Good evening and welcome.
For the past few weeks, I've been your guide into the nuts and bolts of the sometimes entertaining and often frustrating reality television program called "Last Comic Standing" viewed on NBC and recapped here on the FORT. For those of you here tonight for the first time, my name is pg13 and I hope that you've enjoyed my snarky comments and glimpses behind the curtain into the real world of comedians.
Tonight, to some degree, I'm going to take a step back. I doubt I'll be able to completely keep my snark at bay, especially early on in this show...but, as we've gone through the Audition Process, onto the individual location Showcases, to the Semi-Finals and then the past few weeks of Challenge Rounds...we've only seen pieces and parts of what these comedians can do on stage. A lot of this show has been twisted, tortured and torn by the editors into something that was hard to understand...hard to feel.
That won't be the case tonight. Tonight, the comedians have to perform without the editing net.
Let me rephrase that.
Tonight, the comedians GET to show us, finally, what it is that they do.
And tonight, all of us, if we so choose, get to help decide who stays...and who goes.
This is the show that we've been promised all season...and it's finally here.
This is the inherent drama of sport, ladies and gentlemen...and if you can't get into it...there's nothing I can do to dress this up into something else that you might enjoy more.
This is what it is.
So, with that...and with the reminder to all of you to shut off your cell phones, keep your table conversations down to a minimum and to never forget that comedy really only works when you pay attention...let's go to the show.
Oh yeah...if you do plan on participating in the semi-democratic process we begin tonight, here is a link to: THE OFFICIAL VOTING RULES. (If you click on that...remember to come back and enjoy tonight's show in this recap form.)
Hey, Keep It Going For Last Comic Standing: The pg13 LCS Recap
Episode Ten: People Have The Power!
Five comics remain. Who is the funniest? YOU will decide.
We are pretending to be live from the Wilshire Theater in Beverly Hills, California this week (which has also played host to HBO's Def Comedy Jam, in the past) in front of what looks to be a standing-room only crowd that is primed and prepped for comedic combat...and the entire theater stands when our host, Bill Bellamy is introduced.
BELLAMY ROCKS MY SOCKS reads a sign in the audience...which made me check that I was actually watching Last Comic Standing--because it sure looked like I'd tuned in to WWE Raw. Do they still hold up the Austin 3:16 signs there? (It's been awhile since I've actively watched any wrestling...but as long as superstars like Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle and Goldberg are still layin' the Smackdown in there, how different can it b--... What? They... Huh? ALL of them? Really? Yikes.)
Are you telling me that someone bought tickets for this show and thought "Hey! How can I show my love for the host of this show! I KNOW!!! I'll draw up a cardboard sign!!!"??? I don't buy that for a second... I'm sure there was a Magical Elf given the task of sign construction late last night...and if I find any proof, I'll let you know.
Bill is definitely pumped up for the show and he's trying to impart that energy onto the crowd--WHICH, I see very quickly, includes our good friend and funny young English man, MATT KIRSHEN--and that makes me think...maybe, in exchange for a ticket to see this show...a show that he came very close to actually earning his way into...he agreed to help make signs. Let's look for Anglicisms...like spelling color with a "u"--colour...or maybe we'll see signs that read "Take The Lift To The Top, Amy!" or "Be The Spanner In the Works, Amy!" or "Oi! Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's Amy!"...THAT will prove that Matt is actually the sign maker (and that he's still whipped over Amy...and that was the best storyline in the non-existent house this season...)
(Oh, and how's THIS for proof about the non-organic nature of the signs...they cut to an audience shot where we see people handing signs down the row, as if they were a church collection plate... That's not quite a smoking gun, but it does put the suspect at the scene of the crime...)
Bill takes a moment to remind us of what's on the line for the eventual winner on this show: They get an exclusive NBC talent contract, a Bravo comedy special, $250,000 in cash...and the title of...LAST COMIC STANDING.
