On Friday the 13th of November, I began my journey to Queens, New York. Mom came along, because she wanted to see the city. We stayed in the Super 8 on North Conduit. We were either in or near an area called Jamaica.
On Saturday began the journey to the tryout. I drove out to Queens College. I was suspecting with the tryouts, there would be police and others directing traffic to parking. But, I didn’t see any. I guess that was good, because according to the information I had, parking was going to cost $10. I found Melbourne, which was one of the streets AGT had given as a place to park. So, we parked and then walked up a sidewalk next to a long, tall, cement wall until we found the college entrance. I asked someone where the dining hall was, since that’s where tryouts were. We began our journey, somewhat dazed and confused, across the campus trying to find the landmarks from our directioneer. Yes, I made up the word “directioneer”!
I saw a group coming across campus in matching uniforms—white shirts, black ties, red scarves and matching jackets. So, I asked if they were going to the AGT tryouts. Since they were, we stuck with them as we tried to find our way. They were a group called “Dangerous Signs”. They did some sort of synchronized, sign language act. I’m not sure what that entails, but they were super nice.
Someone saw the line and we headed towards it. After asking a few questions, we were directed where to go. We stood in a short line outside that wrapped around the outside of the dining area. They had a long area marked off. I jumped the police tape, since the line wasn’t long at that time. It was around 9:00 a.m. I imagine later in the day that line was longer. After asking a few people, I showed my AGT ticket, showing preregistration. They gave me a purple wristband and my identification sticker. Mom, as well as any guests, was given a yellow wristband. We were then directed to the doors where we entered. Carousels were set up that winded back and forth to the registration tables.
Before getting in that line, I was frisked by the NYPD. There were quite a few police officers around. I’m not sure if that had anything to do with AGT or if police presence was on high alert due to the recent terrorist attacks in France.
So, the journey through the carousels began. Fortunately, the line moved pretty quickly. While in line, mom and I had a chance to talk to some of the other acts. We were in line not far behind Dangerous Signs. I hope they make the show! We spoke to a fellow who was maybe in his 50’s or early 60’s. He had a cool, white hat. He was going to sing, “That’s Amore”. Apparently a friend of his convinced him to come try.
We spoke to a young lady who was going to sing. I’m guessing she was around twelve or thirteen years old. She had strange eyebrows—painted on with eyebrow pencils like older ladies do. I didn’t say anything about the eyebrows. Behind us was a tall, black guy with a thick head of hair—almost an afro, but not quite. He was with a friend, who was also trying out as a singer. We started talking to them and she notified me that she thought I had a booger. After checking, no booger was found. Apparently, I had some wild nose hair with a booger-like appearance. There were several booger jokes exchanged.
While in line, I heard some beat boxing. He sounded pretty good. I’m not sure how people make all those sounds.
We didn’t see anyone that looked too crazy in line. I was somewhat suspecting to see a guy on roller skates in a chicken suit. But, nothing that crazy. There were a few unusual looking people I saw later.
At the front of the line, we waited until directed to the registration table, which were actually several tables set up. The young lady we spoke to had a computer open. I showed her my pass after taking her picture. I had everything printed out, but she found me in the computer and things went pretty quickly. She also spoke with mom. I think mom needed to fill out a form or something. I was given a few pieces of paper stapled together with my preregistration ticket. On the front was a questionnaire to fill out. We were directed to a large waiting area, where I was supposed to fill out the form and just wait. They said there were pens. I didn’t see anyone handing out pens, but saw a deserted pen on a table, which I snatched. Hopefully it was deserted.
The form asked things like name, age, place of birth and residence, how long and how you learned your act, what other talents you have, occupation, what are your dreams, what obstacles have you overcome in reaching your dreams, and who is your biggest supporter. I hope they could read my writing, since I was writing with my paperwork supported on a few folded up magazines mom had in her purse.
I suspect the large area was probably the college cafeteria. There were hundreds (maybe even a few thousand) people in there—some seated, some practicing and some eating snacks. There was a Nathan’s hotdog. I think there may have been some vending machines somewhere, since people had pops and waters. After sitting for a while, I went to use the restroom. I saw a guy in there putting some sort of red body paint on his chest. I didn’t take a picture, because there’s a creep factor snapping a picture in a busy men’s room.
The room was pretty noisy, with some just sitting, some practicing and some milling around. There was a guy that would occasionally stand on a small platform up front and give announcements.
I wandered around a while and took some pictures. I saw my friend that was going to sing, “That’s Amore”, so I snapped a few pictures of him. There were some cute little girls in red dresses. I suspect they were doing some sort of Latin American dance act, but who knows. One lady had something that looked like a small candelabra. I have no idea what she was doing.
There were some young ladies singing behind us—unfortunately, off key at several points. In front of me, a guy had a table. He had a few cups and a few other things set up. He had two pens and was doing some sort of drumming act. At points, it sounded really good.
Mom saw a guy in blue hair. She directed me to him, since I was taking pictures. There he was, the guy with the body paint in the bathroom. He was wearing blue hair and had a bare chest with some sort of red body paint. It didn’t look like his body-painting job was complete.
Across the room was a guy singing and playing an instrument. I think he was doing some sort of one-man-band act. He sounded pretty good.
All through this whole process, I was running my lines through my head for my standup comedy act.
