In honor of American Idol tonight, we're taking you on an exclusive experience of what it takes to go from "who are you?" to "your VIP table is right this way, Ms. Underwood." And surprise, surprise, auditioning for the biggest show on TV is just about as twisted as Jason Castro's dreads, and twice as long. Bet you'll find that even the nontelevised part of the Idol journey is still a helluva lot more entertaining than watching one full episode of According to Jim.
David Cook, American Idol Season 7

FOX

I’m sure we’ll get to know one another over the course of the next two weeks while Ted's away frolicking on a beach with a piña colada in one hand and a wedding ring on the other. But if there’s one thing about me you’ve probably picked up on so far, it’s my zest for belittling others (who deserve it—I’m no bully), which is why I’m so fond of American Idol. OK, David Cook’s smoldering eyes don’t hurt either, but my shared snarkiness with Simon has created a kinship betwixt us, I think. Either way, I’ve gained a new pop-culture obsession, and I’ve lost all my friends on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
Ashlee Simpson

Marion Curtis/Starpix

When the season-six auditions rolled around the Hell-Ay area back in '06, I bounced on the bandwagon and tried out. I consider myself a decent crooner, meaning that I definitely don’t embarrass myself when I pick up the mic at a karaoke bar (until I start sake bombing). And if someone with Ashlee Simpson’s pipes can land a recording contract, how hard could becoming a successful pop singer be?
I showed my sleepy self up at the Rose Bowl at 5 a.m., bringing along my nonauditioning companion who was kind enough to keep me company throughout the entire day-long ordeal. (I now have to drive him to the airport and help him move until the end of time.) It was the two of us and 8,000 other hopefuls in 100-degree heat, every single one of us shouting “I’m the next American Idol!” each time the producers prompted us. Honestly tho, folks, I didn’t really believe I was destined for cheesy ballads and weeping in front of a live studio audience. [Why did I think I'd ever become a serious recording artist like Ash? My older sister doesn't have a reality show or a pair of double D's!] What was I even doing there?

Then I saw a guy wearing a giant banana suit, singing Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” into a Gatorade bottle.

Oh, right—I’m here because I get to add this to my repertoire of ridiculous stories. Sounds good to me!

Courtney Love

ACE/ZUMAPress.com

Five hours passed. Then five more hours passed. My perfectly applied makeup had long since been washed off from the sweat pouring down my head. I resembled Courtney Love, on a good day.
American Idol

Fox

When it was finally my time to shine, the sun was beginning to set. A group of us were walked to the other side of the stadium, where 12 different canopies with one or two judges sat, none of them being Paula, Randy or Simon. Contrary to what ya see on the show, there were at least three levels you had to pass before you got the chance to peek into Abdul’s Coca-Cola cup and see what’s inside. But what if you had a job, or came from out of town and couldn’t stay for all the days it took to go through these auditions? Well, you just aren’t desperate enough. Which means you have no business being on TV!
I was put in a row of four. You stepped up, said your name, your song and off ya went. Nice and quick, which is ironic since American Idol is the most drawn out hour on television. The girl next to me—a stout, HDTV-unfriendly female, as well as the apex of originality—sang a Whitney Houston classic...and she nailed it. Me? I sang Fall Out Boy’s “Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner,” an obscure but good choice for my voice. I might give the Littlest Simpson a hard time, but I’ve got nothing but emo adoration for her fiancé.
I sang it loud. I sang it proud. I could already feel Ryan Seacrest’s comforting hand on my shoulder guiding me to the Couch of Safety. And then the one judge replied to all of us, “We’re looking for really polished singers this year, really amazing voices. Sorry."
I'd waited 12 hours in intense heat on no sleep to sing two verses of a song to some girl who had no credibility as far as I was concerned since she had never done a duet with DJ Skat Kat, and that was that.
But guess who did make it to the Hollywood round? Banana Suit Guy, beaming off my TV screen in all his yellow glory. Think of all the terrible singers and weird wackos who genuinely think they stand a chance—they’ve all been approved by FOX at least three times before their on-air degradation. 
Sanjaya Malakar

Frank Micelotta/FOX

But hey, at least I got to share my awful Idol truth with all of you. And for the record, I may not be the next Kelly Clarkson, but I wouldn’t have pony-hawked myself into a punch line like Sanjaya, the “really polished singer” America clearly wanted that year.
Jennifer Aniston, John Mayer

Nancy Kaszerman/ZUMA Press, Dan Herrick-KPA/Dan Herrick/ZUMA Press

Less reality slop goss tomorrow, pinky swear! And I know I’m the one with 700 words to write (carpal tunnel never seemed so imminent), but let’s make this a dialogue, why don’t we? Feel free to leave some of your own words in the comments so I don’t get so lonely here. Jennifer Aniston and John Mayer gracing the cover of the gossip rags on my desk make horrid conversationalists.
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