Good evening and welcome...welcome back to FORT's Last Comic Standing Forum...
Before we go any further, can we all give a big round of applause to John who jumped in last week to offer up a recap while I was out on the road. Seriously...nice work there, John.
For those of you who are curious, I just got back from Lewiston, Idaho...and boy are my jokes tired. Heeeeeyyyyyy-oooooooooo!
But enough about me, let's get to this week's show...where we're finally going to see some people we've seen before--beyond Bill, Ant, Alonzo and Kathleen...
As always, we only have a couple of rules. Do not heckle the recapper--that does NOT make the show better, contrary to whatever you may have heard. Make certain your cell phones are off... And, of course, when you're taking care of your two-drink minimum (everybody's enjoying their Snapples, right?)--make certain you take care of your wait staff...
Hey, Keep It Going For Last Comic Standing: The pg13 LCS Recap
Episode Five: I Think It Would Go Something Like This (Part One)
Here's the deal, fellow FORTskateers... I feel your pain. This show has NOT been an example of the best of reality tv. They've spent too long on the auditions...they haven't given us any reasons to care about any of the comics we've seen...they haven't given us any criteria by which we can judge the comics that we've seen judged.
Hopefully, THIS show is where all of that turns around. THIS show is the semi-finals...and we've already seen all of the performers who will be performing tonight. And those who move on from this show are officially "on" the show. Those are the stakes...and let's see how it goes.
Honestly, if this show doesn't make us start to care about their cast members...this forum will end up being me talking to myself...
::tap, tap, tap::
Hey, is this thing on???
After the obligatory "here's what we did to get here" montage that rushes past with such speed that I assume that there'll be a more in-depth montage later in the show, we cut backstage for the obligatory "it's just before the show starts and every comic is nervous" scene.
Gina Yashere is ready to bring it and play with the big boys. Our good friend and FORT-member Joe DeVito says that he hopes to end up on top in this competition, because it would prove to everyone that he's "earned it." (Which, obviously, has helped Dat Phan deflect ANY criticism of his having been rushed to headline status as a comedian despite a significant lack of experience before being crowned the first Last Comic Standing winner...right?)
Once we're told that this is the first of two semi-finals shows (seriously...how much more can we drag out the process BEFORE the process, Magical Elves? I think you've tweaked the show so far beyond the public's interest in this competition to the point where if you intend to ever do this show again, you'll need some serious re-thinks into how you create a compelling television program...because I think you've blown it here...) we're finally Steadicam tracking shot-ted to the stage of the Alex Theatre in Hollywood, where our host Bill Bellamy is there, for a change, in person...and he's hyping up a crowd that includes at least one comedian who did not make it to this level of the competition.
We SAW you Lizzy Cooperman...we did!
Let's put the snark aside for a moment and give Bill Bellamy some props. He's SOOOOOOOO much better than Anthony "I'm made of cardboard and I sweat" Clark in this role. He's comfortable on stage, he doesn't look like Cindy Brady--transfixed by the red light over the camera--as Anthony often did, and he commands the audience's attention.
Speaking of props, Bill, in turn gives up some of his for the talent scouts...Alonzo Bodden, Kathleen Madigan, and An--oh, God... Ant's trying to take over the show while Bill is trying to introduce him. In the middle of Bill trying to find some nice things to say about him, Ant jumps up--interrupts him and shouts in his most queenish voice "...and I'm sexy too, heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy..."
And with that, I shut off the tv...vowing never to watch this show again.
And then I turned on the tv again...because damn it, FORTskateers need to know what happened and I'm brave enough to be the one to try and tell them...
...then, Bill introduces the guest talent scout: Tom Arnold.
And with that, I shut off the tv...vowing never to watch this show again.
OK, look...I agreed to recap this show for the FORT...but didn't anyone get the memo that President Bush has just instructed the CIA to follow the Geneva Convention in interrogating prisoners...AND THIS JOB HAS BECOME TANTAMOUNT TO TORTURE???
...and then I turned on the tv again, because I realized that Tom Arnold is not the worst talent scout they could have asked to be a guest...and when you're looking for small mercies, that's definitely one of them.
Bill then announces that the audience there at the Alex Theatre will once again vote for their favorite comedian...and that comedian will receive $1000 and a Capitol One No Hassle Pass into the finals... What ISN'T explained is whether or not that means that slot is one of the FIVE who move on to the finals...or if it is addition to the five that the talent scouts (with help from the producers) select...
And, again...the only criteria by which the audience is asked to judge the comedians is "who is your favorite?" Is the audience principled enough to make their selections based on a careful consideration of who made them laugh more, or who they felt showed originality and creativity beyond the others...or will they just vote for who seems nice?
The producers don't care...and I think that's one thing that makes it hard for the television viewing audience to care. I mean, at least with American Idol, Simon seems to care...and he gives us clear reasons why he might favor someone or not favor someone else. Comedy, I think is being proven every week that this year's season--which has been based on trying to make Last Comic Standing more like American Idol--is not singing...and it can't be (or, at the very least, ISN'T being) judged in the same way.
To get the crowd into the mood to laugh, Bill shifts into doing his act. Bill just had a brand new baby boy. He's hired people to "child-proof" his house with rubber. That didn't happen when WE were kids, Bill points out. He remembers when his mother let him burn himself on the stove.
Tom Arnold freaks out--because he remembers when Rosanne announced her recovered childhood memories of having been abused and thinks that Bill is going through the same process... Tom keeps thinking "Why does this keep happening around me?"
