Last Comic Standing is like American Idol for people who prefer sharp jokes about race, motherhood, and noisy vibrators over weepy covers of Whitney Houston jams. If you haven’t started watching it yet, you may want to begin by diving into the latest season (the ninth) to see Minneapolis’ own Andy Erikson absolutely kill it. Erikson cut her teeth doing standup on the local comedy scene before moving out to L.A. with her husband, fellow comic Alex Stein, to pursue comedy full-time. Things worked out well for her, as she made it to the show’s top five for the final episodes, winning the fickle affections of hilariously crabby judge Norm Macdonald along the way.
Now touring with the show, Erikson is stopping home this weekend to perform at Mystic Lake Casino. Come cheer her on with stuffed unicorns.
How did you end up on Last Comic Standing? What’s the tryout process like?
I did a few months of auditioning in comedy clubs in September, November, and January, and then found out last March that I was going to be on in May. When they finally aired the show in July, it had been almost a year.
[When I auditioned], I had practiced for a couple months. But when you move on, you have to quickly prepare another three minutes. Luckily, I’ve been doing contests and showcase shows and festivals my whole life. So I knew what to expect.
What inspired you to try out? Who are your favorite past competitors?
A bunch of people in the Minneapolis comedy scene have been on the show, like Mary Mack, Tim Harmston, Tommy Ryman, and Patrick Susmilch. They gave me a bunch of advice. I’d always wanted to be on the show and it was so awesome getting to see them. I also really like Amy Schumer, Cristela Alonzo, and Nikki Glaser.
Tell us about the judges. Who were you most nervous to please?
I was most nervous about Norm [Macdonald], because you never really knew what he was going to say or what he was going to think. You could have a really good set and he could have something critical to say. I don’t really mind that, though, if people are just being honest.
Being a judge seems just as hard as being a contestant. They have to constantly say things that are creative and inspiring and interesting and thought-provoking for every single comic. I follow Norm on Twitter, and you see people tearing him apart and he’s just trying to do a good job. The stuff they showed didn’t make him look as mean as he was, though. The producers told us they were going to be nice and try not to make anyone feel bad, but maybe he didn’t get the memo.
All things considered, it seemed like Norm had a particular soft spot for you. Did he end up mentoring you more on the show?
We didn’t get to talk to them at all. During the show, when he was giving feedback, I thought it was cool he was talking to me in general. I think he did like my humor, but he didn’t like the political jokes or when I talked about Kim Kardashian. But those are some of my favorite jokes, and I told them for a reason, because I am more multidimensional than a cartoon. He only got to see three minutes of me at a time.
Pleasing three people is hard in and of itself. I thought it was cool that he was like, "You’re a cat!" And when he said he loved my jokes and my one liners. Pretty cool.
Were all the contestants friendly or was there an "I didn’t come here to make friends" mentality?
A lot of us kinda knew each other before the show. The comedy world is really small. I’d worked with Ian Bagg and Michael Palascak before the show. Personally, I came there to make friends. That was my mentality, for sure.
Tell us about moving to L.A. to pursue comedy. Would you recommend a move like that to other Minnesotans looking to grow their comedy careers?
Yeah, I think it was definitely a good move. I was able to meet with people at Comedy Central. I have a manager. I’ve done more improv. I’ve gone on to work with different national comedians. The talent is just nuts. You move to L.A. and sometimes you’re on the same shows as Mike Birbiglia or Dane Cook. It’s really inspiring and motivating.
What are you trying to capture that’s new in comedy?
I’m excited about podcasting. I have a podcast called Stuffed Animal Party that I’m hoping to develop further. I also co-host a show called Punchline Punchout, where we encourage people to have new jokes. I want to inspire people to do different things and try different things, getting people out of their comfort zone is fun.
If a kid out there is watching and hoping to be the next Andy Erikson, what do you hope they learn from you?
I hope they learn that it’s okay to be different. I never really thought I would be a comedian. I was a weird kid, and I wore a back brace. I didn’t feel like anyone would ever love me. When I started doing comedy, I started liking who I was. I found this respect for myself, and this new confidence. I gained a new outlook on life.
Who are your favorite Minneapolis/St. Paul comedians?
There are too many to name! But Mary Mack and Tim Harmston are quite notable. They are local legends and they even officiated my wedding. They are both supportive of newer comics, and they are both hilarious, unique and genuinely awesome people. We have talented comedians at all levels in the Minneapolis scene. Last Comic Standing could do an entire season of 100 comedians all from the Minneapolis/St. Paul scene, and I guarantee it would be just as hilarious and entertaining as any of the previous seasons.
What’s the future of comedy as more diverse voices — and more women — enter the field?
Today, more women are trying it and sticking with it. In general, I think it’s harder for women to be in the world of comedy. You’re generally around all guys, and hanging out in bars.
Women have always been funny, but we're underrepresented on TV and in writers' rooms. People think women aren’t funny, which is absurd. No one says men aren’t funny. But I think things are changing, though. As more women do standup and have their own shows, more women will be inspired to enter the field and will be given more opportunities. I’m excited for the future of comedy.
Is a bus full of comedians different than a bus full of musicians?
I think it might be. Bands can spend a lot of time together without getting overwhelmed, but comedians need a little more time to ourselves. I rode on a bus full of musicians when I was in marching band, and it was great. We were all super silly and told lots of jokes. I think buses full of people are generally pretty entertaining. I love buses.
What are you most excited about for your show in Minnesota? How can your fans cheer you on?
I’m excited to have my friends and family come out. I miss them a lot. Even though it’s September 26, I hope it snows. I miss home, and I love Minnesota so much. Please bring me a stuffed animal and laugh at everything I say.IF YOU GO:
Last Comic Standing Live Tour
Mystic Lake Casino Hotel
8 p.m. Saturday, September 26