Or, in other words...they get to have a walk-on, non-speaking role in next season's "The New Adventures of Joey" (featuring Ted McGinley), twenty two minutes of comedy that airs after the 3am showing of "Flipping Out," a monetary prize that will shoot them into a new tax bracket and devour itself before anything good can happen...and, they get to join Josh Blue, Alonzo Bodden, John Heffron and Dat Phan as the Pink answer on a Trivial Pursuit: The 00's Edition game card.
But...as they say, don't look a gift horse in the mouth...(and, if you live in Enumclaw, Washington...just, don't go anywhere near a horse. Trust me, you don't want to know where it's been or what it's been doing...or who.)
ANOTHER FAKE SIGN:
Show Me The Funny Ralph
All that sign reminds me of is how sad I feel about where Cuba Gooding Jr.'s career has ended up.
Bill decides to welcome out all five comedians to show them off to the audience...and it reminds me of a scene in the movie "Pretty Baby"--but a more modern reference might be made to HBO's "Cathouse" series.
Time to hitch up yer pants by yer belt buckle, America, and see which of these fillies y'all want to put yer money on and ride.
(Damn...I did a 180 and ended up right back in Enumclaw, didn't I? Sorry.)
The set tonight includes a staircase on either side of the stage... This is tonight's physical challenge for the comedians. With the biggest set of your comedic lives just moments away, you have to smile, wave and make your way down these stairs in front of a full theater audience, a network television crew and some of the brightest lights on the planet.
Luckily, all of our contestants manage to pass the physical challenge...so, I guess victory tonight will depend on the talent portion of the contest. (And if that doesn't work, we have to go to the bathing suit competition...and I repeat my three word terror warning from last week: Lavell. Wearing. Thong. So, be afraid...and let's all hope that talent decides things here tonight.)
MORE FAKE SIGNS:
Lavell is Swell
Lavell, My Belle
Seriously? You want us to believe that random fans came up with this intern-quality swill? Not gonna happen, Elves. Sorry.
In the audience, we see DEBRA DIGIOVANNI. And, in a complete shocker...she's SMILING! (Are we certain that she knows that she's out of the competition and can't win? She seems far too happy, considering she'll be forced to watch others get to do exactly what she wanted to do.)
Time for Bill Bellamy's warm up set:
BILL BELLAMY: I've got to tell you, last week, I went to a fund raiser and I had the opportunity to meet Barack Obama. Can you believe that? That was so cool. I shook his hand and everything...but it didn't dawn on me until after he went away, that I was like, "You know what? He could potentially be the President of the United States." I was like, "That is some cool stuff. He could be the first black President." And then I thought, "No, no...he'd be the second black President, because the first black President...was Bill Clinton.
:: Cut away to show both Matt Kirshen and GINA YASHERE doubling up with laughter in the audience. Because no one likes a dated reference to American politics more than two British comedians... ::
BILL BELLAMY: I'm telling you. I want to be honest with y'all...I want Barack Obama and Hillary to team up...just so we can get Bill back in the house. That's what I'm talking about. You can say what you want about Bill Clinton, but he's my favorite President. When Bill Clinton was president, gas was $1.27. Everybody had a job...we was having barbecues on Wednesday for no reason. Why we havin' a barbecue? I don't know, I got extra money, let's cook. It was just fun.
And the one thing I like about Bill Clinton that nobody recognized, was he got in trouble all the time. He was almost like our cousin--because everybody got a cousin that always get in trouble. Remember, because...Bill used to get in trouble so much, we used to be like "What'd he do? What...did...Bill...do?"
But he used to always come on and tell us, right? But, it was always the wrong time. You're watching Monday Night Football--he'd interrupt the game. Right in the middle of the game, he'd be like...
:: Bill begins a rather weak impression of Darryl Hammond's impersonation of Bill Clinton. ::
BILL BELLAMY CLINTON: First of all, I'd like to say...the country's running fine. We have plenty of money, gas is at $1.27. But, you are gonna hear about some hoes at the house. ENJOY YOUR GAME.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is our host Bill Bellamy.
Bill, getting back to his job as host, says "We are ready for a huge night of comedy."
I guess that means that Lavell Crawford is up first.
And he is.