John Caparulo--the audience favorite from the Tempe auditions--says, backstage, that moving to the next stage of the competition would be really cool for him.
And, it seems like one of the Magical Elves is leaning on both of the "generic" and "obvious" buttons in the editing suite...because the appropriate response to what they've just included John saying there would be "Duhhhhhhhhh..."
Bill welcomes John to the stage--and in ANY competitive comedy situation, "biting the bullet" (or going on first) is always the toughest position. The audience really isn't warmed up yet...and the judges have nothing to compare you to... As the competition goes on, the audiences will laugh more easily...and the judges will forget what you did when they're comparing how the most recent person did compared to the person immediately before--which tends to inflate the scores of those who come later.
So...good luck, John!
(Assuming, of course, that John actually went on stage first...as those who have been to LCS tapings have often pointed out that the order in which contestants are seen on the show aren't always the order in which they actually performed...)
John attempted to dress up a little bit from how he looked in Tempe--basically, someone in wardrobe threw a big striped shirt over his white t-shirt and his jeans are brand new, dark and baggy. Hell, I'm thinking I should have tried out for this contest just for some new clothes!
John likes butter, so bite him. Butter makes everything better. He can't eat fast food any more because now he gets a guilt trip.
"You know what's in that?"
(Why is John scratching at his scalp during his set? If he had any hair, I'd have him checked for lice the way he's going at his head...)
John says that he once worked at a sub place (and the trip in his delivery indicates that if he weren't on national network tv, he might have mentioned the name of the sub sandwich shop he worked at...) People annoyed him there because people wanted everything on their sandwiches...including cookies.
And that's it for John. The crowd seemed to like him--but there's no way that the Magical Elves would ever give us a sense for who did well or who didn't based merely on crowd reaction... "There'd be no suspense, then," would be their response...which is an annoying habit of theirs--speaking as a fan of Top Chef as well, where they like to hide whose dish was actually favored the most through selective editing trickery...which, may preserve suspense on one hand, can be very frustrating as a viewer to never know if the "rug" is about to be yanked out from under you.
Back stage, Sarah Colonna looks worried, Spencer Brown looks wild-eyed crazy...and Debra DiGiovanni says that she could be the Last Comic Standing but that if she doesn't advance, she might have an indeterminate amount of ice cream. (And, if this were the UK, Ladbrokes would be flooded with guesses as to how much ice cream Debra would have...and I might lay out a fiver on "six pints"... Just a gut feeling wager, that.)
Debra DiGiovanni is up next...and for all of her nervous energy, she has a very confident approach to dealing with the camera always being in her face...and she gives answers to questions that are beyond the "World Peace" genericness that so many others do.
What I'm saying is that if the producers of this show were CASTING a show like this, and not letting the process be up to the fickle whims of an audience and a few talent scouts...someone like Debra would be a wonderful choice.
Let's see if her set, tonight, makes a decision like that bullet proof.
She goes after the LA crowd about their home turf--how hot it is, how naked the women are...and how where she lives, there's actually winter. "The season of sleeves," Debra calls it.
This approach is problematic...mostly because LA people don't really claim their city the way that an audience from New York might. And certainly the people watching at home don't have any ownership of California weather...
The Magical Elves (again, I'm prepared for a bait and switch here...as should you) leave the audience response to the level of "a bit muted" for her opener.
So, Debra dances. That's funny.
Debra then goes on the attack against the tummy shirt girls--saying that she waits around until the weather gets cold on the tummy shirt girls have to put on some clothes.
"And then, what are they going to do? Talk?"
Big audience response.
Debra then goes on to say that she's a "crazy ex-girlfriend" and not the "good one that got away." Again, this is an interesting choice for Debra--because what made her so winning in her Montreal auditions was how she came across as the crazy, undated cat lady who owned up to that--here, she's projecting bitterness and anger about others, including those who she's dated before... It's not as winning.
But again, I'm aware that this rug is not a stable platform.
Debra comes off stage all smiles saying "That was super fun." Meanwhile, other comics continue to go over their notes and look nervous.
This includes Tommy Johnagin, who says that when he's nervous--he shakes a baby...just a little...just until it cries... He says the sound of a crying baby helps him relax.
That's not "World Peace"--good on ya, Tommy.
Tommy Johnagin was the audience favorite at the Minneapolis auditions...and he's the next performer called by Bill Bellamy to the stage.
Tommy points out that he's not much of a fighter--which is something he learned when he was punched in the face, a lot, repeatedly. "This ain't for me."
Was that included in a preview for this show or did he do that in the Minneapolis audition show? And what could it mean if the Magical Elves decide to repeat a comedian's joke from the audition show to the semi-finals show? Does it mean that he moves on in the competition and they're really protecting his "A" material from getting burned on these early shows? OR...does it mean that he didn't have all that much good material...and they had to resort to showing the same joke over to hide the fact that he didn't do well?
(Or, it means that I'm confused--and that he didn't do that joke in a previous episode, but it may have been in a preview commercial...and now I'm raising conspiracy/editing issues for no apparent reason whatsoever...)
Tommy says that his beating left him with two black eyes.
"Which," Tommy points out, "...is the maximum number."
His approach to comedy seems to be offering a quirky way of looking at the obvious. HOW he says what he says is as important as what he's saying...
Continuing his story, Tommy says that another guy who was watching the fight felt sorry for him and came over to beat up the guy that was beating him up.
"I'm the only guy who ever fought a guy and came in third," Tommy admitted.
