I was really excited when I got the e-mail from NBC that said they wanted me to audition for Last Comic Standing. I was very excited. And happy about it, too.
That was what I needed for my comedy career! A chance to be on a television show and do my jokes for an audience of crowd.
The night before I received the e-mail, I was sleeping. In the morning, when I checked my e-mail, the e-mail said:
“Dear Mr. Franken, we would like you to audition for Last Comic Standing because your comedy speaks directly to the human condition. Our show is about the metaphysics of comedy and whether or not comedy can serve as its own epistemology. At Last Comic Standing, we are looking to elevate discourse about comedy in relation to truth, both internal and external. Signed, NBC.”
I was so excited! This was my ONE BIG CHANCE! There was never going to be ANOTHER CHANCE at all! ALL MY CAREER rested on this one CHANCE!
A CHANCE I COULD BELIEVE IN!!!!
I did the sensible thing and wrote back!
“Dear NBC, I would like to audition for Last Comic Standing, but where should I go? What should I do? What does it mean to audition for Last Comic Standing? Will there be water there at the place I audition? What if I get sick the day of the audition? I have been divorced, is that okay? Signed Josh–I mean, Will Franken.”
After I sent the e-mail back, I waited and waited and waited. I looked at the computer screen for minutes, then hours, until the very next day when, right in front of my eyes–A NEW E-MAIL APPEARED!!!!
“Dear Mr. Franken, we would like you to audition at The Gotham Comedy Club in New York City. The audition is in the morning at 10a.m. Please don’t say bad words. Please don’t say anything about politics. Please don’t say anything about current events. Please don’t say anything in a foreign language. Please don’t say anything that will hurt black people’s feelings. Please don’t say anything that will hurt muslim people’s feelings. Please don’t say anything that will hurt NBC’s feelings. Show up at the audition with 2 minutes of your best material! Good luck!”
2 minutes! Wow! I would have to do my VERY BEST JOKE. What would it be?
There was a joke about rabbits. But that was 2 minutes and 15 seconds. That would not work. Then I had a joke about trumpets. But that was 1 minute and 47 seconds. That would be too short. I thought of my other seven jokes. There was one about rum, one about the movie “Barry Lyndon”, one about the movie “Savannah Smiles”, one about monster trucks, one about The War of the Austrian Succession; one about neophytes, and one about ashtrays.
But each one of those jokes was over 27 minutes!
I sank into a deep depression. I had NO jokes that were EXACTLY 2 minutes in length!
Then it hit me! I had ONE joke that was EXACTLY 2 minutes in length! It was my old impersonation of a voice mail system called “You’ve Reached The Living Room!” It was very fast-paced and involved a lot of voices and a lot of people who have seen me perform it told me they thought that it was a funny joke. That settled it. I would do that one.
I sent out another e-mail.
“Dear NBC. Guess what? I thought I did not have a joke that was 2 minutes, but I do! I know what I am going to do at the audition! Whew! That takes care of that worry!”
I sent that e-mail out and the next day I received another e-mail back!
“Dear William, we are done talking to you for now. You do not need to send another e-mail. We will just see you at the audition.”
The night before the audition, I was stricken with gout. I tossed and turned all night. There was a storm brewing over the New York skyline. I dreamt of rivers of blood and clouds of tears. In the morning, I arose with bloodshot eyes and a mysterious tattoo of a pearl on my lower back.
On the way to the Gotham Comedy Club, I purchased a cup of coffee from a coffee merchant who dealt in coffee. I was met at the audition by my friend Steve who was there to encourage moral support amongst himself and me.
“Hi Will!” said Steve, “This is going to be a good thing for your career!”
“Fuck this shit,” I said, “my career is in the shithouse. I wanted to blow my brains out when I got that fucking e-mail.”
“Don’t be that way, Will” smiled Steve, “This is a great opportunity to get your face out there. Even if you do not make the cut, it will just be a neat opportunity!”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Steve, pull your head out of your ass. I’m on the fucking skids now. Auditioning for Last Comic Standing–Jesus Christ, has it really come to this?”
Steve smiled and patted my back to encourage support. “Buck up, chin-no! Strap up your boots and smell like roses! This is a BIG THING! Let’s go into the place where the audition is happening now.”
“Let me have another fucking cigarette first.”
I was so excited about the audition I smoked an entire cigarette all by myself! When I was done, I told Steve, “All right, let’s get this shit over with.”
Inside the Gotham Comedy Club Lobby, I was surrounding by lots and lots of OTHER COMEDIANS. I was SO EXCITED to be in their presence for many of them are really good. I was so in awe to be among them and to be surrounded by them. It felt nice and I felt very priveliged to have this privilege. I remember thinking that it didn’t matter whether or not I was selected—because just to be in the presence of all these great and talented comedians was reward enough.
“I can’t wait to get the fuck out of here,” I whispered to Steve, “They better give me some fucking water at least.”
“I am sure they will have water for you,” said Steve, “Look! There is a girl with a clipboard. We should tell her who you are.”