As Bill rather generally describes the voting process, we get backstage shots of the comedians--which they seem to be acting exactly as they did when they'd come down the staircases to the stage just a few moments ago: Lavell is acting the fool. Jon is mouthing the words "vote for me." Amy is waving to friends like she was behind home plate at an Angels game. Ralph looks like he's learned how to stand in one spot when on camera and look professional. Gerry looks nervous.
Pretty much a full psychological/demographic spread right there... If you wanted to , you could simply pick your personality and vote for it, I guess...actual comedy be damned.
We also get to see a clip from Lavell's semi-final performance where he did the "Why are you breathing so hard? So, I can LIVE! What kind of stupid question is that?" joke--which indicates that he probably won't do that joke again tonight.
This brings us to what I like to call "The Ty Barnett Conundrum." Ty Barnett, hopefully you remember, was last season's runner-up--to the unstoppable Josh Blue. Ty is also, to some degree, a fellow Seattle-based stand-up comedian (to the extent that he isn't a Chicago stand-up comedian or a Los Angeles stand-up comedian...which is how he was described on last year's show.) Recounting the process of making it from the audition to the showcase...from the showcase to the semi-finals...from the semi-finals to the challenge round...through the challenges and into the voting round...and then every week you last in the voting round--EVERY SINGLE STEP OF THE WAY IS IMPORTANT.
The Conundrum is simply this...when do you do your best stuff?
Sure, every comedian would like to think that all of his material is top-notch killer stuff...but we all know that we've got our "A-game" and we've got our "just survive this hell gig and do my scheduled time so I get paid" material. Since no one at home understands that when we do gigs, we don't come up with a brand new set every night...we hone and refine an act and then we do that act as best as we can do it, night after night. Sometimes, we add in new things or take away parts that don't work or try somethings we're not totally solid on...but in this competition, any slip up can send you home...YET, you know that if you can hang on long enough...you'll get the chance to perform your best and win.
So...when do you do your best stuff?
You can even strip mine your stuff--to take a joke that you normally spread out over five to fifteen minutes and grab the best parts to put with the best parts of other jokes...giving you a killer four minutes...but eating up a big chunk of your potentially useful material.
It's a question that Ty struggled with on a particular night during last year's Voting Round...as he talked to a few of us 'round a table at Swannie's Sports Bar, just a couple of blocks away from Qwest Field in Seattle.
And that conundrum is scaring the bejeebus out of the comics here tonight...ESPECIALLY, if the Magically Elvish editors are going to share the best joke of each performer from the tapings of previous shows, just before that performer actually takes the stage in front of this live audience (and the, hopefully, millions watching at home...)
In theory, this problem should have been solved BY the editors--and the "performers who move on get their worst material shown while performers who DON'T move on get their best material on the show" technique they employ.
You just hope that Lavell wasn't planning on telling the "So I can LIVE!" joke tonight.
I mean, I'd hate to see Lavell angry.
Or in a thong.
Or angry in a thong.
Or angry in a thong in Enumclaw!
:: shudder ::
Time for a commercial break. Top off your glasses, madams and sirs...the party is about to begin!
I was digging the minimal teaser clips for the upcoming Bionic Woman series--the one with only the car crash and then the bionic leg reveal resulting in the guy being thrown across the room. Now, they've extended that teaser with scenes VERY reminiscent of The Matrix...and a villain who spouts off one of the lamest ironic battle comment since The Last Action Hero bombed.
I went from being totally into it and looking forward to it...to wondering if the only show this fall that I care about is going to be Life.
What? You thought I was going to say Cavemen? Please...no...
(Even though I love Nick Kroll...and he's in the Cavemen series... No.)
All topped off and ready to go? Wonderful.
Bill lets us know that each comedian will get four minutes to perform. I'd complain about the stinginess of that, but four minutes of unedited comedy is better than no minutes of unedited comedy...so let's all play their little game for now. They'll cut the mic off at four minutes...so, they can't just lolligag around on stage--they've got to hit it and quit it.
"Sounds gangsta, don't it?" is Bill's reaction to the "we'll shut off their mics" rule.