Tommy's dad told him that he needed a gun--as his dad has a lot of guns, including one gun that shoots up to 300 yards.
"I don't know a lot about the laws of self defense," Tommy starts out...and, with excellent timing that allows the audience to fill in the blank and anticipate where he's going with this, continues, saying "You may want to find a good lawyer if you pick off someone who is three football fields away from you."
As shown, Tommy's performance was quirky...solid...but not world exploding--which, to be honest, comedy is rarely world exploding...and we should all be thankful for that.
Coming off stage, Tommy is chewing gum... I'm astonished by that. Biggest night of his career, the chance to make it as a regular on a network television show...by being on a network television show...and he does it with gum in his mouth. I have some elementary school teachers who would be very disappointed in that young man.
Time for a quick commercial break... We'll be back in two and two.
Hey... Did you guys here the story about Jon Lovitz beating up Andy Dick?
I don't know whether to laugh...or cry...or wonder why they both couldn't have ganged up on Dustin Diamond...
And to answer Victoria Beckham's question, based on the premise of her reality "special" "Victoria Beckham: Coming To America" about "How major is that?" Let me paraphrase the legendary English rock star, Nigel Tufnel in saying...
"None...none more major."
Seriously, America only ever gave a good golly gosh darn about one and a half of your pop group's songs...and hasn't thought of you for a moment since (unless you're one of the people who visit the Awful Plastic Surgery website regularly, and then you've been confronted with the Posh Melon Dilemma from time to eye burning time.) And the fact that you're married to a fading star of a sports league we don't follow for a sport we rarely care about doesn't help matters.
Enjoy your stay in LA, enjoy your Scientology dinners with TomKat...but don't think that you're important, love... Ask Elizabeth Hurley...we just don't care about you the way they care about you back home (or else Liz would have been asked back for the other Austin Powers movies...)
Ooooooh, break's over...back to the show!
Hmmmm...another week and no Joke(s) of the day? Who says that prayers aren't answered, huh?
One of the pacing and nervous comics back stage is Dante. Dante informs us that he is a stay at home dad...and that if he wins, his daughter gets a puppy. This is what a snarky and cynical person would call "playing the Dat Phan-lives-under-a-desk sympathy card."
Make some noise if you're snarky and cynical...
All right, all right...calm down everybody...we've got neighbors upstairs, you know...
Dante, the audience favorite from the Los Angeles auditions (and are all of the audience favorites in THIS semi-finals?) hits the stage with a good shot of energy... He pulls the mic out of its stand and begins working the full breadth of the stage in a way that none of the other performers have, so far.
That's a great move--and a sign of a confident comedy veteran. Believe it or not, by simply walking from right to left and back on stage, a comedian can command more of the audience's attention... It keeps the eyes active and the brain engaged. Weird but true.
Dante talks right through the obligatory applause break for mentioning that he's a successful breeder to talk about the movie that his daughter watches every day--the Wizard of Oz.
We get a quick shot of Dante's friends and family. All of the guys (Dante included) may be getting unsolicited mail from the Hair Club for Men soon... We haven't seen any other performer have their backstory brought up or have their friends in attendance--and those are the types of things that help a viewing audience develop an emotional bond with a performer... Again, not to be too snarky and cynical...but I sense an active effort by the production staff to win some hearts over to caring about Dante's progress in this show...
Dante announces that he wishes that Wizard of Oz would have been cast with some of his personal favorites...and that ramp up is already causing my comedy muscles to tighten up--like I'm a passenger in a car skidding towards a guardrail and I'm bracing for impact...because what inevitably will happen here is that Dante will do impressions of people as if they were in the Wizard of Oz. I know it, you know it...everyone who has ever been in a comedy club over the past twenty five years knows that's what's coming...
We can only hope that these impressions are going to be good and inspired...and hopefully someone beyond the handful of impressions that "everyone" does. See if we live through this crash here...
Let's see who he picks.
Jack Nicholson as Dorothy. Owwww...definite metal on metal scraping there.
I can't tell you how many bad Jack Nicholson impressions are being foisted on innocent comedy club audiences every Friday and Saturday night--but let's just agree on it being TOO many, ok?
Making him Dorothy, however...that's an interesting twist. What else?
Gilbert Gottfried as the Tin Man. BLAAAAM! My airbag just deployed here...shooting my head back very fast against the headrest. It may have saved me from smashing my face against the glovebox, but now I've got whiplash and that's going to hurt for a long time.
First of all...how timely are these impressions? The last time that Gilbert did ANYTHING that anyone took notice of was...well, when did "Aladdin" come out? (Trivia buffs=1994.)
And I don't think that any stand-up comedian should do an impression of another stand-up comedian... I admit there are some exceptions to this rule--but in EVERY case, the comedian doing the impression came up with something truly inspired for the comedian he was doing the impression of to say...and didn't just say a catch phrase associated with that comedian.
Already this seems quite painful, what next? Reverend Jim from Taxi?
Christopher Lloyd as the Scarecrow. The seatbelt snaps and I am ejected through the passenger side window at this point in time...and I'm flying through shards of glass towards a rocky cliff face that is OVER the guardrail that we just crashed into...
Seriously? In previous Last Comic Standing auditions, performers were openly MOCKED by the Ross Mark and Bob Read for doing Reverend Jim Ignatowski impressions...and now, a semi-finalist is doing one? Uggggggggggghhhh... I don't think there's a hope in hell that there's ANYTHING inspired enough to make this entire premise at all funny...
