As a comedian who often wears a suit and tie on stage, Portland, Ore.-born Auggie Smith is not the kind of guy you'd expect to see on Last Comic Standing, a stand-up competition/reality show on NBC. Nor is he the kind of comic you'd expect to find sandwiched between a bikini contest and Dale Earnhardt Jr. performing on a stage at Sturgis. But for Smith, whose rapid-fire delivery is often caustic and always cerebral (and who is a regular guest on the hugely popular Bob and Tom Show, whose Boise affiliate KKGL FM 96.9 Boise is sponsoring Smith's performance at the Egyptian), no gig is too big, too small or too ridiculous. His desire to hone his craft outweighs worries about who he's performing for or, more to the point in Smith's case, where.
Boise Weekly caught up with Smith by phone after a show in Louisville, Ky.
Boise Weekly: What's the weather like?
It's 100 degrees. They've been setting records all week and I'm glad to be a part of it. Why don't I book the cold places in summer and the warm places in winter? I just can't get it right. I'll probably spend my New Year's Eve in Ketchikan, Alaska. That's comedy.
Let's talk about your stint on Last Comic Standing. What prompted you to even enter? You see some big names on there, but I always thought of it as kind of the American Idol of comedy.
It's not that at all. In the final this year, they had Thea Vidale, who had her own show on ABC in the '90s. It's kind of become one of the few great showcases for stand-up on TV. I've experienced this with the Bob and Tom Show: When people get involved in your personal life, they're not just watching your act, they're invested in you as a human being. On a show like Last Comic Standing, when they see you offstage, too, they want you to do well in general. It's not just enjoying an act by a guy, it's "Hey, there's our friend. I hope he does well tonight." Doing good on Last Comic Standing is better than doing good at a [live] show.
I think there's some misconception about [Last Comic Standing]. Most of the name comics don't stand in line. They have appointments. You do a morning audition and if you do well, you get the nighttime showcase. They say the morning audition is two minutes, but if you get two minutes out, you're doing really well.
Because you get cut off?
Yeah, they cut you off pretty quickly. With me, Kathleen [Madigan] and Alonzo [Bodden, season three winner of Last Comic Standing] both know me, and they like what I do. So I got up and went into my act and ANT [Anthony Kalloniatis] stopped me. He said I was too "clubby." I actually had a plan that if ANT tore into me, I was just going to leap off the stage and attack him and see if the others would protect the queen. But I cowarded out. Kathleen and Alonzo kind of defended me and, in the end, said I could have the nighttime audition. Well, I'd been on the road, I had the 10 a.m. audition, I literally did not sleep the night before and that day, I didn't sleep again. So that night, I'm up 48 hours and I'm like some weird crack addict going in there. I was kind of racing through my material because I was afraid to go long. It was an OK set, but I wasn't asked to come back. Afterward, they're interviewing John Evans, who's also bald who also didn't get it. So I just kind of came up and starting talking about a bald man conspiracy at NBC for 10 minutes. I felt pretty good thinking that would make the show.
In comedy, you don't get to see your friends a lot because if you're both headlining shows, you're never going to see each other. I ran into all these guys I hadn't seen in a while and we started drinking. I hadn't slept for two days. I passed out at the bar with the cameras still on. I was dreading that was going to make the show. When the show aired, the bit they showed of me on stage is a setup to a bit. It's not the actual joke. And they only included a little of the whole long rant thing at the end, but it was good face time. Overall, I looked OK. I got more e-mails and Myspace messages off of that then I've gotten off of anything I've ever done.
So, let's talk about your gig at Sturgis.
Sturgis is this small town in South Dakota outside of Rapid City, which, by the way, is neither. There's this place in town called the Buffalo Chip. It's this big open field except for this one week a year where they build a huge stage, a bunch of vendors encircle the stage, and all these people pay a lot of money to camp.
That day [of my performance] I was in Rapid City looking at the list of events. My show was at 7 p.m., and they had listed, no kidding, Biker Comic. It was me, a lingerie contest, another comic, two guys doing dirty biker songs, Dale Earnhardt Jr. doing the world's biggest burnout, a bikini contest, then Velvet Revolver. It wasn't the greatest gig in the world, but I'm glad I did it. It's funny because I've been doing this long enough nothing's really going to rattle me. I was contracted to do 45 minutes on the Sturgis stage. There are a lot of comics who would have wilted and run screaming. But, you're not going to break me down. I'm Auggie Smith.
Sept. 7, 9 p.m., $15, Egyptian Theatre, 700 W. Main St., 208-345-0454, EgyptianTheatre.net.