The comics will perform, America will vote...and the performer with the fewest votes will be left along the wayside as the Last Comic Standing bus keeps a-movin'...
Bill introduces the first competitive comedian tonight: Lavell Crawford.
Lavell is standing just off-stage in the wings...and he's heard his name...and he's not moving. Instead, the camera keeps him in frame as highlights of his time on Last Comic Standing play on a monitor that Lavell is staring at...
Typically, a good MC for a comedy show will always end their introduction with the name of the performer... Doing it that way connects the natural instinct to applaud at the end of an introduction directly to the performer's name... Saying the performers name and then continuing to talk is a sign of an amateur host. Or the handiwork of the Magically Elvish editors who can't stop themselves from producing a montage...
In this montage, Lavell, in previously recorded interview segments mixed in and voicing over some b-roll footage of Lavell in the various steps of this season's moments, assures us that "It's my time...it's my time..." and "I'm good. This is what I do, man..." and "I'm in it to win it. I'm gonna win it, big daddy, Lavell Crawford."
Wow. I hope that confidence bordering on arrogance fits into his comedic style. Most comedians tend to be somewhat self-deprecating and vulnerable--in fact, that vulnerability is key to allowing the audience to handle some of the riskier elements of most comedians' sets... I understand that the process of most contest based reality tv shows demands that the competitors think of themselves as the one who's going to win...but will that approach color how people think of a comedian's performance? It's hard to hear someone talking about how they've got it tough when they've been seen moments ago extremely confident in their "real" attitude. It points out a level of insincerity that most performers would rather not exhibit.
Remember Chris Porter in last season's Last Comic Standing? He was nearly as beloved as Josh Blue was...and it seemed like one curly haired, awkward and cuddly comedian would be facing off against another curly haired, awkward and cuddly comedian in the finals...until a disconnect was noticed between the seemingly "cuddly" real Chris Porter off stage (admittedly, more a creation/wish-fulfillment of those watching him and making judgments based on his looks more than any actual personality exhibited during the show) and the increasingly meanness and bitterness in his club-tested act.
So, again...I hope that Lavell's confidence fits his comedic style...
We're about to find out, one way or the other...because it is time, ladies and gentlemen...to welcome to the stage...the man that Bill Bellamy describes as "The lovable grizzly bear of comedy...from St. Louis, Missouri...Lavell Crawford."
LAVELL CRAWFORD: Man, I'm happy to be here. This is the greatest job in the world. I love telling jokes, man. I used to have a lot of other jobs. I used to work in fast food. I weren't good at that job. I weren't good at that job at all.
I used to work at this place called Happy Burger. I used to work cash register there. People come up to my cash register...I'd be like:
"Welcome to Happy Burger, May I help you?"
---"Yes, can I get a Double Happy Burger?"
"Fresh out of Double Happy Burgers."
---"You didn't even look."
"I KNOW...we fresh out of Double Happy Burgers..."
---"Well, give me a Big and Happy Burger."
"We fresh out of Big and Happy Burgers, too."
---"There are TWELVE behind you!"
They fired the hell out of me.
"GET OUT OF HERE. Eatin' up all of the inventory. Only reason we hired you, 'cause you could fit the Happy Suit."
Yeah, I don't like to work. I hate to work. I, really, I hate to work. I don't like no jobs. I found out some of my ancestors were slaves. I know, if they was anything like me, they got tired of them quick.
--"Get out there and pick that cotton!"
"Who he talkin' to? I know he ain't talkin' to me. I don't even know what cotton is! I just got off the boat. You better send me up to that house, Massa. I know about a biscuit, I don't know nothin' about no cotton."
The only person I know who like to work is my friend, Jose. Jose work HARD. Jose work REAL hard. He come to work early. He work through break, making me look bad. I'm like:
"Sit down, Jose."
---"I need my job, I need my job."
He'll stay at work late and THEN, go to his second job...sellin' fresh fruit on the side of the highway.
I know if they had Jose back in slavery days, they'd put me and my ass, up...back in the water.