...of course, we're not done with our cast...
Robert DeNiro as the Wizard And after flying from the car, defenstrating myself through the passenger window, I've bounced twice while careening down the rocky cliff face...until skewering myself on tree branch that turns me into a Pete-Ka-Bob for easier vulture picking.
Almost as many people do bad Robert DeNiro impressions as they do Nicholson, Gottfried and Lloyd...and Dante, bless his heart, has gone ahead and shoved ALL of them into one hacktacular bit...and, like Iron Eyes Cody, a single tear for the wretched abuse of the art of comedy drops from my eye.
Dante begs for the audience to applaud while he turns his back on them and prepares for his mimicry. Sure enough, he turns around, pulling his face and hair back in such a way that I was less reminded of Jack Nicholson and more reminded of Alec Baldwin's "let's scare off the Dietz's ourselves" face in Beetlejuice.
This is definitely an impression and not an impersonation--as Dante's Nicholson doesn't really sound like Nicholson... Scrunching up his eyes to do Gilbert Gottfried, Dante sounds more like the apoplectic comedian than he did Nicholson--but ANYONE can sound just like Gilbert Gottfried.
Seriously, YOU try it. Just say "AFLAC" the way the duck says it. You just sounded EXACTLY like Gilbert Gottfried--because Gilbert IS the voice of the AFLAC duck.
(Now...my girlfriend can sound exactly like the NAH-flac goat...which is a much more difficult and unique proposition. Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like mine?)
Here's the thing... I'm railing against this whole thing--meanwhile, simply saying "I would like a heart" in the voice of Gilbert Gottfried has "popped" this crowd as if Stone Cold Steve Austin had just given a Stone Cold Stunner to Vince McMahon... And this is the brutal truth of comedy--which is that some things which have precious little "comedy merit" to them...will please and entertain audiences to an insane degree, far beyond whatever value "merit" might offer.
(I'd like to bring Larry the Cable Guy to the stand as my first witness, your honor...and after that, Carrot Top...Gallagher...Andrew Dice Clay...Carlos Mencia...oh, the line-up there is pretty long...)
It makes no difference to criticize what people laugh at...and there's no point in shaking that audience and those talent scouts by the shoulder and demand to know "WHY ARE YOU LAUGHING AT THAT?"--they simply are...they simply will...and, for them, in that moment, Dante is rocking their world...
...and who am I to say that there's anything WRONG with that?
Dante's Reverend Jim is as miserably generic as you could possibly imagine it to be. Dude. The majority of the audience you're performing for weren't ALIVE when Taxi was on the air...they only know it because on most cable tv channels, TVLand is right next to Nickelodeon and at some point in time in their tween years, they may have over shot...
Dante even sneaks in a cheap home town pop (more blatant than Mick Foley--and that's already two more WWE references than I'd ever planned on writing in ANY LCS recap...) pimping for the Lakers to win...which, admittedly, is appropriate to something Jack Nicholson might say...but there's nothing funny about it--as opposed to it being something that the LA-based audience might applaud in agreement over. (They might not own their LA-ness when it comes to outsiders complaining about the weather, but mention a beloved sports team and they're Angelenos through and through...)
Dante's DeNiro is as perfunctory as the rest--looking pretty much exactly the same as his Nicholson... For him, DeNiro is one line from Taxi Driver...and a standing ovation from the sadly deluded studio audience... But look at the weak, obligatory claps from the talent scouts...and the sad look that Kathleen Madigan has on her face as she turns to stare at the NASCAR-like zeal by which the audience is showing their misdirected love towards what they've just seen...and I think that she, too, has a bit of Iron Eyes Cody in her...
What makes this all the more painful for me, is that Dante is an active participant on one of the comedy message boards that I frequent... I'd like to root for him...but I REALLY didn't like what he just did there.
Still, this is how it IS in the comedy business. For the rest of my life, I'll be working with and showing enthusiasm for some performers whose acts I may not like...or, hopefully more rarely, acts that I don't respect... But, if I may quote that very message board that Dante and I are on...and specifically the words of San Diego based comedian Charlie Ayers, "Don't knock another man's hustle."
Dante--the bottom line is...they asked you to go out there and rock that audience...and they responded to you with a standing ovation... Whatever I might think about it from a critical standpoint, by any definition of the challenge: Mission Accomplished.
And I'd hate to be the performer who has to follow that...
...and that's when Bill welcomes Joe DeVito to the stage.
Here's the thing--a hot crowd is great... Dante got 'em cheering...all Joe has to do is ride that energy... The problem comes when you're not doing what Dante did to get them going...because an audience just wants more of what it's decided that it likes. Switching gears on 'em can be dangerous. And Joe's got a a wonderfully caustic edge to what he does... Will he be able to surf this to shore or will he bottom out and have the wave crash over on him?
"You ever have one of those days where people think you're that Verizon guy?" is Joe's opener. I'm sure Joe has had days like that...and the crowd response with a huge blast of recognition laughter. (Recognition laughter is basically a response less to a joke and more to understanding a reference or a shared memory. It can be a good tool to help build a set, especially if used in moderation.)
Joe takes this laugh to slow the pace down to his preferred speed. If he can't surf the audience wave the same way Dante did, he's going to have to try to guide the wave to where how he likes to ride.
He talks a bit about profiling--how people think that because of his name that he's Italian and, therefore, is in the mob. "Then they see me," Joe points out, "And then they think 'who called tech support?'"
