Tuesday, June 24, 2008

excerpt 04

(Excerpt # 4 fron "It Seemed Funny at the Time") rough draft

The Improv announced an open audition for a new “Farm Team” called the New Faces of the Improv. The audition was two minutes long in front of a large audience and the co-owner of the Improv, Mark Lonow. If you got the ok, you came back the next week to do another two. In the course of several months two thousand comics auditioned. I was one of the thirteen chosen.

I was excited and on track. I was on my way. I had been seen. But there was a nagging sensation of the realization that the comedians that I respected most, the ones I thought were the best, didn’t make the cut. The implications for what that meant about me and my craft stayed obscured for a while. I chose to not explore them.

As New Faces we received 50% off our drinks and food at the Melrose and Santa Monica club. We were encouraged to “Hang out” at Melrose. It was an opportunity to meet industry folks and serve as backups for gaps in the line up. We were not given spots. We were atmosphere. We hung out all night waiting for the chance of a late night set in the event of an audience remaining through the duration of the regular comics. This seldom happened. LA isn’t a late night town. It’s an industry town, and people work in the morning.

The Farm Team grew, as the auditions continued for months after their inception. The auditioners stacked the audience with their friends. The audition night had no cover, but there was a two drink minimum, and the drinks were 6$ each. Audition night was a good night for the club. As New Faces we received featured spots during the audition night. I bought a shiny green suit and did my best to prove that I was ready for the cameras. Off stage I sat in the back with my hui. Week after week Lonow rejected them, and one or two inferiors made the team.

Holtzman auditioned week after week. There were a few rules for the audition and he managed to break all of them every week. We started taking bets on how far he could make it into the two minutes before he transgressed. In contrast to the squeaky clean, made for TV personas, Holztman clearly terrified many in the crowd, which was heavily tourist based.

One Tuesday Holtzman took the stage seemingly determined to pull off an “acceptable” audition. He stumbled on his first joke, and then muttered a “fuck.” Rule No.1: No Profanity. Realizing that he had said fuck, he said fuck again, louder. Mark Lonow was shaking his head and taking notes as Holtzman let loose a torrent of Fucks. We were falling out of our chairs in the back because each fuck was different and seemed to be a spontaneous reaction to the fuck before. It was comedy for the comics and we howled and cried as he managed to keep it going. The unsuspecting people between the maniac on the stage, and we in the back were not in on the joke and some looked genuinely concerned for their safety.

I followed the rules. I hung out at the Melrose club. I met an industry person. She looked like a caricature of an AVON lady, She was an agent and she said she had an audition that she waned me to go on. It was for a show I’d never heard of called “Saved By The Bell.” I met the casting director for the show, read a few lines and landed a guest staring roll in a two-part episode.

I showed up at the table reading and the scripts were handed out to the cast. We were instructed to do a run through for the director, writers, and other assorted crewmembers. The reading began and people started laughing at the lines. I was confused. My mind started racing to make sense of what was happening. The script was horrible, but everyone was laughing. My first thought was that this was some kind of bloopers skit and I was the butt of the joke. My lines were coming up and I was looking for the hidden cameras. I decided to roll with it and played along. Ed Mc Mahon didn’t reveal himself after the reading. I moved to wardrobe in a state of shock.

You can see it in my face in my first scene. I can’t believe I’m delivering the lines. I had spent years practicing and studying the craft of Stand up for a live adult audience. I took a turn at the Avon lady and found myself in the seedy cul de sac of a laugh tracked teenybopper show. I would call it the worst show in television history if I hadn’t seen “Small Wonder.”

After the shoot I met the agent at the Melrose club for a drink. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, so I bit my tongue. She had been drinking before I arrived and dropped the fact that she had my head shot tacked to the ceiling above her bed. Then she mentioned that there was more work where that came from. I smiled weakly then excused myself to buy a half priced beer.

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