---"Hey Lavell, get you and all 300 of your family members back on that boat...and get back to Africa. Get your cornbread eating, hot sauce, Kool-Ade drinking butt back on that boat and GET BACK TO AFRICA. We've got Jose, his wife and his mother in law...and they're pickin' all the cotton in the south."
---"And his two kids'll open up a Baby Gap. Get out of here."
Some people love their jobs so much, boy, if they get fired...you better not show up to work. Boy, they'll want to hold everybody hostage. Here comes a dude in there, he gets fired and he comes back with a twelve gauge. Goin'...
---"All riiiiight, nobody leavin' until Jeffrey gets some respect."
I'm mad because I just clocked out. I'll be like...
"Excuse me? Excuse me, Mister Psycho? Can I clock back in? I be damned if I'm gonna miss this over time."
I used to have another job, too. I used to be a crossing guard. I weren't good at that job either. Be out there, kids'd be like:
---"Mister, aren't you gonna cross us?"
"No. Your ass run everywhere else, you'd better run your ass across that street. That van's only goin' 55 miles an hour...if you run right now, you'll make it..."
"Oh, Lord...better get my last check."
I didn't like that job anyway. They used to dress me up in those orange vest...orange pants...look like one of those barrels out on the highway when they do some work on it. I used to go out on the highway and scare the hell out of drivers.
---"Dude, put that weed out. I think that barrel just said something to me, dawg..."
...and that, ladies and gentlemen...is Lavell Crawford.
PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS AND NOTES: Not surprisingly, Lavell isn't the most energetic fellow in the world of comedy. Lean back, lean forward and bug-out your eyes on points--that's pretty much it. Lavell gets perilously close to a stereotype defined by Mantan Moreland in movies made in the 1930's & 40's (Moreland might best be known as the chauffeur in the Charlie Chan movies.)
Was that Stone Cold Steve Austin doubling up and laughing so hard that snot shot out of his nose during the stuff about Jose?
And, speaking of that bit...can it be racist to say something good about a race other than your own? Discuss.
A lot of people were wondering if Lavell would only talk about his being fat--and while the obvious is always in play, Lavell proved here that he has material that isn't solely about his weight. The end result was a pleasant enough set that got a generally good response from the audience...but nothing huge...and certainly no standing ovation at the end.
Will it be enough for Lavell to move on? Well...I suppose we have to see how the others do first, right?
Before we go to the commercial break, the Elvish editors show us Jon Reep's "Red, White & Blue" joke from the semi-finals...how we're a "small-town nation" because Red White & Blue stands for "Redneck, White Trash, Blue Collar." It's a good joke. We'll see what else Jon has in just two minutes!
"Hit the Duh Switch"--worst line in any commercial in the past two years.
Oh, more importantly... The new 7 disc DVD set of the popular NBC series "Heroes" includes lots of bonus features...including the "never aired 73 minute premiere." How in the world could the "premiere" of "Heroes" never have aired? Doesn't the definition of the word "Premiere" suggest that it is what was shown first?
We're back to the show and Bill is pimping up the title of "Last Comic Standing" as "the biggest title in comedy." I'm not sure if that's true. It's certainly not the longest...
Bill leads us into that creepy moment where we get to see the performer staring at a montage of their accomplishments so far in the series--this time for our second performer, Jon Reep. It's an odd thing to watch someone watch themselves.
Jon, by the way, has dressed up for the occasion tonight. He's wearing the same clothes he always wears, but he's thrown a suit jacket on top of it. Stay Classy, Hickory!
Just as Lavell did, Jon adds in some moments of self-motivating confidence amidst his montage of silliness. Probably more than any other competitor going on stage tonight, Jon's style is that of unwavering and misplaced confidence--so, this won't confuse anyone who already likes him to see him proudly claim, "I made it. I MADE it!"
Jon adds in a new bit in the montage--is THAT a good idea?--about how he's a "good" redneck. "I don't hate anybody, I've never been on Springer or Maury Povich, I'm not attracted to any of my cousins--and I've got some HOT cousins."
Hell, Jon...save some of that for the stage, right?
Jon, explaining his purpose for being here, says "I want to get the cash, I want to get the notoriety, I want to get the respect."