We went up to the blonde girl with a clipboard.
“Hello!” said Steve, “This is Will Franken. He is here today to audition for Last Comic Standing!”
“Who are you?” said the blonde girl.
“He’s my secretary,” I said.
“He cannot wait with you in the audition area,” said the corporate thing with tits.
“But he’s my secretary,” I said.
“But those are the rules,” said the minion of mediocrity.
“It is okay, Will” said Steve, “I will wait outside for you. Good luck and don’t forget to go to the bathroom and wash your hands if you need to.”
Steve left and somebody took a Polaroid photograph of me and the girl gave me some papers to fill out.
The papers had questions like:
“Do you know anybody who works for NBC? Have you ever worked for NBC? Do you have any relatives who have ever bought Nabisco products? Do you use Exxon oil? Do you have any friends or have you yourself ever worked for RJ Reynolds, NBC, Exxon, or Nabisco? Have you appeared on TV in the last 5 minutes? Do you have any parents that have bought stock in NBC? Do you have a sister that sucked the cock of anybody at NBC? Would you have any problem living in a house with a bunch of talentless jackoffs? If so, please explain.”
I finished the questions and gave them back to the girl. Then she led me backstage.
“Can I have some water?”
Water was given to me. It was ordinary New York tap water poured into a bar glass. I drank that and asked for another. I drank that one and asked for another. They gave me a third one and I drank it slowly.
A girl was waiting to go on before me. I listened as she was called out to audition. I heard her do a joke about myspace and meeting guys on the internet. I heard laughter from the judges. Then I heard them ask her if she would be able to come back that night for a second audition. The girl squealed like a girl–”Oh yes! Thank you! Thank you! I will see you tonight!!!”
“What a whore,” I thought and finished the last drink of water.
“Will Franken?” somebody called.
I came out and took the stage and began my bit. There were two judges. One was a fat woman. One was a gay-looking man with glasses. Both were in their fifties or early sixties. I forget which one was bald. Maybe they both were. The fat woman had an ugly dress on.
About thirty seconds into my piece, I noticed the fat woman was laughing. But fifteen seconds later, the gay-looking man with glasses started talking over me–
“Will? Will? Thank you, Will. That’s–”
But I would not stop. I remembered that I was allowed 2 minutes and I had not reached 2 minutes yet. Still, the gay-looking man with glasses would not shut up.
“Will, that’s–you can stop–Will? Will, that’s–thank you, Will. Will?”
He was really getting on my nerves, this mousy little cunt with the spectacles.
“Will? Please, that’s–you don’t need–Will? That’s fine–Will? Will?”
Finally, I finished my bit. “I’m sorry, I was finishing my bit. What were you saying?”
The man looked upset. “Thank you, Will.”
“You’re welcome,” I said and started to leave the way I came in.
“NO!!!!!” shouted a stagehand, “FOR GOD’S SAKE, MAN!!!! DON’T GO OUT THAT WAY, WHATEVER YOU DO!!!! THAT IS NOT THE WAY TO GO OUT!!!!!!! HERE! I WILL SHOW YOU THE WAY OUT!!!!”
I went out the other door. “Fucking cocksuckers,” I muttered to myself.
Outside, I met Steve. “Hello Will! How did the audition for Last Comic Standing go?”
“Fucking corporate cunts,” I said happily, “why do I even fuck around with these losers?”
“Oh, Will, don’t be like that. I am sure you are making a dark storm cloud out of a rainbow. Remember, it is always silver before the morning. A fool sees not the same flower that a wise man sees. Late to bed, early to rise, makes a man a meth addict. Do not despair, my friend. Think of the lilies, how they want not of food or shelter. Blessed are the open-mikers. I do not like green eggs and ham,” said Steve.
“What are you talking about?” I asked him.
“Why don’t we get some breakfast?” suggested Steve.
“Yeah,” I agreed. But then I had a thought. “You know what? They have a fucking loser’s reel on that goddamn show. I went to the website last night. They put some of the losers on a reel and mock them. Usually the ones who are halfway decent. Well, guess what? I’m not going to be on that fucking loser’s reel. They’re not gonna condescend to use my material for their mainstream horseshit!”
I started to go back inside.
“Will,” said Steve, “Where are you going? The audition for Last Comic Standing is over!”
“I’m going to make sure of something.” I said, opening the door.
The blonde girl was surprised to see me again, “Didn’t you just audition?”
“Yeah,” I said, “Look. I don’t know what that paper was that I just filled out. But I should tell you now, my name is Will Franken and I want you to know that you are not allowed to use my image or my voice for anything whatsoever.”
“What do you mean?”
“That paper I filled out? With all that NBC stuff? If you use my image or voice for anything, I’ll sue you. I just wanted to let you know that,” I said happily.
I left the building again. “Steve, do you know how much a lawyer costs? And how to get one?”
Steve and I talked about the law and corporations and the media as we walked to an Irish tavern on 10th Avenue where we enjoyed bangers and mash and hot black coffee.
And that’s what it’s like to audition for Last Comic Standing!