Comedy is a serious business. I’d like to think of this recap as more of a PSA than anything else, because this point cannot be stressed strongly enough. Consider it—every day, we come across people who think that they are terribly funny. We turn on the television, and there’s Carlos Mencia. We go down to the bus stop, and there’s that guy with creepily small hands who tells you that joke about “A rabbi, a priest, and Gary Coleman walking into a bar” yet again. We turn on the computer, go into the America’s Next Producer forum, and read the . . . wait, never mind. Only a MADMAN would do that. But, seriously, folks, if I’ve learned one thing in all my years of show business, it is that attempted comedy can have disastrous results. Check out this police report bulletin that I found. The names have been blotted out to protect the innocent. . . .
Case #114160038107: Comicide. Aspiring comedian [CENSORED]’s stage persona, [CENSORED], was declared dead approximately fifteen minutes after a private screening of the actor’s proposed show. An autopsy revealed that the character was, in fact, devoid of life at least six hours before the time of death. Probable cause? Brain cell loss due to shoddy writing.
One Hour Earlier. . . .
After last week’s elimination, it is apparently the first moment of downtime that the contestants have gotten since the very beginning of the show. The guys kick back with a little booze, the ladies kick back with a lot of booze, and for the first time since the very beginning of the show, all is peaceful. However, I’m not sure why they are so strictly gender-separated. Judging from the level of maturity that we’ve seen, perhaps producers, with their wild mood swings and unfounded feelings of self-importance, are just like slightly larger teenagers, and it is past their curfew. Suppress those raging hormones into submission! On the plus side, this does decrease the chances of a terrible contestant “Showmance,” though Zo and Sharon’s respective egos could come out and have a brief and passionate dalliance before choking each other to death like the animated flowers in The Wall.
Oh, whom am I kidding? There is absolutely no love on this show. There is, however, now an instruction from Ananda for the contestants to head down to a comedy club and check out two comedians. As Zo sagely puts it, “This might have something to do with our next challenge.” I, too, ought to grow a
soul patchphilosopher’s patch so I can make astute observations such as this.
The comedians, respectively, are Natasha Leggero, who puts on a faux-air of rich, New England “clam chowder” glamour, and . . . Brian Dunkelman.
Well, shoot, the rest of this just wrote itself.
Brian Dunkelman, if you’ve forgotten, was a host of American Idol in season one and almost universally regarded as a worse host than Ryan Seacrest, a man more fey than a bucket of Clay Aiken’s shower water.
“What’s the deal with airline food”-type comedy ensues, and everyone laughs so hard that it looks like their faces were fried on a rofl iron. Seriously, though.
One hour/day/week/lash from the cat-o’-nine-tails later, we learn that, indeed, these comedians will be involved in the next challenge. The contestants must create a three-minute short and pitch to promote a new sitcom starring one of the comedians. For this short, they will get two supporting actors, professional sets, and . . . a production crew! A collective cheer goes up all around, as there will be no more sore shoulders from holding cameras and boom mikes.
Sharon, the winner of the last challenge, picks Schliz as her opponent, hoping his lack of experience will spell his doom. The teams end up as Sharon, Zo, Adam, and Evie versus Schliz, Jessica, Daniel, and Gwen. Wait . . . Sharon, Zo, and Evie on the same team? In the words of Zo, “What concentric circle of hell is this?” Finally, it comes down to a luck of the draw for which team gets which comedian, and Sharon draws Natasha, leaving Dunkelman for Schliz.
Dunkelman for Schliz. It’s like a carnival game.
Told You I Was Hardcore
The teams are given an hour to brainstorm before they are joined by their comedian, and though Schliz is nervous about his first big sitcom project, things go quite smoothly for his team. And why not? He’s in with all the kids who don’t need Ritalin. Gwen does most of the script-writing, and their story presents Brian as himself, a young ne’er-do-well gambler who, upon finally getting into a celebrity poker tournament, loses all his money to Ryan Seacrest. It co-stars Jay Larson as his wacky couch potato buddy and Iliza Schlesinger as his girlfriend (he wishes). Brian himself loves the idea, and it’s smooth sailing from there on. Schliz is stoked about how his team works together, declaring that they rock hard, assumedly both in the Devin Townsend sense and in the geothermal pressure sense. (Oh, come on, folks, this episode is all about COMEDY!)
