TV talent competitions are generally regarded as the lowest shared experience of human society. It's easy to think you're better than someone who texts in their vote to American Idol, because you are. That person is going to die alone, and it will only make Adam Lambert stronger.
But if you get over yourself, these shows have the most genuine hilarity on TV. Watching desperate people volunteer to suck... it's the greatest gift they can give us. True, unstaged failure is a joy for every part of the human mind. I've selected the 10 best from the premiere shows:
X-Factor, America's Got Talent, Britain's Got Talent, American Idol and American Inventor.
What makes a great failure? Aside from a terrible performance, each audition has to tell a story. A story of delusion... of irrational dreams that slowly, slowly get crushed as the judging panel's criticism eats through their fantasy world. It only sounds tragic on paper--when done properly, it's like a comedy dream.
10.Dave AllenBritain's Got Talent
One of the things I love about America's/Britain's Got Talent is that they only allow magicians on if they're terrible. And if the casting directors screw up and let a good magician on stage, the judges just fucking hate wizards anyway. If he knew this, he didn't care, because magician Dave Allen comes to them with one trick: Duck to the Future. It's a cannon with flames that shoots ducks through time. Which should be a big help for people trying to finally check off that last box on their scavenger hunt.
The trick fails in three ways: First, magic is supposed to make you wonder how it's done. If a duck impossibly teleports across a room, I'm going to guess I'm dealing with a duck look-alike, not a violation of spacetime. So if Dave Allen came to me looking for credit for his duck shopping skills... kudos, asshole. You picked out two ducks that look like ducks. I would have been more impressed you hadn't.
Duck to the Future? Is that a pun? You can't change the first letter AND the vowel sound in a pun. You might as well call it Magical to the Duck Trick-uture. Plus, what's wrong with Quack to the Future? That only took me 15 seconds to come up with, and I'm not even a homo. Did this guy decide to kill ducks on stage after he lost his job as a birthday card writer?
Third, he straight-up blows it. In what must be the easiest trick ever conceived, he puts the duck into a box under a cannon, sets off a crappy bomb, then clumsily knocks the lock off the box. So by the time he walks across to the duck look-alike, the first one escapes, unimpressively still in the proper dimension. I never thought I'd say this, but I hope he's having sex with these ducks, just so all of this isn't a huge waste of their time.
To add insult to failure, it cuts to crowd shots of black people laughing at him. As a cultured reader, you of course know that black people calmly remaining near you is the international sign that you're a shitty, shitty sorcerer. And I don't even know what you call it if one of them is so unterrified that he then picks his nose.
YouTube - Prepare your soul for Duck Cannon9. Ankar JudgeX-FactorX-Factor is a singing competition in the U.K. that allows nutbars of all ages to try out. One of those nutbars is Ankar Judge, part-time singer and full-size World's Shortest Man. He, in his own words, is as good as Michael Jackson, Daniel Bedingfield and George Michael. And there's one thing you can count on when someone says something like that--it's never not true.
Ankar performs "What About Us?" the song Michael Jackson wrote to make "Heal the World" sound more death metal. God rest Michael's soul, his song "What About Us?" would have to grow 50 mustaches just to be considered tough enough for a breast pump commercial.
Ankar Judge spent years studying the sounds of two-year-olds dropping their ice cream, and has incorporated this into his music flawlessly. He sounds like a chipmunk's vagina blowing its nose, and 80 percent of the lyrics is whine. Then, without warning or reason, he starts muttering to himself and jogs backwards to throw himself into the
It's crazy. Not only because it's a weird thing to do during a song about skinning your elbow at the pillow factory, but I know enough about religion to know that if a little foreign man starts chittering something under his breath and backing away from an X on the floor, there's a seriously good chance that the Destructor is about to emerge from the rune circle.
Ankar, after interrupting his own song, stutters as he walks back to his mark, apologizing for thinking it was a real wall. The judges are stunned. But Ankar isn't the type to give up just because there's a 30 second pause in the music and a conversation has started. Arms outstretched... KNEE PLANT! He smacks into the floor with such an incredible impact that I think he has metal kneecaps and the auditions are being held on a giant electromagnet.
The judges again are stunned. For 10 seconds, they talk about how much it must have hurt. Apparently, this is all part of the song because he tells them, "It really doesn't hurt." Now, after all this, you'd think he'd stop. But hell, why not sing the rest? So he closes his eyes... finds his womanly center... and finishes. Too bad the only thing left in the song is half a second of "nnnnghhhhh." By the time he got to it, it had so little to do with what was going on that if he was just laying an egg, it would be less stupid.
Ankar has a method--stick to the plan even after everything's gone to hell. And before he came in, he had the most awesome catchphrase worked out. Yes, he already had his singing career planned all the way up to his marketing catchphrase. Unfortunately, like his performance, he kind of fucked it up. He huffs off saying, "There's only one judge!"
Simon Cowell is a master of squeezing every little bit of crazy out of a person, so he asked "Who's that?" Ankar shouts from far off camera, "That's me! Ankar Judge!"
