Part 1: The Process
On Saturday February 11, 2017 I became part of the cattle call of reality competition wanna-bes. I auditioned for America's Got Talent at the LA Convention Center. I left my house at 5:30am. Fought the morning storm. Two car crashes. LA parking. And found myself with a badge number.
Thousands from LA and surrounding areas were there. Moms. Dads. Friends. People in custumes. People who should have hidden themselves in costumes.
I was was lucky to have been called about an hour into the auditions. From the way it was explained to me, you meet a producer, perform, and if they like you, they move you to another room to perform for another producer. This process takes all day if they like you.
Simon and Howie are not there. That seemed to shock the people I met.
Part 2: Moving On Up
I was there in a room with ten 25-30 year old Adele wanna-bes. All with guitar in hand. There was a magician who did a weird nose and floss gag. Then I went. I stumbled out of the gate but got my mojo and had the room laughing hard. It was a good feeling. The room was a convention hall room. Not a club. No mic. No stage. This was like a pyramid scheme pre-meeting.
I sat down. I assumed it ends here.
The producer said, "Okay. Thank you everyone. Everyone but Paul is released for the day!" Wait. Paul? But I'm Paul! I'm Paul!
The others got up. Some became human puddles of mush. One girl asked, "Does this mean we aren't going to be on the show?" The producer said, "Sorry. No one here but Paul has a shot this year."
I was then taken to another room. The sweet production assistant said no one had made it yet, so she didn't know where to go. I said, "Ask another person with a badge." My fate was in the hands of an ill prepared 25 year old girl. Sounds right.
Finally we we found a room. I walked in. There was a camera crew. Two producers. This room was definitely not the last one.
Part 3: Parents Should Be Fired
Turns out I was in the right room but wrong time. The room was no longer a sea of 25-30 year old Adele wannabes. It was now a sea of 10-17 year old Adele wannabes. I realized this was not a 35 year old man's show. To be honest, I never really followed AGT. But they showcased comedians. So I went.
Eventually, I was brought in with the kiddos. One was a 10 year old girl whose father kept whispering to her, "You're going to win this whole thing." How cruel. She sang a Chris Isaac song about sex called "Wicked Game." The most erotic song of the 1990s. I'm pretty sure her dad's dream was being fulfilled. Not her's.
The next few girls were all terrible. There was a family that flew across the country to try out. Poor 17 year old girl out of tune the entire time. The redneck mother probably spent $2,000 for all of them to come out to Los Angeles. That's the first semester of books for the fall semester of college. Who told them to fly across the country? How cruel.
One girl was a 14 year old girl going on 24. Her father and two friends were there to support. She was just as mediocre as the rest. But I could see why they were past onto round two. Everyone there had a look. They'd play TV well.
I went. And the camera guy laughed. The producer laughed. The audience laughed. It was a good set. I sat down.
"Okay...I got some great news for everyone!" Oh crap, I thought. I don't want to be included with everybody! "I know you thought you would be here all day...but you were all so good I'm going to send you home before lunch!"
The girls cheered not understanding that we have all been sent home. Was I upset? Not really. I knew I was a long shot. But getting moved on once sparked hope.
Part 4: Final Thoughts
I knew that fame and fortune wasn't coming on February 11th. I knew that the real contenders have been already plucked by NBC executives from other deals. But parents didn't know that.
There were people that day who really thought they were going to win. They thought they'd become Hollywood's next big thing. And that's what made me sad.
The American Dream used to be the logical fallacy that hard work equaled success. Now The American Dream is to be the winner of a TV show.
Last Comic Standing
The Amazing Race
All promise to "discover" you. But what if there is little to discover? The saddest part is that parents make their kids believe they'll win. That's a psychological pressure that kids shouldn't endure. So many kids were cut that day. Their parents can now use this as a power play over them. Kids will quit singing, dancing, comedy, etc. because they think AGT didn't want them.
I'm conflicted about these shows. On one level I hate how they mock people. On another level they give people the "opportunity" to pursue a dream. In a weird way, if they were great, truly great, they could get on the main stage in prime time. It's just so unlikely.
As a teacher I taught Death of a Salesman. There is a line where Biff tells his dad he's not a special person. Just a normal guy. His dad, Willy, screams a mantra many scream through actions today.
That sentence defines our current generation. A generation of parents who believe their kids are more special than they are.
But what frustrates me is that these shows are what perpetuate the narrative that they are.
Paul Douglas Moomjean Blog's About What's on His Mind
Blogging allows for me to rant when there is no stage in the moment to talk about what's important and/or funny to me.