Friends tell Joe that he should relax and spend each day like it was his last--so today, he spent the day on a respirator. "Overrated" is Joe's verdict.
The joke has a nice oblique shockingness about it...and the audience responds with outrage, just the way that Joe wanted them to... He's definitely guiding the audience from where they were to where he needs them to be.
"I thought I'd lived out every man's fantasy...sex with two women. Then, I found out...it was 'two women...at the same time.'"
Joe's style is like Oakland A's baseball... You keep moving runners around the bases. Not that many home runs, not that many sacrifices, not that many hit and runs... Just keep getting hits and you keep scoring runs.
"I'm a romantic guy...I like the little things," Joe explains. "Like that moment between the first kiss...and the pepper spray."
Now...he got his laughs...but he didn't get a standing ovation the way that Dante did. If you're a talent scout and you're judging the show in the moment...surrounded by the energy of the room, you HAVE to conclude that Joe didn't do as well as Dante did... BUT, can you remember how Tommy Johnagin did...and can you compare Joe to Tommy. And can you compare either of them to how John Caparulo did to open the show?
That's where this whole process gets crazy weird...and why any comedian competing in any of the many comedy competitions across this country have to take a zen attitude about it...and just accept that it's nearly impossible to be given a realistic and objective judgment on such a subjective artform.
But yet...that's why we're watching Last Comic Standing...and it stops for no man...including your humble recapper...so, let us move on...
Gina Yashere is up next. In an interview segment, she admits that "What's running through my head before I go out on stage is 'KILL THEM! MAKE THEM DIE LAUGHING!'"
What's running through MY head is that obviously homeland security isn't doing a good enough job keeping the people with murderous intent against Americans out of the country... QED.
I swear to the heavens above that everyone in this competition is wearing the same pair of jeans...dark, baggy, (in Joe DeVito's case, they're cuffed.) Is there some product placement deal that we've missed???
"HEY AMERICA, HOW'RE YA DOIN'?!?!" is how Gina announces herself to the crowd. I'd have advised against that--because comedy, much like radio, plays out in the individual mind. You want to make a personal connection as quickly as possible...instead of treating this particular group as merely a segment of an even larger, less definable group.
Still, one can hardly complain about the enthusiasm in addressing an entire continent for the first time...so, Gina...go on wit' ya badself, aiight?
Gina explained that the magic has left Christmas, that kids don't believe in Santa... She then admits that she didn't believe in Santa either, because her mother was NIGERIAN. This was said with enough forcefulness that it made me think that in some places where Gina performs, this would have been a punchline. Luckily for us, it is merely a premise that pays off very well.
"There was no way that she was ever going to let a fat white man in a red suit take the credit for all of her hard work."
Applause break. Welcome to America, Gina. Seems like we like you.
Gina put a tooth under her pillow, expecting the tooth fairy. "It was there so long, it grew into another person."
AND THAT'S ALL WE GET OF GINA???
Again...the tinfoil hat goes on and I start going through the options--either she didn't do very well...or she did very well and the editors are protecting her best stuff...
I suppose that we shall see, eh?
...but not before another commercial break. The kitchen is open, the bar is open, the lines for the restrooms are about to get long...we'll see you back for more show in just a couple of moments.
Underdog. The movie.
This is one of the signs that prophecy says announces the impending apocalypse, yes?
Seriously...is there ANYONE who wants to see this movie?
I'd rather watch a movie where the executives who green lit this guaranteed-to-be-a-disaster are hunted, captured and roasted on a spit...than to see Underdog. And I like Jason Lee. And I like precocious dogs. But executives on a spit is worth my $10.50 at the multiplex...and doing a live action Underdog...or even just an Underdog without Wally Cox...is certainly not.
I'm still digging "Flight of the Conchords" on HBO--and last night, on AMC, I caught "Mad Men"--and there is Mel from Flight of the Conchords, aka Kristen Schaal, as one of the telephone operators at the ad agency. Cool. Wish I liked the show more...but I came away from the pilot thinking that no one in the show was remotely likable...and it even had Zoey Bartlett in it!
We're back from the break...and, backstage, the comedians are still nervous. Even Dante, who has already gone up and killed, still looks nervous (hmmmm...perhaps because these backstage shots are not being shown in sequence? Or maybe Dante is just a nervous guy?)
Lawrence Mooney reminds us that he came all the way from Australia to perform tonight. Makes me feel wimpy about complaining about having to have driven from Seattle to Lewiston, Idaho for a gig, let me tell you...
Lawrence has a style that suggests a certain amount of insincere showbizzery...a smarminess, if you will...which can be very funny if the audience runs with it. Lawrence merely has to tell the crowd that there are some "looooovelllyyyy laaaaaaaaadies" in the audience tonight, and they're laughing already. What if he was being serious--what a blow to the ego, yeah?
What am I saying? This is being filmed in LA--there ARE lovely ladies in the audience. Who's laughing? Well, it's the lovely ladies laughing...laughing at Lawrence, if he thinks that merely by acknowledging their loveliness that he's in line to get some...
Lawrence says that no matter how hot a woman is, when they get out of a shower and see themselves in the mirror--they'll think that they're hideous. But, he says, when men get out of the same shower and see themselves in the same mirror--they go "YEAAAHHHH!!!" and flex. He then does a rude stripper move (that would usually involve a towel, I believe--but he didn't need it...so impressive is his act-out. ) which pops the crowd.
"I love women's undies" Lawrence announces--there was an edit there, so perhaps someone in the audience had asked him what he thought about them...I can't be sure. The way it was shown, it was a bit non-sequiter.
