time it in the car and trim things to make sure I don’t run long.
Q: What have they told you about the callback process?
AR: They fly you down, put you up in a hotel and fly you home. Which feels cool. They’re spending money on me. Then you showcase for network executives who have not seen your previous set. The set length is the same. 3 and 1/2 minutes. So I’ll probably keep the same set.