Cash? Yeah, you'd get the cash if you win.
Respect? Obviously Jon's never read these message boards has he?
What Last Comic Standing REALLY does is present you a short window of opportunity. A moment where people who had previously never heard of you will give you a chance to make them laugh. You still have to grab that opportunity and do the most with it...success is not merely conveyed on you, it still has to be earned...every night, somewhere further down the road...
...maybe in some place bigger than the last time you were in that town.
I'm just not certain I'd call that "respect."
Enough of my complaining...Bill's bringing him up on stage... "He said he's going to make the rafters shake and your biscuits bake. Give it up for the pride of Hickory, North Carolina...Jon Reep!"
REV MY HEMI, J.R.
JON REEP: Hey, if you like to have fun, do this. OK? The next time you're out in public and you see one of those guys talking WAY too loud on their cell phone...do this. Gently walk up to them, like this, right. Then lean in and start listening to him.
"What's HE saying? Can I talk on it? Let me talk on it..."
They'll say something like:
---"Excuse me? Can I have a little privacy please?"
That's when you say this:
"No. Because you're in public. That's how the system works. Yeah. Turns out...as it turns out there is no privacy in public. In fact, your privacy is invading our public. Why don't... Why don't you go somewhere so we can have a little public around here? And stop shushing people."
"And take that stupid headset out of your ear when you're not on the phone. You look like a tool. Like, hey, you want a BlueTooth? Eat a BlackBerry."
You guys drinking tonight? I see your plastic cups out there. It's like a keg party in here. I love it. I wish I could have a beer with you, man. I love beer. I do. I'd marry beer if you could.
"Would you, Beer, take me...to be your awfully hammered husband...'til a DUI do us part?"
I'd like to meet the guy who invented beer...and buy that dude a beer. Yeah.
I even like those old beer slogans. You guys remember this one?
---"Old Milwaukee, it don't get no better than this."
Yes it does. It gets a lot better than that. It should say:
---"Old Milwaukee, it don't get no cheaper than this."
That's why you buy it. Right? I know... I know everybody in here has done that beer math in your head at some point That price/quantity ratio...you're just trying to figure out the best deal.
"I gotta figure this out... I got it...OK. OK, here's the deal...we can get a case of Heineken...or FIFTEEN cases of Old Milwaukee."
Milwaukee every time.
I like Budweiser. That's my favorite beer. I like Budweiser. Do you like it? I don't know. I like the way it tastes...I also love it because it's the easiest one to order when you're hammered. Bartender says last call, you can't say Heineken...after fifteen of 'em.
---"Last Call...what can I get ya?"
"Hanaaadadinnnn...Hanaaaanaa... Here kitty, kitty, kitty..."
You can always say Bud.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Jon Reep...
PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS AND NOTES: Jon, more than anyone left in this competition, is just goofy. His mugging for the cameras in that split second before he bounds across the stage is something that can fill a heart with unadulterated joy. If this Last Comic Standing thing doesn't work out, I think Jon should be a Muppet.
His style is totally lost in a written recap, as when he's at his best, he's making faces, lunges, odd twisty bends and contorts his voice to match. The difference between the drunk guy trying to say Heineken and the guy-so-drunk-he's-about-to-throw-up guy who can say "Bud" is something that has to be seen and heard to be fully appreciated.
But, you live by the sword, you die by the sword--and if you don't find Jon charmingly goofy, you won't find much depth to his material... The BlueTooth/BlackBerry joke aside, you're not going to find all that much that is clever in what Jon does... If you compare him to another charmingly goofy performer--LCS Season Two champion John Heffron, John would come across as superior because his goofiness is in service of better material.
...if you were having a beer bash, though...you'd definitely want to invite Jon to it. He'd make it fun...he would.
In the end, Jon got a generally good response...but nothing explosive. He got good applause but the only ones standing at the end of his set were Jon's fiance and her friends...and that, really, doesn't count, does it?
Jon, goof ball that he is, decides to mouth along with the teleprompter for what Bill is saying... Again--he knows his demographic and he's giving them what they want...
