Last Comic Standing is the fakest reality show on television. That truth also makes it the most real. - Larry Weaver, The Tao of Show Business
NBC's Last Comic Standing claims on its own website to be a "search for the funniest comedian on the planet". It's not. The auditions are staged, the celebrity judges aren't judges, the footage is doctored to make a favored bad act look good, and talented working comedians are passed over for "characters" with no act and a big personality. Here are a few horror stories in case you're thinking of auditioning for future seasons...
If you're going to audition "cold" (uninvited, without agency representation), be prepared for a lot of waiting.
I stood in line in sub-freezing temperatures for up to nine hours Thursday in Toronto to audition... we got a chance to be funny six-at-a-time for a production assistant, who would point to each of us and say "give me your best minute" or "tell me a one-liner"... if you were chosen you would receive the phone call to come back to audition for two minutes for the celebrity talent scouts. - Jim Tice, Toronto Last Comic Standing Auditions
Just to be clear, you don't automatically get to "audition" in front of the celebrity judges. You can fly across the country, stand in line for hours, only to be turned away in seconds by a young production assistant:
The PA ushered us into the annex in teams of eight -- 24 comedians per room. It was like performing at a bus stop. "All right, Jason, give me your best 30 seconds. Go!"... "Thank you. Next." And that was that. Don't call us; we'll call you. Fourteen hours in the gutter. - Jason Love, Last Comic Sleeping, Overnight in San Francisco
Comedians at the Season 5 auditions in San Antonio never got to audition at all:
I drove two hundred miles, in the rain, half asleep mind you, to find out they only gave 125 numbers out this time. That's not the clincher. They gave them out [the night before] about 6:30 pm. - David Reyes, San Antonio Last Comic Standing Audtions
Some conspiracy theorists wonder if the only reason for auditions is to get a shot of the people waiting in line:
I feel bad for some comic friends who had even worse experiences that I did... Do they really make people wait all night long in the fog just so they can have a morning shot of them around the club? - DNA, San Francisco LCS Audtions
Even if you are invited to audition, you still could get jerked around. Veteran comedian Taylor Mason was personally invited to audition for Season 6 by the show's producers, ushered to the front of the line, breezed through the auditions to Vegas, and then - after cancelling dates to clear his schedule - was told not to come to Vegas:
We auditioned for the first two on-site producers, a couple of women who were looking for specific things: NO wife jokes; NO marriage jokes; NO jokes about raising kids... We all found out very quickly that [the celebrity judges] were only there for show. Their opinions and their comments were cut off – an assistant producer went up to them at one point and said, “Uh…don’t say anything to the comics…we’ll decide who moves on and who doesn’t…just make a comment about their performance and we move on.” - Taylor Mason, Last Comic Complaining
Comedian Chris Voth also made it through to Vegas, only to get bumped:
Over the next several weeks, I had numerous conversations via email with producers from the show as details were being dispersed about the semi-finals in Las Vegas. We had to sign a lot of waivers and confidentiality agreements and confirm that we could block off a couple weeks in case we made it into the house... Less than a week before the semi's, I got a call from a producer saying a decision was made and I was now being uninvited to the next round... they originally picked 46 comics, but only 30 were moving on. - Chris Voth, Houston LCS Auditions
Making it on the show may not be the break you were hoping for. The producers and editors have to power to paint you in a bad light. My long-time friend and comedy club headliner Heath Hyche was ripped to shreds by celebrity judge Steve Schirripa in the Season 6 Vegas round. Did Steve saying he'd rather kill himself than watching more of Heath's act help Heath? I don't think so.
Last Comic Standing is the Realest Show on Television
Should you audition for Last Comic Standing? I don't recommend it unless you have agency representation who can move you to the front of the line. Even then you should be prepared with a good "story" and "character" to compliment your act.
Show business is not a pure competition like sport. Talent does not always rise to the top. Hard work and dedication do not always pay off. Like so many things in life, success in show business depends a lot on who you know. That, truly, is reality.
In that regard, Last Comic Standing is the most real reality show on television.
I'm good friends with two of the winners of Last Comic Standing. I'm also good friends with top-notch comedians who been rejected at LCS auditions for six straight years. You can have a killer act and never "make it" in Hollywood because of your look, or your accent, or who you don't know.
Should You Audition for Last Comic Standing?
If you're dying to be on Last Comic Standing, I do have some advice. Look back over at all of the comedy clubs where they've held auditions. Target one or more clubs as a place to "get in" and become a regular. Try to get to know the club owners; they can help you. Search Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc for anyone who has worked as a PA (Production Assistant) on Last Comic Standing. Try to friend them and learn everything you can. Search Google for "Last Comic Standing Auditions". Read blog posts and articles from people who have auditioned and contact them directly to get their advice. Reach out to comedians who have appeared on the show. Email them one specific question. Or better yet, go to a live performance and try to meet them personally. Arm yourself with as much information as possible. Try to get to know the right people.
Or just wing it. Either way, your odds are probably about the same.