“Contests are bullshit.” – Duane Goad

I met Duane Goad during my first year in comedy as he hosted the “Funniest Person to Drive through Totem Lake” Comedy contest at Laughs in Kirkland. He was a great host and making lots of jokes about how “this contest is a big deal” and “The winner moves on. The loser … CAN NEVER DO COMEDY AGAIN!” Using his sarcasm to show that it’s not a big deal didn’t prevent me from being upset that I didn’t advance. I hung out and talked with him for a while. He told me that he thought I should have advanced. Later he told me he probably tells that to everyone. Then later he told me he actually meant it though. So I have no idea where that leaves us.

When he signed the book he wrote that “Contests are bullshit.” I was honestly disappointed at first. I thought he was just being a bitter guy because maybe he never won one or whatever. I was like that’s not even great advice. Didn’t I already mention how things don’t always make sense when there’s no context? After another year in the game and a couple more contests under my belt. Contests are all bullshit. Only one person ever leaves a contest happy.

This comes from guys who have won them too. So don’t think it’s just because I lost. Allow me to explain. Different contests are judged differently. Some are audience votes only. Some are a panel of judges only. Some are a combination of both. Either way you put it, nobody is ever happy. If it’s a judged contest, it’s because this guy automatically hates me, This guy has a favorite, this guy doesn’t understand comedy. Another problem is the order. If they have to rate you on a scale of 1-10 on certain things. And you’re the first guy. What do you have to base it on. Maybe he gave a 10 performance compared to the other comics but they only gave him 8′s. It’s just impossible to judge fairly to every person.

If the contest is judged by audience vote. Nothing is stopping a person from stacking the audience. That means sometimes the best comics don’t advance. Which makes everyone unhappy except the person who won. The other downside of a contest is it will turn you against other comedians who are your friends. You suddenly find yourself rooting against a guy who you actually like.

Order is sometimes a cause of controversey as I mentioned earlier. Going first can always be tough, Sometimes going last gives you a tired audience. Sometimes following a certain act can be tough. A headliner friend of mine, Gabriel Rutledge, told me the first time he had to do the San Fransisco contest he had to follow a specific guy twice out of fives times. Both times he had gotten standing ovations. How do you follow that?

To win a contest you got to get really lucky with the audience, with the judges, and with the order.