We've seen two of our five competitors so far...three more to go...and the next one, after another commercial break, will be Ralph Harris. As we go to break, we're reminded of Ralph's semi-final performance, where he...as his grandfather...remembers that his wife was the "World Champion at the Pass the Gas Game."
Yep. Some high brow humor on the way.
Time for a bathroom break. And if you're friend goes to the bathroom, time them. More than three minutes...you know they're poopin'. You do.
Here's a topic for debate. Who would be more likely to want you to buy a bra--Heidi Klum or Debra DiGiovanni? I mean, as a guy, I want to see Heidi Klum in her underwear as often as possible...so, I'll support the business that puts her in her underwear on television as much as I can...but I don't actually use the product. (Some might say that the "product" is often used on me...and I don't have a problem with that.)
It seems to me that if Debra DiGiovanni came on screen and said "Here. This one helps keep my girls where they should be."--that'd be one hell of a motivational sales pitch. Better than Heidi Klum and another impossibly figured supermodel floating across the screen saying things that no one is paying attention to...
Just a thought...
AUUUUUGGGGGGGH!!! BILL BELLAMY IS GRABBING HOLD OF MY TELEVISION SCREEN FROM THE OTHER SIDE AND HE'S YELLING AT ME!!!
"We've been waiting for you right here! Everybody's waiting for you... The show's about to start!!! Do you see all these people? Waiting for you!!!"
Wow. As if I wasn't feeling enough pressure to decide who's the funniest, now I'm being blamed for a commercial break running slightly long... Thanks a lot, Bill. Where's my Paxil?
Lavell Crawford was wearing a full suit...and the big man can wear a suit, to be sure...but as Ralph Harris prepares to watch his personal montage, he proves that HE...WEARS...a SUIT. Looking resplendent in beige, Ralph Harris comes across as the most professional performer. He just seems to know where to stand, when to smile, how to look...and tonight, he's left casual behind to be the best dressed man on stage.
We've seen, during the course of the season so far, that Ralph Harris's "confidence bordering on arrogance" is stronger than anyone else here. So, hearing him say things in his montage like "What I cam to do was win the thing. I came to win the whole thing. I didn't come to give the competition to anyone else," doesn't surprise us coming from him...as similar statements from others might. The thing is...the guy won two head-to-head-to-head showdowns. He's earned the right to be confident...arrogant, even. He, personally, sent four funny people home.
Well...ok, three of them were funny...but four of them went home.
And all of them because they couldn't get more love from an audience than Ralph Harris. We'd ALL better recognize.
"This man is having the time of his life. He's a brother who really loves his mother. Put your hands together for Philly's own...Ralph Harris."
RALPH HARRIS: I just got to real quick tell you all. It's been a long road to get to here and I can't tell you. If I can give you a little piece of me just to let you see how it feels to be up here right now. I thank you so much for being here for my dream. Thank you. Thank you. Wow. Wow.
Anyway. My family, we just had a reunion. Everybody went home. And my aunt...you know, everybody came over...my aunt's you know. My aunt came over to my house with a blond wig on her head, like ain't nobody gonna say nothin' to her, you know? Last year, she had a black wig...this year, she had a blond wig on, black hairs sticking out the front, you know...she look like a ram, walking around the house, man. She got the little stuff stickin' out...
And, you know, and she's a wonderful lady...sweet lady...but she's always on some kind of diet. She's lost like 175 pounds. And she's doing every kind of diet. The James diet, the Nutri-diet. The meat diet, she almost died from that one... And, uh...then, she does all that stuff.
She blends everything in the house. It's hard to eat a fish sandwich...when you drinkin' it. It's not good at all.
And she's got that stuff that swings under her arm. When I was little, she'd let you swing on it.
---"Here, go all the way over..."
And she'd knock stuff over on the table at Thanksgiving...
---"Is that the gravy? Get the butter knife and scrape that back in there. Ain't no need in wastin' that good gravy. Get the onion? I got an onion on the side. Get the onion on the side."
She comes over, she brings my uncle. My uncle drinks a little too much. Everybody's got an uncle that drinks too much. Right? Yeah... If you don't have one, you better get one.
