Like many comedians, I have a number of problems with LCS. I share the usual issues that people have. A general discomfort with competition in the arts is one. After all, it isn’t sports in which a quantitative measure determines precisely who is superior in a given discipline. In the arts, there are too many factors that determine the value of one’s work. There is also room for many different views and interpretations. Another issue is that it is more reality show than talent contest which means many deserving comics are left out of the mix because finding the most “interesting” personalities is more of an issue than finding the best acts. Imagine if better athletes were cut from sports teams to make room for lesser talents who happen to have more telegenic personalities. The other issue is that, by definition, TV talent shows tend to reward the mainstream over the cutting edge. I think of Steve Shuster’s joke about Star Search as the only place where Quarterflash beats The Rolling Stones.
My issue with LCS above the other types of contest is the way in which contestants are treated. Based on the accounts of friends who attended the audition in Montreal and accounts I’ve read of other cities, I can see the producers are trying to replicate the American Idol model. However, there are some significant differences between the two shows’ contestants. Idol wannabes are a mix of singers and the delusional. The throng that crowds their auditions is made up of a small percentage of legitimate talent and a mass of fame hungry dreamers taking a shot at stardom. LCS contestants are, by and large, working comics. Granted, they may be at varying stages of development but they almost all have some experience. A “singer” goes in and sings any song by anyone. A comic, by definition, writes the material and performs it. That leaves out someone who wants to take a stab at it with no ability. You couldn’t go in and do Bill Cosby’s Noah routine no matter how you interpret it. To treat comedians trying out for LCS like the crazy losers who try out for Idol is a slap in the face. It also has the counter-productive effect of making a lot of top talent refuse to participate because they don’t want to be treated so disrespectfully. I also think of Ant, one of this year’s judges, who has taken on the Simon Cowell role to the nth degree. He is critiquing contestants in the bitchiest fashion. What he is missing is that, because these are working comics, he may well be on the road with some of them after his LCS gig ends (and it will). I would not want to endure the chilly reception he’s going to get from all those he dissed when he encounters them again while gigging.
I am not embittered. After 29 years as a comic, I have developed a thick skin and maintained a positive attitude. I did not try out for LCS so I have no axe to grind. However, comedians endure enough disrespect from the public at large and the general show business community. A show that purports to be about promoting comedians would do better to treat the talent as talent. It would make the entire enterprise at least appear legitimate.