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Topic: Advice for "America's Got Talent" Auditioners
Message: Posted by: Bob Baker (Oct 20, 2013 09:20AM)
Hi, all:

A friend who is planning to audition for AGT for the upcoming season asked what words of advice I might have for him. I'm copying below what I wrote him. I hope it helps any of you considering auditioning. (The references to make-up are because he is planning to do a character in make-up.)

Bob

1) It's not a talent show. It's a TV show about a talent show (Thanks, Tom Crowl!) . Therefore,
a) The producers are less interested in your talent than how they can use you to make an entertaining show. Whether this makes you look good or bad is inconsequential to them.
b) The reality of "reality" TV is the producers' reality. Almost everything is set up and pre-planned. For instance, Howard Stern's acting surprised to see me auditioning was a complete set-up. He knew a few weeks before hand that I would be on that stage. Exactly how it would play out was explained to me 10 minutes before I went on stage.

2) Being unique/different is good--up to a point. Several people criticized me for auditioning with my colon puppet rather than one of my funnier characters. But I chose the colon to get noticed. A doctor with a talking intestine puppet: that's unique. Indeed the executive producer told me that they chose my audition tape out of "tens of thousands" before they knew of my relationship with Howard.
However, know that being too different or weird can hurt you, especially if you take yourself seriously. If you watch the quickie montages of people they are making fun of, some of them are wearing weird make-up. So if you're going in character, there should be some aspect of your act that lets the audience and the producers know that you're in on the joke. Or, if you're going to be weird, have a GREAT trick to knock the smirks off the judges' faces (witness "Special Head" this year). Looking misguided by taking yourself too seriously will make you fodder for ridicule. I saw it happen to several people I auditioned with.

3) Create a back story that fits the producers' vision. If you've watched the show, you know that they put a lot of emphasis on the supposed "human interest" aspects of the performer. From this year: performer was gay; found acceptance in the "AGT family." Or 3 guys met online and decided to audition. Or father and daughter sing on the streets and now sing on stage for first time (last year, actually).
The back-story I decide to use was that if I won, I would donate the money to colon cancer research. The producers wanted none of it. They decided that my back story would be that I was tired of being a doctor and now wanted to pursue my dream of headlining a Vegas show. In the interviews I taped before auditioning, they kept questioning me and pushing me to say that I dreamed of quitting medicine and starring in Vegas. Remember, the prize they are offering is $1M + the chance to headline in Vegas. Make that your "dream."
On a side note, you will sign a multi-page agreement that basically gives away all your rights. Buried in there somewhere is a sentence that you give them the right to "fictionalize" your biographical information.

In sum, go out for it to have the experience. Have fun. But remember that your fate on the show, your public image, and your reputation are not in your hands. You can do well and still be made to look bad. (My friend comedian Jimmy Faila killed at his judges audition but did less well in Vegas. AGT didn't even show his successful NY spot; they just showed him bombing in Vegas.)

Good luck, and be sure to have fun.
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Oct 20, 2013 11:25AM)
Thanks for sharing Doc...
Message: Posted by: Aussie (Oct 20, 2013 02:08PM)
So the gist of it is people who are struggling to claw their way into the entertainment industry needn't bother with these so called talent TV shows because the only reason they're there is to fluff up the careers of the judges who are already well established. Terrific! :thumbsdown:
Message: Posted by: Ba Ba Booey (Oct 20, 2013 05:44PM)
It's all about exposure.
Message: Posted by: KeithS (Oct 20, 2013 05:46PM)
Hi Bob,

I appreciate your fascinating insights into this process. It kind of confirmed what I've suspected about shows like AGT - shows about talent shows. While AGT can be a springboard for bigger and better things for an extremely tiny minority (as show biz is generally), it seems more of a dysfunctional forum for ridicule and voyeurism. I don't fault anyone for trying his or her luck, but I think anyone doing so would benefit from your advice of simply going in there to have a fun experience. Not that I'm even contemplating auditioning, but I'd be way too uncomfortable with so much of the process, especially how I would be presented, being out of my control. I am more interested in shows like AGT as a cultural phenomenon. I've enjoyed a number of the acts on AGT and the like, but I think all the other stuff you mention says something about contemporary society and human nature.
Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Oct 21, 2013 06:29AM)
You nailed it on the head, Bob! Thanks.
Message: Posted by: Zuke (Oct 28, 2013 02:14AM)
That is spot on Bob. It is of course the same with Australia's Got Talent. I have a magician friend who always did comedy magic, probably for 20 years as a pro and for the last year or so he moved into just pure stand up comedy and he was killing and I mean killing it. I saw him probably 3 or 4 times in a variety of gigs (good and bad) and he killed every time. AGT approached HIM and asked if he'd be interested in coming on, actually originally someone from Fremantle media contacted him and said they'd seen him and would like to discuss several upcoming TV comedy shows...well that was all BS, it was just AGT.

Anyway, he had to submit his set and they kept getting him to change it (keep in mind he doesn't do any blue material at all) so in the end he wasn't left with his strongest material but I've still seen these gags get great laughs. Then when they interviewed him they really coached him into saying things to make him look like an idiot. For example they asked if his mother and father always told him he was funny and they told him to phrase his answer as a statement rather than an answer to a question. He just talked about how all of his experience in entertainment had been based in comedy etc. but they weren't happy and kept pushing him about his mother and father saying he was funny. In the end they just flat out told him to say that his mother and father always thought he was funny.

