In August 2007, I wanted to be a stand-up comedian. I figured I was funny enough, as many naïve, overconfident first-timers do. I headed to Acme Comedy Company for its famed Monday open mic night, managed to get on the list along with a handful of other newcomers—Acme has always been accommodating to potentially untapped talent—and waited patiently for my moment in the spotlight.
Eventually my name was called. I stepped on stage and did… fine. I wasn’t terrible, but I didn’t exactly blow the roof off. I figured this was a pretty standard reaction for a first-time comedian and I took my seat, already picturing my soon-to-be successful comedy career. Then the emcee called the next newbie to the stage: Andy Erikson.
She was tall, quirky, and clearly nervous as she gripped a handful of notes. A small group of her friends sat in front of me, cheering her on as she stepped to the mic. Then, she completely crushed.
She rattled off a string of witty and weird one-liners with a delivery that sucked in the entire audience and fellow comics alike. As the red warning light illuminated, she panicked and raced off stage to thunderous applause and a tight embrace from her friends. Acme management was also watching and she was encouraged to come back again the following week.
That was the last time I attempted stand-up comedy, but for Erikson it was just the beginning. Fast-forward roughly eight years to the day, as Erikson stands on stage beside four of the nation’s best comedians, in front of an audience of millions of television viewers, as a finalist on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.”
Andy Erikson performs at Acme Comedy Club on Feb 27, 2014
“It was so surreal,” she recalls. “Being on ‘Last Comic Standing’ was a dream of mine before I even started comedy.” She had waited in the audition line at Acme several years earlier but wasn’t selected. And while she didn’t win the top prize, Erikson and her fellow finalists are currently in the midst of a four-month, cross-country tour, performing for thousands of comedy fans each night, including at two Minnesota appearances—September 26 at Mystic Lake Casino and September 27 at the DECC Symphony Hall in Duluth.
Though the country just learned that Erikson had made the finals only a few short weeks ago, the finale was actually taped this past May—meaning that she had to keep a massive secret for several months.
“It was so hard not to tell people about it,” she says, while doing her laundry on the “Last Comic Standing” tour bus. “But it was actually kind of good because I didn’t feel weird telling people to watch the show every week since I knew I’d be on.”
With her her new-found TV fame, Erikson is now well on her way to becoming a household comedy name. Her journey, however, wasn’t always so fruitful. “It’s tough when you tell people what it is you want to do when you aren’t making any money doing it,” she says.
After her successful first time on stage at Acme that fateful night in August 2007, Erikson began to venture out and try her material at dozens of other open mic nights all over town. She also began to create her own opportunities to showcase her comedy, including the uber-popular Punchline Punchout show that she started at Comedy Corner Underground with fellow comedian Trevor Anderson. The show continues to be a staple of the comedy communities in both the Twin Cities and Los Angeles, where Erikson now resides.
Finally, she got her shot at “Last Comic Standing” this past September after surviving the first round of auditions in Los Angeles. She soon followed that up with a second audition in October and a third in January. Then, in March, she got the call she had been dreaming about: she had been selected as one of the top 100 comedians to appear in the show’s preliminary televised rounds.
With lots of great comics and very little TV time, many incredible performers received little more than a passing mention once the final product was broadcast this summer. Erikson, however, became one of the show’s most recognizable stars.
“I got a lot of airtime,” she laughs. “That was really cool. They cut down the amount of time I was on stage along with some of the judges’ feedback, but I think they did a nice job of making us (the comedians) look good.”
Judges Roseanne Barr and Keenen-Ivory Wayans both had nothing but glowing feedback for Erikson throughout the show, while third host Norm Macdonald offered words of advice. “Norm kept telling me that I was funny,” she recalls, “but I needed to make sure my jokes were strong.”
Thanks to her unique material and delivery, Erikson soon advanced to the finals of the competition. While friends, fans, and fellow comedians offered support, she was also forced to deal with unforgiving Internet trolls who were quick to cut her down.
“It caught me off guard,” she admits of the anonymous online hate. “I knew not to engage with these people, but reading their comments just made me feel bad for humanity. Like they thought to themselves, ‘Here’s someone following her dreams. I should tell her that I hate her.’ But I also understand that for those people we’re just TV characters. We’re not real to them.”
Haters be damned, Erikson has continued to build her fan base on the road. She’s quickly finding that the same unique, quirky sense of humor that made her an Acme stand-out is connecting with other like-minded individuals.
“I ordered some stuffed unicorns and friendship bracelets and attached download cards for my album [‘Secret Unicorn,’ which was recorded at Acme this past spring and is available to order on iTunes or Rooftop Comedy]. I figured I might sell a few of them, but I sold out after the first three shows. I couldn’t believe it.”
Erikson’s husband and friends have pitched in to make more bracelets in order to keep up with the demand, which is a testament to the DIY mindset that helped her reach this point in her career.
“It’s so cool that they’re doing that,” she says. “First my husband said he’d make them for me since I’m on the road, and then he sent me a picture of a bunch of his friends helping too. It’s awesome.”
In terms of performing for such large crowds, Erikson is adapting quickly. And while the show’s winner, Clayton English, will be headlining the performances, she’s looking forward to her moment on the big stage in front of her hometown crowd. “I really hope a lot of people come out and see me,” she says with genuine excitement. “Everyone has been so supportive my whole career, and I think it’s really cool that I get to share this with them.”
Although her future beyond the “Last Comic Standing” tour is unclear, Erikson is excited to be living her dream that started eight years ago. “Any success you have (in comedy) is because of what you’ve done and who has helped you along the way,” she says. “I’m excited to keep doing new things and helping more comedians reach their dreams just like I did.”