Though I've written and performed hundreds of hours of sketch and improv comedy, worked on tons of the VH1 "I love the last five minutes" shows, and every episode of What I Learned From the Movies . . . , the belief that I am not funny and can't handle comedy persists in Hollywood. This means that there's an extra step in the audition process for me when it comes to comedies, because casting directors won't let me read for their producers without seeing me first.
It's a little frustrating, because I believe that my 30 years of acting experience and resume should count for something, but I'm a professional, I understand their reservations, and if the project is good enough, I'll suck up my pride and do it, well aware that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of actors who would do anything for the same opportunity that I would never dream of complaining about in a public forum like, say, a blog.
Yesterday, I had one of these auditions, for a pilot that had one of the more charming scripts I've seen in a very long while. I didn't know about the audition until I was in Oregon, so my manager FAXed the pages to me (how quaint! I'd left my computer at home so I wouldn't be tempted to work while we were /away.) It was pretty straightforward, so I did most of my preparation while Anne drove us from Ashland to Sacramento to catch our flight home (this makes more sense than trying to fly into Medford. We've done the math.)
I felt confident and prepared, and when I did my song and dance for the casting people, I didn't stink the place up. I got the feeling from them that I'm not the guy, and I probably won't be brought back for the producers, but the casting people were awesome, and created an environment where I felt like I was playing in front of the home crowd. I gave them my take on the character, got out of there before I could say something stupid, and really enjoyed myself.
This is something I tell actors all the time: you have to find ways to enjoy auditions, and as hard as it is, as counter intuitive as it is, you just can't make success or failure about booking the job. You have to make success or failure about enjoying yourself. You've got to enjoy the process of creating the character, preparing the audition, and then giving the people on the other side of the desk whatever your take on the character is. You absolutely can not go in there and try to give them what you think they want. The way you stand out, and the way you enjoy it whether you are hired or not, is to take the material, prepare it, and find some way to make it your own. Even if you don't book the job (and the ratio of auditions to jobs is something like 20:1 for successful actors) you've been creative. Casting people will recognize that, and even if you're not right for this particular job, they are more likely to bring you in for other parts, because they've already seen you take a creative risk.
This dovetails with some advice one of my acting teachers once gave me: auditioning can't be the only place an actor has to get the creative monkey off his back. Acting workshops, live theater, sketch and improv shows, and other non-competitive performing environments are vital creative outlets for actors who wish to retain any sort of sanity. Having these places to perform does more than keep your skills in shape; it should take some of the importance away from auditions, letting you get out of your own way so you can enjoy the process.