"But," he admits, "I hate pantyhose."
Probably shouldn't wear any, then.
"They look fine below the hemline--great to look at, nice to touch..." Lawrence explains. "When it comes off...pantyhose is scary and confusing. And whenever my girlfriend wears pantyhose, her bum always reminds me of a burglar's face."
There is no way to do this particular act-out of Lawrence's justice. Sad that's the last bit that we see of Lawrence...because when he says "Thanks very much, America," I'm afraid that he's come across as a bit immature and chauvinistic...and I don't think that's a fair impression. (And you already know how I feel about impressions, don't you?)
Back stage, Dante and Lori Chase are there to shake Lawrence's hand...meanwhile, over by the lighting and curtain rigs backstage, Sarah remains looking rather nervous. She was nervous in the introductory montage--that's a LOT of nervous.
Sarah Colonna admits in her backstage interview that this is the biggest show she's done--comparable to the 40 people at the bowling alley who just saw her...
Bill gives her a nerve-loosening chuckle as he introduces her as coming all the way from...L.A. Let's see how she does--remember, she didn't exactly rocket her way into these semi-finals...her audition process almost ended before it began...
After telling the audience that they're fun and that "this is great," we get a jump cut edit to later in Sarah's act, as she's talking about how her sister has a little boy. Her sister refused to bring her boy over to Sarah's place until she child-proofed the place...and then her sister got mad because evidently child-proofing didn't mean laying newspaper all over the floor.
I understand why Sarah was nervous...one of her selected jokes ended up being on the same topic as a joke done by Bill Bellamy in his host segment...and I have to imagine that she must have been fighting the urge to change what she'd been preparing to perform for this very important showcase opportunity.
On a technical note, Sarah has chosen to work with the microphone in the stand...and she remains in one very static place...with her shoulders hunched in. This approach seems very much like a defense mechanism...to prevent her from getting damaged by any attack. Because of this, she comes across looking rather small on a very big stage. Compare that to how Dante, Joe DeVito, Gina Yashere and Lawrence Mooney all came out and owned the stage...and there is a noticeable difference.
Even if she wants to leave the mic in the stand to allow her to use both of her arms in gesturing, a little bit of work on presenting a more confident stage presence...to shine instead of hide.
(But, as always, this comment is based on 34 seconds of heavily edited footage...and should be taken with a huge helping of salt or salt substitute.)
Hey! We get to see Sarah's family and friends! Cool!
When her sister pressed her for reasons why she has that much alcohol in her place, Sarah told her "That's in case...Motley Crue ever stops by...with David Hasselhoff."
High risk, high reward moment there as the audience cheered wildly at what was, when this was filmed, a highly topical reference... Topical references in any competition are a risk--because an outdated topical reference can be death for comedy--but it is ESPECIALLY risky in THIS competition at THIS stage...because these shows have been filmed ages ago...and who knows what could happen between now and then.
There were tons of comedians making fun of Anna Nicole Smith for being...well...Anna Nicole Smith... Then she died. Those jokes aren't as funny any more...but lots of tv shows filmed when she was alive are filled with comedians telling those jokes...
But THIS topical reference scored big with the audience...and for Sarah...and it's still current enough for those of us watching at home... Nicely done.
"...and if the kid finds my vibrator, I'll give him $20..." Sarah announces, tagging her having mentioned that her sister warned her to remove anything sexual. "...because I have been looking for that thing for months..."
With excellent timing and a look up towards the lights above, she says "...and there's really only two places I could have left it..."
...and if you didn't get that, I can't help you.
With a little naughtiness at the end, she seems to win over the crowd...but, it looked like just some polite applause from the judges... Still...she no longer needs to be nervous--her biggest show ever is now behind her.
She passes Dwayne Kennedy on her way off stage. When they've done these backstage interview segments, they've been showing their "number of years" in stand-up. Six years...seven years...twelve years. Dwayne Kennedy has been doing stand-up comedy for twenty years.
What were YOU doing in 1987? Dwayne was thinking to himself, "You know, I bet I could go up on that stage and make people laugh." This was before Paula Abdul could ask Arsenio Hall, straight up, if he really wanted to love her forever.
"What I want to do is have a good set," Dwayne tells us. "Cause I know that everything after that is out of my hands. If people like you, then you appreciate that. If they don't, well there's nothing you can do... Well, you can start stabbing people...but THAT could take all night..."
I'll tell you this. Dwayne Kennedy is not going to imagine what it would have been like if Jack Nicholson had been in The Wizard of Oz.
Dwayne saunters out on stage, as cool as ever, with a water bottle in his hand...like this (this set, this show, this opportunity, this impact on his career) wasn't anything at all... You've got to admire that. Hopefully that confidence connects with the audience as well...
"So, how about a big round of applause...for...anything..." he says, sardonically.
It's an idea that resonates with other comedians--because of the propensity for comedians to go for cheap pops...to get unearned-by-their-comedy applause breaks, just by mentioning things that the audience might happen to like or agree with.
It isn't, obviously, a very crowd pleasing way to start a set--unless that crowd is both smart and jaded. This crowd happens to be culled from LA and they just gave a standing ovation to a single line of a Robert DeNiro impression...
The audience cheered. That probably told Dwayne everything he needed to know about this crowd.
Given a good reason not to focus on the entire audience's reaction to Dwayne's opening salvo, the camera cuts to Dwayne's proud family who are in the audience tonight...behind them and their familial enthusiasm, were some very stern faced non-relatives...
