Thursday, September 02, 2004

Last Comic Standing

I’m a comic. That the how I think of myself and that’s the term that I prefer. What that means to most people is that I do stand-up comedy. You’ve never heard of me. I’ve never headlined your local club. I’ve never performed on network television. I’m just one of the many people with lot of stage time under my belt and a decent resume. But I’m good at it. I’m damn good at it. I say this without a hint of arrogance. (Well maybe a little bit.) I say it, only because I have come to know it as a fact. Just like you know you can drive a car or change a diaper. I know that I have this ability. This skill set. I’ve done it too many times in too many different clubs in too many different cities under too many different circumstances to question it any more. I’m not saying I’m the best at it. I’m not even saying I’m great. I’m good. And I believe that I have the potential to be very good. Maybe even great. There. I said it.

People that find out that I do stand-up usually have a lot of questions, and I can honestly say that I don’t get annoyed about answering them. I love comedy, and I’ll take almost any opportunity to talk about it. With the success of the reality show, Last Comic Standing, people often ask me if I’d tried out to be on the show. When I tell them no, and that it would be my idea of hell to be involved with that show in any way, they’re confused. What follows is my attempt to try to explain my disgust with that particular show.


Stand-up comedy isn’t as respected by the entertainment industry or society as a whole. No, it isn’t. I hear your protests. You’re wrong. The days of someone becoming a huge star just for doing stand-up are long gone. There are no Dick Gregorys, George Carlins or Robert Kleins. Guys who became super-successful despite never having a hit movie or a huge TV show. Even the best comics of our generation (Murphy, Seinfeld, Rock etc) didn’t become household names until they started appearing on the big or small screen on a regular basis. Nowadays, if you want to be a really successful stand-up, you’d better be able to act or host a talk show too. Most people think that the only really good comics are the ones who break through to mainstream success. They believe the no-name guys who tour the country 45 weeks a year are just leftovers from the loud blazer and blue jeans wearing, post-Seinfeld 1980s. It’s unfair and it’s untrue. There are talented, funny comics performing at your local club every week. Sure, there is a lot of bad comedy. But as a great man once said, 90 percent of everything is crud. The rest is worth dying for. (Yeah, I’m sure it’s “crud.” Look it up.)
The last thing stand-up needed was a cheesy reality show. People already don’t hold the art form in high esteem. Having comedians compete and then being able to vote them off just helps further trivialize the art of stand-up. I didn’t want to have anything to do with that.


A lot of comics are really annoying and I would never want to live in a house with them. When in was doing the open mic at the Comedy Store on a regular basis, I would often come home in a foul mood. Tasha would ask me if my set had gone poorly or I hadn’t drawn a number for the next week. She thought that was why I was annoyed. She was shocked to learn that my chief source of frustration was simply having to wait in line for hours with incredibly annoying people. Amateur comedians are struggling with their confidence. Probably because of sheer nervousness, many comics would spend the entire time in line trying to make other people laugh. Imagine 4 or 5 hours standing in line with unfunny comics trying to slide their act into casual conversation in hopes of getting a laugh. Dude, shut up and save it for the stage. Plus, everything would have been amplified on LSC because the cameras are on you all the time. I can’t imagine how annoying that would have been. Pass.

My trepidation was confirmed by the people they selected in the first season. I lived in LA for 6 years. I started doing there and worked my way up from open micer to being a paid regular at the Improv. I saw lots of really funny people on a weekly basis. I can’t believe that the producers didn’t do a better job of selecting talent. I’ve thought long and hard about this, and because I’m posting this on my blog, I’ve decided not to rip any of the comics by name. I’ll say this. I’ve performed along side some of the people from season one and seen other perform live. Several of them are just bad comics. A few of them were jokes. I mean actual laughing stocks of the comedy scene. Ant went on camera and did an old stock joke that was actually told in a major motion picture. And when Joe Rogan called him on it, he got an attitude. Then Monique and Buddy Hackett defended him! And then they allow the audiences to select based not on talent, but on one cast members emotionally touching personally story. No disrespect to Dan Phan, but you should win a stand-up competition based on being the best comic.

I don’t want it that way. Call me stubborn, naïve or just plain stupid if you want to, but that’s the way I feel. I would hate myself if I had to spend the rest of my career being the guy who won that reality show. I want to earn it. I want people in the stand-up world to respect me. I want to work my way up. I want people to say, “I went to see “so and so” and this guy Nick Adams opened for him and he was hilarious.” If you’re a lawyer, would you want to win your degree from a reality show? If you‘re a nurse, would you want to get your license from a reality show? I know that comparison sounds extreme, but that’s how seriously I take it. I want to earn my success through hard work and talent, not because some idiot with horrible taste in Topeka calls a 900 number.

And to top it off, it’s bogus. The show is basically a scam. The contestants aren’t really selected based on the open calls and the votes of celebrity judges. They were called out by Brett Butler and Drew Carrey after the two noted that they had nothing to do with the selection of the finalists. The show is basically cast just like another reality show. There’s also a huge conflict of interest on the show. Barry Katz, a Last Comic Standing executive producer, is also the manager of two of the performers who made the Final 10 -- the one-name comic Ant and Gary Gulman. Katz also serves as manager for series host Jay Mohr.
So, there it is. Fuck that show.
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