They're happy drunks. And they come over...and they always want to fight somebody...got a lot to say that nobody can understand but them, right?
---"Whuuuut? WHUUUT deed you NOOO that SHEEEEEE.... I deeeedeeeent puttt in neeedoooo and shee doooont reeee eeeeitahhh.
You heard me...
I neneeeedent even care... I'm a maaaaaan....I'm a maaaaaaaan... Shoot, I wazz jusss tryan be soshhhuallluh...sossshuabuuuuh ...sooshaaa... Izzz jussss tryan be frennnnnly.
Thazzz what your gotta unnnnerstaaan... Yoo lose a lotta frennnnz whennn you doooon treeet people right... I treeeeet peeeple wrong, sumtiiiiimes...and they leave. They leave my life...
And Izz.... Izzz.....Izzzzzzz jussss tryan tell ya....
:: Ralph now mimics vomiting into his mouth and then chewing it and reswallowing it. ::
WHHHOOOOOO! That wuzzz a fish sandwich or sumpin....
Buut sheeeees gotta resssspek. You KNOOWWW what Ima saaaaayyyyin.......
I knowwww I got a little weakness, I admit it...aaaaaaahahhhhaaaaaaaaaaa.
I drink, I drink...whoooopie dooooo!
I doan need your sympallly...
I'll drink...I'lll drink... I'm drinking...
Look, let me tryan tell ya somethin...
I'm a man, I'm a mann... I'm a man... M-A.... M-A.... ...MAN...
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Ralph Harris.
PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS AND NOTES: Ralph came out of the gate with a heartfelt comment about what it feels like for him to be able to do what he does. Unfortunately, it wasn't something that the audience could become particularly invested in...and it wasn't funny. (Ironically (or not), the show director cut to a person holding up the "Show Us The Funny Ralph" sign while he was giving this heartfelt and unfunny commentary.) Heartfelt or not, it was just a waste of his precious time in getting people to laugh...and it really didn't connect with the audience, so it didn't serve to make people like him more. It also put a lot of pressure on his first bit...as it had to be funny enough to justify not only the time it took to set it up, but ALSO the time he spent before he told the joke, when he wasn't being funny. Unfortunately, it was a rambling and only mildly funny bit... Certainly not his best work and it put Ralph in a hole that he had to spend the rest of his set trying to dig his way out of...
And "thank you for being here for my dream"??? Who does he think he is, Dante? They aren't there "for your dream"--they're there because they expect you to be funny. They aren't there for you--YOU are there for THEM. Get on with it!
Gina Yashere laughed at the "knocking things over at the dinner table with the under arm fat" act-out...which involved Ralph knocking the microphone around in its stand with his arm.
Again, as with Jon Reep...but even more so, transcription does not do Ralph any justice. Seeing him act out whipping himself around his aunt's arm fat is far funnier than reading about it. Same with his extended drunk uncle act-out...which I've tried to phonetically recapture above.
The drunk uncle act-out is the show stopper. It is classic Ralph Harris. Think about it. Ralph gives us small slices of a familiar family life...and then he goes into a character where he rambles in a voice that is both loud and inaccurate...usually stumbling or stomping around the stage. It induces a connection with the audience and it is supremely silly.
It's also a pale shadow of the more three dimensional characters that Richard Pryor used to bring to life on stage. The specter of Pryor weighs heavily over Ralph Harris--because Richard could add the depth of social importance into his characters...and Ralph has no social context for his characters. How are we supposed to feel about Ralph's drunk uncle? To some degree, we've seen what Ralph does from others...and others have done what Ralph does better.
The audience didn't really laugh at anything that Ralph said until he started talking about his aunt's arm fat... I wondered if Ralph was panicking inside at this extended time of non-reaction during his competition set, as he seemed to be rushing a bit through the aunt's wig material in order to get to the safe harbor of the big act-outs. At the end, the crowd was truly enjoying the drunk uncle stuff...but, again, the only people standing at the end were Ralph's fiance and friends...
THIS RECAP CONTINUES IN THE NEXT POST!