I have never been an avid watcher or fan of American Idol. If I do watch the program, it's usually one audition episode, one beginning episode, a few in the middle, and then the big finales. I watch usually because of my theater background. I find certain aspects compelling: the audition, the bootcamp learning, the competition, and the stage. One thing I learned from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts is that the world of performance is not easy. Sometimes it's not glamourous, and sometimes, it's downright cruel.
Over the last few weeks of the American Idol auditions, the judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and whatever the other guy's name is, have been getting a lot of bad press lately over their late nights, cruel jokes, and mocking of former Special Olympics contestants in the form of Jonathan Jayne.
While it sounds cruel (and in some respects, it was), here's what the Special Olympics had to say:
Kudos to Jayne for trying, but frankly, some of the contestants are just plain crazy.
"While polite isn’t a word one would normally associate with Cowell and company, a viewing of the episode in question shows that the judges were in fact gracious and very encouraging to Jayne during his rendition of "God Bless America." At one point, Abdul commented admiringly about Jayne’s spirit and advised him to "Always believe in yourself."
"Whether on the stage of American Idol or on the field of competition for Special Olympics, people with intellectual disabilities don’t want to be pitied. They want to be judged for who they are and appreciated for what they can achieve. American Idol should be commended for providing Jayne with the same opportunity to succeed as any other contestant."
I'm not condoning the judges in their sometimes vile remarks, but auditioning is not an easy thing to do. You've got two minutes at most (and sometimes much less time than that) to prove yourself to a director, an assistant director, a casting director, a stage manager, producers, etc., to prove your worth. Sometimes it's not a matter of whether you can act or not, but a matter of if you're right for the part, whether you are professional, whether you are known. Going into an audition, it's best to take whatever happens there with a grain of salt. After an audition sometimes, it feels like that salt has been ground into an open wound. Performance takes a thick skin, and if you don't have a thick skin, you better not show up in the first place.
Sometimes directors and judges are assholes, plain and simple. They have egos the size of the Grand Canyon, and like to throw their assholery in your face.
American Idol's casting directors, particularly Simon Cowell, can be assholes. There's no 'bout a doubt it. Think of it from their point of view, though. What the hell would you do after days of watching every crazy-assed, demented kook-wannabee Idol who shows up for YOUR audition demanding to be seen for two minutes and singing in alien costumes, butchering tune after tune and/or presenting some experimental claptrap not even worthy of experimental claptrap? (Disclaimer: I studied experimental theater, and let me tell you, I'VE SEEN SOME FREAKING EXPERIMENTAL CLAPTRAP IN MY LIFETIME.)
Now I know it's a dream of these auditioning folks to be stars, to be singers, to be seen. There's no 'bout a doubt that either. And as I said, the casting judges of American Idol can be assholes. However, if you actually watch the auditions, whenever a SINGER actually auditions, it is like hearing magic and it fascinates you and fascinates you. Hearing real singers sing makes you want to hear them sing more and it makes you happy. When you hear the crazy ones, you want to laugh, you want to cry, to want to scream, what the hell where they thinking in the first place?
When you hear some of the terrors that walk through the auditions at American Idol, can anyone blame the judges for acting like assholes sometimes? Yes, I know how much of a schmuck Simon Cowell is, but truthfully, I can't blame him sometimes.