The Killing Joke
Sharon, in the meantime, has gathered together all the kids for whom Benadryl lollipops were invented—there is little mystery in how this will play out. After initial bickering about the storyline, which was enough to make Natasha visibly uncomfortable once she arrived, they finally attempt to create a hybrid plot composed of elements of several proposals. I know that Adam was pushing for bringing out Natasha’s stage persona, while Zo was . . . I don’t even know. His ideas were just as inexplicable as the last time, and I’d better enter the witness protection program if he reads this, because he will murder me in cold blood with an extreme close-up. After that, it’s time for delegation: Adam and Evie are writing, Zo will be directing, and Sharon will be napping. Yes, that’s right. Our fearless LEADER is taking a nap.
The chaos continues through the filming day, where everyone is screaming at everyone else for one reason or another, and when they run out of reasons, they invent some more and carry on. It’s what a producer’s gotta do. Natasha and her costars, Melinda Hill and Howard Kremer, doubtlessly all feel awkward being forced into the crossfire. I suppose the whole segment would be pretty funny if you cut out the sound and put in “Breakfast Machine” as the background music, though. Zo clearly fancies himself a Hitchcock, as he has a cameo in the short, while Sharon generally continues to just assert her authority as LEADER of this three-ring circus, pausing only to issue orders and tap on the set piece window like the vampire children in Salem’s Lot. Adam, overcome by the implications of being a member of this team, looks to the skies, running his hands over his eyes.
Ding! Dong!is Dead!Click to see Spoiler:a certain contestant who might be regarded as a “witch”
Approximately six donuts and three glasses of tea later, it’s finally time for the elimination ceremony. The judges are joined tonight by Robin (Robyn?) Shorts (Schwartz?), president of Regency. In other words, she’s a big shot, but she obviously didn’t warrant her name on the bottom of the screen. Conversely, TV Guide apparently believes that I haven’t yet figured out who David Hill and Matt Roush are.
Schliz’s team is the first to show their film, and it’s pretty entertaining! My personal favorite moment is when Brian says, “You might say that bad luck just follows me around,” and a set light falls over where he was just standing. Gwen also preceded the short with an excellent pitch, which had David laughing like a bloody loon right off the bat. The judges deem it “very good,” especially liking the pitch and the tone of self-discovery with which it sets up the proposed series. Heck, if it’s funny and Dunkelman learns some important lessons about himself in the process, how can you go wrong? Matt is concerned, however, that the “one-upped by Seacrest” gags could turn it into a one-joke show.
Sharon’s short, naturally, is next, and it is nearly as big of a trainwreck as her team dynamic was. The premise, I guess, was trying for a “formerly wealthy people who have lost their money are hilarious and deserve to be mocked!” sort of angle, but it was simply irritating and painfully unfunny to watch. The judges felt that the “comedy” felt forced, the lead character was completely un-relatable, and they thoroughly broke the “less is more” rule. The judges ask who was responsible for what during the challenge, and Adam points out that Sharon largely took naps. Sharon’s response is just shy of snapping her fingers in a “Z” formation. However, unfortunately for Adam, he did the writing, which was possibly more damaging to the short than Sharon’s napping.
Unsurprisingly, Schliz is the winner, and his happy team is all safe. Likewise, Evie and Zo will also be sticking around. As such:
Adam – Your writing was terrible, and, since comedy writing is supposed to be your strong suit, your career has basically just gotten chopped up, scattered and buried like poor John Barleycorn. Will you ever bloom again?
Sharon – You were the leader, but let the inmates run the asylum. Probably because you’re the biggest nutter of all.
Ergo, Adam is safe and it’s a wrap for Sharon. She leaves stating that she hopes this has opened up some doors for her, and, indeed, the exit doors are wide open. (Nice metaphoric imagery, there, boys.) Who knows! With Sharon gone, we might yet have a show that focuses more on the production process than having a big knock-down drag-out. . . . (Doubtful, but I am but a poor, orphaned chimney sweep. Let me cling to my dreams; they are all that I have left.)
So, there you have it. I hope you’ve all learned a valuable lesson about comedy, its risks, and the disasters unleashed when you misuse it (or fail to use it at all). Perhaps the best way to sum it all up is in the beautiful words of the sage brothers Gibb:
I started a joke, which started the whole world crying,
but I didn't see that the joke was on me, oh no!
I started to cry, which started the whole world laughing.
Oh, if I'd only seen that the joke was on me!
And IIIIIIIIII looked at the skiiiiiiiiiiiiies, running my haaaaaaands over my eyyyyyyyes. . . .
And I fell out of bed, hurting my . . . head . . . from things that I'd . . . said.
’Til I finally died, which started the whole world living.
Oh! If I'd only seen that the joke was on me!
So, basically, if you come across someone who is not funny, mock them until they cry. It will make you feel better about yourself. Or, better yet, just do them in. You’ll be well on your way to a more productive and fulfilling life. See you next week!