To the side of the waiting room, was a line composed of the numbers they were calling. When they called 850 and below, I was pretty excited, since the last three of my ID sticker was 870. After a while, they said 900 and below was coming up. Mom suggested we make our way closer to the line.
We spoke to one of the helpers, who thought I was in line. I said I was in the next group. He directed me to get in line right before the guy called 900’s and below. I suspect getting near the line early saved about a half hour.
Everyone was notified that after that point, there would be no videotaping, photography or food. Anyone found doing that would be disqualified. I so wanted to take pictures, but I couldn’t.
A helper split off the group shortly behind us, and our group was told to follow each other to the next area. We walked through an area cordoned off that was in the same room as the people snaking their way to the registration table. I felt like a big shot looking at those poor fools in line.
We went to another, smaller waiting room. You could occasionally hear a singer or instrument in the next room. People were cutting back and forth through this room. One group came in with some instruments. They were told to get their instruments out and ready. Once guy had a beat-up, silver-colored sousaphone. One guy had a large saxophone. Someone had what looked like a clarinet. When they went in the room, you could hear a little bit of what they were playing, which was some variation on a Michael Jackson song. They sounded pretty good.
I ended up talking to a guy that was playing guitar. He had a small amp and stomp box. I think he was from the Baltimore area. He was a little ornery. He said, “Nice legs”, to a guy that walked by in high heels with shaved legs. He did have rather muscular legs. I’m not sure what he was doing, but he entered the audition room.
The AGT helper was trying to keep a path clear in the middle of the room. He would also occasionally tell us to keep things down, as apparently they could hear us in the audition room. I spoke with him a little. He was a local hire. He said they had about 1600 RSVP’s for the tryouts and that tryouts would probably run to eleven or midnight. The tryouts closed at 7:00 p.m., but I assume they still had many in line at that point.
There were several acts in the waiting area. One guy was about fourteen and wearing a suit. There was a teenager with a guitar. Throughout the whole process, I saw countless people carrying guitars. There were some young girls and a kid with his mother. Only one guardian was allowed in the audition room with minors.
Anyhow, eventually we were let into the audition room. It was probably about fifteen feet by twenty feet. Up front a few tables were set up with a laptop and various papers. Occasionally an AGT person would wander in. Those trying out sat in folding chair lining the sidewalls of the room. I was seated right above a power strip, which apparently ran to various equipment. In the back corner was a speaker, microphone, keyboard and bench set up. Behind the desk was a lady, maybe in her late twenties or early thirties. I think she was the producer lady for that audition room. Beside her was a guy with a video camera. She told us that when she called us, we would walk to the X (which was just an X made out of green tape), give our name, age, where we’re from and what we’re doing. Then, we would perform. She said we didn’t need to stand on the X, but could walk around if needed. She told everyone to keep things clean and that she would stop us at ninety seconds. Actually, I think she let some of the kids go a little longer. She also said she would be taking notes.
As she called, people performed. It’s a little hard to remember exactly what everyone did, since I was running through my act in my mind. Several younger ladies sang. One girl had a strong voice. One didn’t project well and could barely be heard. One young lady sang and played piano. There was a young man, I think fourteen, that played guitar and sang. His playing was excellent and his singing was solid. He was seated right next to me, so I gave him a fist bump after his act. After each act, all the people trying out gave each other applause.
One kid had a harmonica with a neck band. When he was called, he did his act at the keyboard. He did Billy Joel’s Piano Man. He could sing. His keyboarding and harmonic playing was also strong. So, I suspect he makes it. I gave a thumbs-up. If you see a young (maybe ten-year old) Asian kid doing Piano Man, you heard it from me first.
The fourteen year old in the suit was a magician. He did a card act. He went up to the table with the producer lady and did a close-up act. I couldn’t tell for sure what he did.
Eventually they called me. I really let it fly, giving my act a ton of energy. The producer lady was laughing at several points. I could also hear people behind and to my sides laughing. She stopped me before I finished my act. I only had about fifteen words left, so I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to do my ending. I was using a ton of facial expressions and taking dramatic pauses. So, maybe I was at 90 seconds, but I think she may have stopped me a little shorter to keep things on track. One line in my act was, “Anyone wake up this morning and your first thought was, I hate my job?” I heard the producer lady respond something to the effect of no, not me. Usually, it’s a pretty good sign when the audience is so involved in your act, that they’re responding under their breath while also laughing and smiling.
When the guy with the guitar, stomp box and amp performed, he said he was going to free style. The producer lady said since he was free styling, that she would stop him at 90 seconds. He got a few loops going with his stomp box and then starting rapping. His rap wasn’t that great. This was an opportunity for me to read the producer lady when she stopped him. I wanted to see if his stop was different than when I was stopped. Her demeanor was different when she stopped him. While subtle, her demeanor was saying, “Okay, okay, enough already!” Mine was a positive stop. The body language was more speaking, “Okay, I’ve heard enough. I think you’re great!” It was just a slight smile and a positive tone in her voice. I suspect she noted to look at my video further, but that’s just my best guess. They only notify the people who make the show and that could be as late as April.
After audition, we left. A few of the young girls said I was funny. Their mom mentioned they were teachers and we’re kidding me, because one of my lines dealt with teachers having teaching disabilities. I told them I teach college and they seemed fine with that. We walked out and I saw the line wrapping around the building. It was around 1:00 p.m. We walked past a group in blue uniforms. I wished them luck. And, my tryouts were over.