Dwayne had some work to do to win these people over.
"I like being here in California...I like seeing all the different people they got. That's how the whole country is going to be," Dwayne says--absolutely unconcerned with getting in a high "laughs-per-minute" ratio in his showcase set. "Well, they say that in fifty years...there's gonna be more Latinos and Asians...than white people...in America..."
A few in the audience decide that this is a reason to whistle and cheer...
"Yeah..." Dwayne says, in acknowledgment of those whistles. "Fifty years..."
"They got some cats at the border...trying to keep the Mexicans out..." Dwayne says, before spinning the conventions entirely on their head, "I'm going to go down there and try to keep 'em in."
"Where're you goin', Javier? Don't you have a roofing job to finish?"
This is another interesting approach--because L.A. audiences have been trained to be rather negative towards their immigration issues by comedians. One listen to any of Jay Leno's nightly monologues gives you a template for the standard L.A. comic's take on immigration issues.
Dwayne Kennedy, however, is not an L.A. comic. He's taking things a different way...
"Mexicans work harder than everybody," Dwayne posits--repeating for effect, "Everybody!"
Before a cheap pop can break out, he continues his thought process into some previously unexplored territory, saying "If Mexicans had been slaves, slavery would have been over real quick."
The audience is shocked. They don't know WHERE he's going with this...and that can be a very good place for a comedian to put the audience--because a big part of making someone laugh is the element of surprise.
"...Cause they'd have done 300 years of work in about nine hours..." says Dwayne, pausing only long enough to get an applause break, before punching the joke hard with attitude, "...and STILL had time for a soccer game."
That's enough for Dwayne for one set...and I think he's got to be happy that he did exactly what he wanted to do--he had a good set...on his own terms.
Spencer Brown is up next. He's been doing comedy for three years. That would be less than Dwayne's 20, in case math wasn't your favorite subject. He wants us to believe that he needs to win Last Comic Standing because his grandmother needs an operation.
"Personally, I don't think she NEEDS a boob job...but..."
Ahhhhhh...Spencer. You with your wild eyes and wild hair and classic reversal jokes...you amuse me. Go win this crowd over, eh?
Spencer definitely hasn't take advantage of the free comedy Garanimals that most of tonight's performers have availed themselves of...and he comes across as an odd mix of Rob Cantrell, Josh Blue and Hugh Grant as he enters the stage in wonderment at how big the stage is...
"So...comedy, yeah?" Spencer says...as he brings a banana peel out of his pocket and tosses it on the floor of the stage. He then pretends to be about to step on it--as if he was putting himself in imminent danger of slipping on it. His act-out goes awry...and he ends up knocking the mic stand over with his flailing arm...sending the microphone across the stage. Spencer runs over and picks it up--and the audience (including some of Spencer's family and friends) is laughing...but are they laughing WITH him or merely AT him (and does it matter?)
"I've just learned this amazing American practical joke. You all know it, because you're American..." Spencer says, before going to explain the scheme anyway.
"You go to the pub"--STOP RIGHT THERE, LIMEY! We DON'T go to the pub. We don't take lifts, we don't toss spanners in the works and we're NOT excited about the Spice Girls reunion. GET IT RIGHT.
Sorry. Lost my cool, right there... Where were we? Right, down the pub...cheers.
"You cover yourself with leaves...and then someone comes up...kicks you..." Spencer says, with an enthusiasm bordering on needing to be committed to a mental institution. "And then, you...sue them."
See, THAT'S what Spencer brings to the table that no one else in this group of comedians does. He sells the HELL out of what he's doing...and he still manages to add in a twist that surprises you...even when it seems terribly obvious with any hindsight at all...
"I'm an old fashioned guy," Spencer says, by means of self-description, "A girl approached me at a party, the other day--SHE came up to me...and she said, 'Play your cards right, I'll buy you dinner.' I'm an old fashioned guy, so I said 'Buy me dinner? You'll COOK me dinner!'"
Again...a seemingly simple scenario and a simple solution...but I didn't see it going that way before it did... That's a skill. Or a gift. Or a talent. It's something, all right...I don't know what it is...and neither do the French.
Audience really seems to like him--based on the audio... Looking at the crowd as Spencer leaves the stage, it seems a bit more subdued than what I'm hearing...but you never know. And if anyone in the audience is planning on voting for "the cute boy"--I'm thinking that's going to be Spencer.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Time for another commercial break...must only be three to four hundred more comedians yet to go, right?
Did you guys get the same JC Penney's zombie clothing ad that I got?
What a bizarre way to market your clothes to kids--the mindless hoards want you to dress just like they do...and now you can by shopping at JC Penney. GREAT! I can't wait to look JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE AT SCHOOL.
Or don't kids care about individuality anymore? I'm old, I don't know.
Tracey Ashley had trouble sleeping last night. She's now five minutes closer to a good night's sleep...as its her turn to face the talent scouts and the audience that will judge her chances to move on to the next round of this crazy comedy competition.
Bill announces her as being from Miami, Florida...which I don't think is where she was from when she made it through the Minneapolis audition process...but I can't imagine that will matter much. As long as she brings the funny, she could be from Mars. Wait. Men are from Mars...Women are from Venus...
Do they say "awnt" (not "ant") for aunt on Venus? I know they do in Minnesota...and that's how Tracey says it...
She talks about how her Aunt Gemmy prayed when she heard that Tracey was moving to Minnesota to be with her boyfriend.