When he walked on stage the first thing they asked was what he was going to do and when he answered stand up comedy they all groaned, GROANED! Who groans when they're about to see comedy? It was definitely all set up, coached and predetermined. He was set up for a fall and them made him look like a right fool. He took it extremely hard too unfortunately. I never really liked these sort of shows anyway but after hearing his stories I find them beneath contempt.
Message: Posted by: Aussie (Oct 28, 2013 04:06AM)
Zuke I totally relate to your friends experience. I too have been approached several times by Fremantle Media on behalf of Australia's Got Talent and they used a similar premise as you described. The first thing they asked me was "what's your back story?" I told them I've been a vent for many years and have worked mostly overseas before returning to Sydney. They weren't interested in that and wanted to know if I had some type of "unusual" background story". I refused to buy into that but they kept pushing me, asking me if I was a lonely person, did I have a good relationship with my family and even whether I am gay or straight.

I'm certainly very surprised to see Darren Carr on AGT, but last week I met a TV celebrity who was working at the same gig I was and he knows Darren. According to him Darren was extremely stressed by the misdirection AGT were heading him in, but with less bookings took it on for the free TV exposure. Unfortunately it seems to be having the opposite effect such is the status of AGT to well paying clients. Once AGT brand you it's very difficult to escape that.
Message: Posted by: Bob Baker (Oct 28, 2013 07:44PM)
Fascinating stories, Zuke and Aussie, and very much in line with my AGT interview experiences. [i]They[/i] decided that my background story was that I wanted to give up my career in medicine and pursue my "dream" of headlining a Vegas show. In my pre-audition interviews they kept pushing and pushing me to say that with different questions all in the same vein. This went on for 40 minutes. Fortunately, I never gave them what they wanted. I did say that I was incredibly excited to be on AGT, and that's what they used.

Bob
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Oct 28, 2013 11:50PM)
I hope you guys and gals don't mind if I share my experience in our local TV talent show..

I joined a local TV talent show about 4 years ago and won 5 consecutive weeks, earning for myself the title "Hall of Famer."

I joined after doing ventriloquism for only 1 year... in other words, I was an amateur ventriloquist when I joined. As a newbie vent, I felt that I had nothing to lose but everything to gain. The exposure will help my career and the experience will give me more confidence. Fortunately, I did win... and the rest so they say was history. :bigsmile: I got TV gigs as a ventriloquist and puppeteer. My bookings doubled... and I became famous. (Okay not Justin Bieber famous)

I think newbie vents have nothing to lose but everything to gain... but for pros, like most of you, it could be risky.

My two cents worth :)
Message: Posted by: Aussie (Oct 29, 2013 01:33AM)
Good for you Wanlu and that may well be for a local talent show, but AGT uses a formula which it exports to all it's shows around the world.
Message: Posted by: wizardpa (Oct 29, 2013 07:27AM)
I had given up a long time watching the show. The acts I thought were good they'd vote off, and the stupidest acts were put through.

I'd think; "would I want to see this in Vegas?"

I'm exaggerating somewhat but, I'm not interested in seeing a 3 year old girl singing, and the judges love her!
Message: Posted by: darrenc1 (Oct 29, 2013 07:55AM)
Ok Aussie. First off, please don't listen to what some "tv celebrity" (a name would be good) says and then post it without checking the facts.

I was never stressed about "the misdirection they were heading me in". They were not heading me in any direction. I was a little stressed about the added pressures that comes with doing material that isn't tried and tested. My usual corporate stuff wouldn't work for a family oriented 2 minute TV spot and once I had that spot sorted, I wouldn't have a family audience to try it out on.

I knew all this would be part of the process, along with the backstory stuff, and the negativity from various people, but I had lengthy conversations with various agents, performers who have done the show and some who haven't, and family and decided to give it a go. It seemed to work out ok for Terry Fator!

Secondly, I certainly didn't NEED to do AGT. They have called me every year since it started asking for me to audition (as they do with hundreds of other acts) and I thought this year I would give it a try, purely to gain some public awareness after being stuck in the corporate market for the past 10 years. This has worked as I have now booked in six "public" shows for early next year and more are planned. Also, it has not harmed my corporate bookings as you suggested, but has had the opposite effect. My bookings have increased to a point where I'm knocking back work and I have increased my fee due to the demand.

To add to this, AGT have now asked would I be willing to perform (fully paid) on the Grand Final as a "special guest" due to the feedback they have received since I was eliminated.

Next time you want to post about someone else, try talking to them first to check your "facts".

Cheers,
Darren Carr
Message: Posted by: Aussie (Oct 29, 2013 03:33PM)
Thanks for the clarification Darren.

It's been great watching you on AGT and congrats on being asked to perform on the Grand Final night and getting paid for it too :) I didn't realise the contestants got paid to perform.
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Oct 29, 2013 08:50PM)
Darren has a point about public awareness... before I joined our local TV talent show, my usual gigs were in kiddie birthday parties. After the contest I found myself performing in countless town fiestas (local town celebration) school shows, product launchings, mall shows, political campaigns, weddings, international puppetry festivals ... etc etc. :)
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Oct 29, 2013 09:35PM)
Darren has a point about public awareness... before I joined our local TV talent show, my usual gigs were in kiddie birthday parties. After the contest I found myself performing in countless town fiestas (local town celebration) school shows, product launchings, mall shows, political campaigns, weddings, international puppetry festivals ... etc etc. :)