OK, so he screwed that up. Luckily, cameras captured his second attempt: "Don't judge the judge please! Because there is only one judge... because my name is Mr. Ankar Judge." I think it's pretty catchy.
YouTube - Don't Judge the Judge. Please.8.Mary RoachAmerican Idol
When we first meet Mary Roach, she calls her vocal style "Pop Rock meets Broadway meets Jazz and R&B--a very unique combination of all the three." So we know this unfortunately shaped woman isn't a math scientist, or the world's greatest explainer. I, however, have won multiple explaining awards and am happy to prove it by saying that she looks like Charlie Brown fell out of an airplane with a plastic surgeon and they quickly decided that if Charlie Brown was about to smash into the ground, he should do so as a woman.
After a vigorous warm up, she sang "I Feel the Earth Move," as performed by a chimpanzee neck losing a fight to a boa constrictor, only sadder. Luckily, she enhanced her vocals with the art of dance... a very unique combination of seven things: gluing your feet to the floor and begging a mob of villagers to stop throwing rocks. She also had a move almost like a nervous tick where she pressed both hands into her left hip. It's as if the dance was so weird that it was putting a strain on an organ humans don't even have.
When the judges were unmoved by her performance and my award-winning description of it being the sputtering death throes of a flesh golem in the wrong size pants, she had an easy solution: She could just sing in one of her many other voices. The problem is, those other voices were too busy clawing against the inside of her brain to sing, or to tell her it was over. So she instead started nervously babbling about how great she did. You could almost see Reality crouched behind her, inching in for the right moment to attack.
As is their nature, crazy people deal with rejection in unpredictable ways.
In her emotional breakdown, she issued a threat to the world that she may give up a singing career completely. And in what might also be a threat, she angrily settles on styling hair because that's what she's good at. The following analogy failed to even place in the regional analogue-offs, but I'm still going to use it: That threat is like someone with irritable bowel syndrome and a dog named XYZLPLP saying, "Fine! I guess I won't pursue a career in sitting on wedding cakes! I'll go back to naming dogs because that's what I'm good at!"
YouTube - Mary Roach, but she'll change it to Guilbeaux if she makes it to Hollywood. It has more "Star Quality."7.Dennis KeithAmerica's Got Talent
Magic has been waging war against gravity for years, and Dennis Keith has been drafted into it. He tells the judges, "I will demonstrate for you! My ability! In the art! Of self-levitation!" The only problem is that he's too fat to self-levitate without an assistant, and wait there's a second problem:
No amount of prestidigitation is a match for a lifetime of doughnut abuse. Dennis lays down between two folding chairs, and when his assistant pulls one out from under him... ta da-WHAM! Thanks for being a dick, science: fat people still can't fly. Maybe the magic part is that his lungs didn't liquefy when his torso slammed into the stage with the force of a thousand exploding hams.
YouTube - This Just In: Fat Idiot Levitates Badly6. Hector OrtegaAmerican Inventor
The contestants on American Inventor are a unique kind of failure. On American Idol, the kids are relatable. We've all pictured being a rock star, and it only takes one boy band video to support the theory that anyone can do it. Even if you've never hit a note in your life, there's a five minute window during anyone's childhood where you'd try out for American Idol AND expect to win. American Inventor isn't like that.
These people have been stewing in their own crazy for decades, driven by pet rock dreams. Right now, someone out there is making a helmet that screams for up to three kinds of help or a cannon that no duck can escape, and nothing in the world will convince them that they're not holding the patent this generation's cotton gin. Hector Ortega is that kind of man.
The years of inventing have not been kind to Hector Ortega. If local police ever get a report of Christopher Walken's week-old corpse rising from the grave, Hector Ortega will be shot on sight. Luckily, with the Bladder Buddy he invented, he can piss his pants discretely. It's the bathroom you carry with you!
The Bladder Buddy combines a suit carrier and pissing in a bag for an exciting public urination experience. It's a simple 917 step process. First, you have it with you. Next, you pull the Bladder Buddy out of its convenient tent bag. Third, apply it to your entire body. Finally, place your dick in a plastic bag and pee. With only your head exposed, it safely keeps your arms and hands trapped away from disgusted, punching onlookers.
Cleanup is a snap too! Simply store whatever urine made it into the bag in your hand while you begin the fun process of removing and refolding the Bladder Buddy. Oh, and ladies, he's thought of you too! Why walk all the way to the bathroom in those high heels when you can jam a paper funnel up in there and piss in a plastic cocoon where you stand? You filthy bitch!
Sadly, they didn't let Hector and his piss bag through. But I imagine on the way home, while shitting out the window of his moving car, he had his greatest idea yet: Autopants--The Toilet You Wear. It also holds two drinks and charges with a cigarette lighter. Sorry ladies, funnel attachment not included.
YouTube - Blah! Bladda Buddy! Blah!
Tune in Next Thursday for the gripping Top Five conclusion!