"Lawwwwwd, Jesus...take me now..." Tracey imagined her Aunt saying, in full praise mode, "Her boyfriend MUST be white..."
When Tracey admitted that he WAS white, they cut to guest talent scout Tom Arnold getting out of his chair and clapping like the strip club dj just announced that Cinnamon was about to take the mainstage... Tom, you see, is from Minnesota...and evidently he's quite demonstrably a fan of interracial relationships... I wish he was more of a fan of quality comedy--because that wasn't Tracey's laugh line to that joke..
"I mean...he STILL is...he hasn't changed colors or anything..."
I don't know if you can blame Tom Arnold (but I'm willing to, in case you're up for that) but the audience didn't laugh all that hard at this particular bit.
Tracey keeps talking about her boyfriend, how he's a high school history and geography teacher...and that he comes home with lots of interesting pieces of information--like how the hippopotamus is responsible for a lot of deaths in Africa.
Tracey uses this as a launching pad for imagining herself running into a hippopotamus--at the ATM machine. It's a good act out--she gets fast cash, no receipt--but there's definitely an issue of false premise denial there. (He didn't say that hippos killed African-Americans...and Tracey didn't make a strong enough connection between what her boyfriend said and how she reacted.)
It didn't seem like a very strong set--but again, editing decisions are everything...and I don't trust these Magical Elves any more than I can throw them...and with my bad knee, I shouldn't be throwing anything.
When Tracey leaves the stage, Ralph Harris is watching her on the monitor...and something made him giggle just a bit.
Ralph is, obviously, up next...and Ralph's got his hat and his coke-bottle glasses with him--which means that we're going to get to see Ralph's grandfather.
Ralph has been doing comedy for a long time--and I remember seeing him back in the day and with just that hat and those glasses, he "became" his grandfather. It's a solid comic character creation--as real as Richard Pryor's Mudbone or anything that Whoopi Goldberg could come up with.
It's also a big risk. Ralph is putting his hopes for making the finals into what is essentially a character piece--rather than simply telling funny jokes in his own voice...
And recognize the difference between what Ralph is doing from what Dante did. Dante skimmed the surface of some people that we already know, put them in a different context from their norm and twisted their recognizable quotes to suit the new context--it is both familiar and predictable. Ralph is showing us someone that we don't know--unless we can relate to having a 100 year old grumpy grandpa--and he's keeping him in his realistic setting...and hoping to derive laughter from what would happen to him there...in this case...a surprise birthday party.
The audience is willingly going with Ralph, because even in just a couple of set-up lines before adding his hat and glasses to effect the transformation, he comes across as very personable and likable.
(Strangely, as his grandfather, he kind of looks like ESPN's Stuart Scott...)
"I know I'm old...I been around a looooooooooooooooooooong time."--and the audience already loves this old man.
Shame, then, that Ralph takes that love and gives them a bunch of fart jokes... I know there's more to that bit...but that's pretty much all we get.
There are a couple of rows that give Ralph a standing ovation--but those might have been his family and friends that were seen earlier. And that's not fair, because they know that old guy personally.
Ralph, very sincerely, described performing as his grandfather on Last Comic Standing as a dream come true. And somehow I'm not snarky and cynical about that... That's a wonderful quality for any performer to have--the ability to bridge the gap...and make an immediate emotional connection with an audience.
Next up is Sabrina Matthews...and as she waits in the wings, I could swear that she's modeled her haircut on Eddie Munster--but that was just a trick of shadows and light. Instead, she's rocking the Eastern European women's prison guard look...
"You know what I hate about lesbian stereotypes?" Sabrina asks, "They ALL apply to me."
That description alone gets both Kathleen and Ant rocking...and Tom Arnold is excited just to hear the word "lesbian" I'm sure.
Sabrina starts discussing those stereotypes. She grabs at her shirt and explains "This is one of only three shirts I own that isn't flannel--and the other two are velour, which is like a methadone for flannel."
What else is there? "I drive a truck," she says. Acknowledging the crowd's recognition laughter, she sarcastically adds, "I know, the surprises just keep on coming..."
They show Sabrina's "friends and family"--a balding man with a pencil thin beard...and an Asian woman. I'm going to go with "friends"--although the Asian woman might be immediate family...and that would be enough to set Tom Arnold's imagination going into Man Show-esque overdrive.
"I drive the best truck in the world," Sabrina boasts. "Covered with bumps and dents and dings and scratches...and it is the best truck in the world--because in my truck, I look uninsured."
I love this about Sabrina. A lot of gay comics only talk about being gay, just as a lot of ethnic comics only talk about being ethnic, a lot of female comics only talk about being a woman... Sabrina isn't denying the fact that she's a lesbian--but she takes that fact as a simple starting point...and she takes it somewhere...somewhere beyond the point where that's the only thing that matters. In two jokes, she's gone from being a lesbian to being a crafty poor person...without it seeming anything but absolutely natural.
Sabrina continues, "When I want to change lanes, I pull over in front of the most expensive car I can find. No rich person in the world is going to rear end a sixteen year old boy in a haymaker."
Sabrina gets good laughs...and I'm obviously a big fan, so I hope that's enough to get her through--but there are certainly more than five people that we've seen tonight that I think deserves to come back for more of this madness...
...and, of course...we're not even done with our candidates yet.
But heaven forbid we just keep going without making some money for the network...so, let's go to another commercial break and try to help NBC out of its post-Joey slump...
THIS RECAP CONTINUES IN THE NEXT REPLY!!!