Less than 24 hours after advancing to the Sept. 9, Season Nine, finals of NBC's "Last Comic Standing," comedian Andy Erikson struggled to explain her emotions.
"I started doing comedy because I saw 'Last Comic Standing' (in 2003)," Erikson said. "So now, to get to do comedy on the show, and have a chance to win it this year, is nuts. I can't even describe it."
The 28-year-old Minnesota native, who with the other four finalists will begin a 75-show live tour that stops Sept. 19 at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno, tried again to describe the experience, making it sound like a scene from Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."
"Everything is kind of going up and down in waves," she said. "It seems so unreal. I'm having flashbacks to how nervous I was, to how important I knew every set was. I had to take my blood pressure a couple of times because I have a heart condition (Marfan Syndrome). "I was like, 'I might die. Should I just not do it?' But I was like, 'Aw, to hell with it.' It was terrifying. But at the end of it all, it's so incredibly exciting."
Now, Erikson's soaking up the love of her friends, family and newfound fans who have reached out to her following her recent success.
"I've been on Facebook reading all the comments people have left for me," she said. "I posted 'I wish everyone could be on TV, just to get everyone in their life to tell them how much they love you.' That's ... the best part."
Erikson advanced to the finals Sept. 2 with a four-minute set, defeating fellow comedian Ryan Conner in a head-to-head contest, with judges Roseanne Barr, Norm Macdonald and Keenan Ivory Wayans voting unanimously for Erikson.
It's difficult having so little time to perform with so much on the line, Erikson said.
"So many factors go into contests," she said. "I feel there's a lot of luck involved in it, so you just prepare yourself to do the best you can, get out there, give it your all and tell your best jokes."
Figuring out what works
However, even a comic's best joke carries no guarantees.
"Sometimes, you don't know what will work or not," she said. "Norm (Macdonald) didn't like my political joke, which changed his opinion of my whole set. You really don't have much time to practice your set, either."
All of which leaves little room for error. Fortunately for Erikson, her bubbly, doll-like persona (Macdonald called her "cartoon-like") pays off in those situations.
"On one of the earlier shows, I was so nervous I forgot my joke and so I had to become a cat in order to buy time," she said, demonstrating her meowing skills on the phone. "Luckily, I had that in my arsenal. I can just be silly. But I can't do that again. I can't just use different animals. It's definitely different performing in a competition than when I'm doing an hour headlining my own show where there's really nothing at risk, nothing to lose."
That's not the case now. While all five finalists already have received priceless exposure from the show, now in its ninth season, the first-place prize of $250,000 and a development deal with NBC is quite an enticement.
"It's completely changed my career," she said. "Now, people know who I am. I have more fans and more friends. I've met so many people during the show. It's been a great experience."
It's helped Erikson's newly released comedy album, "Secret Unicorn," reach No. 6 on the iTunes comedy charts.
Erikson plans to use her newfound exposure as a springboard into an array of projects.
"I want to try everything," she said. "I really want to have a show where I can bring me weird personality to TV. I think it'd be cool do 'Saturday Night Live,' or be a correspondent on 'The Daily Show.' Of course, I want to keep doing stand-up, and I'm really excited to go on tour with a bunch of my new friends."
Those friends are her fellow finalists Michael Palascak, Ian Bagg, Dominique Witten and Clayton English.
The "Last Comic Standing Live" tour is a chance for fans of the show to see their favorite comedians doing what they do best — being funny without being judged by their peers or pinned to a time clock.
For Erikson, it's a chance to show fans the full range of her comedic talents.
"I find humor in science, facts and animals, and then I try to find a way to make it funny and interesting without offending people," she said. "People ask me all the time if I'm as silly off-stage as I am when I'm performing. Basically, it's an amplified version of me. That's how I am when I'm joking around or hanging out with my friends. Basically, it's just me having fun on stage with a bunch of people who want to laugh. It's great. I love it."