Are these the names you were looking for? The 2009 Montreal Just For Laughs comedy festival presents the "New Faces" for the industry to discover, fawn over and scrutinize. It looks to be a very strong class, just from the faces and names I already have come to discover, fawn over and scrutinize right here on The Comic's Comic.
So here they are! The New Faces perform in two groups tonight, Wednesday and Thursday -- this year at the Cabaret Juste Pour Rire (much closer to the rest of the action than the far-out Kola Note). Send your wishes of well to the following comedians...photos and links after the jump!
So we begin the sixth season of NBC's Last Comic Standing, and already it's clear they're still playing from the American Idol of Comedy playbook, what with host Bill Bellamy delivering the introduction...wait for it...turn on the lights...to a large audience! Get it? This is big, people. Anyhow. We're going to endure plenty of people plucked from the lines for the sole purpose of mocking them because they're willing to be mocked to get on TV, plus hundreds more who now will be billed in comedy clubs as "as seen on Last Comic Standing," even though you never saw their names and perhaps never heard them deliver a funny joke on the program.
The opening montage, already leaked to the Internets weeks ago, includes Eddie Pepitone, Michelle Buteau, Dwayne Perkins and a bunch of fools. Celebrity judges get billed as NBC talent, even if you'd never link them to NBC. Although Dave Foley delivers a funny line we'll hear again later this season, after Richard Kind says "Dreams, just crushed," retorting: "You know, then we can make dream juice, and that's refreshing in the morning." Yes, we will suffer, too, watching the parade of audition rejects before we can get to the actual professional comedians, and yes, just as with Idol, producers will select several acts merely for casting a TV show than for their talents as a comedian. Also, FYI: Jay Mohr still gets a consultant credit this year. Some British lady (Fearne Cotton) is out on the streets near Gotham Comedy Club talking about all of the people who showed up for the open call (as if they'll ever get picked for this). Cue the montage of people walking into the room. Split-second looks. Hey, that's a guy with an online comedy radio program. Hey, there's our judges for New York City, Richard Belzer and Steve Schirripa. Belzer's comedy career goes back decades, even though he's more known for being Detective Munch on TV for years. Schirripa, meanwhile, has run a comedy room in Vegas for years, even though he's known pretty much only for being Bobby on The Sopranos. So keep this in mind. Also, I was at the NYC callbacks and saw Belzer and Schrripa personally talk up a few of the acts, while plenty of others got kicked out prematurely for little or no good reason. Want to see what I saw behind the scenes? Click here.
Anyhow. First up is someone in a half-chicken suit, Buck B'Gak? Montage of awfulness. Louis Ramey, billed as Forest Hills!, does a black guy in Aspen bit and a Detroit is tough bit, and because producers set this up with special camera time, we know he'll go through. More faces. Baron Vaughn and Ophira Eisenberg get split-second shots, but no talky talk. There's a "what are you gonna do" montage. Adam Sank is a gay Jew who worked at Fox News, so he gets to come back, although Schrripa makes a bad gay joke in doing so. Esther Ku is 24? That is not something I knew before. Cameras follow her around the city as she talks to her mom on the cell phone. Ku took part in last year's NBC Stand-Up For Diversity program, so the network knew about her already. And she makes Belzer laugh out loud. Wins them over, anyhow. A montage of freakiness, paused for a few seconds to allow ventriloquist Carla Rhodes to bring out her Keith Richards dummy. God's Pottery gets some advance billing, performing on the streets and playgrounds of Brooklyn, before cutting to the club audition for their Christian folk duo routine. I saw these guys last year at the Montreal festival and they drew raves. The judges here clearly get it, saying as much. But even now, months afterward, I'm still confused how they're supposed to compete in a stand-up contest -- especially one with challenges and so forth. Speaking of which, after a commercial break, it's Stone and Stone, identical twin brothers who talk over each other. This is going to be annoying, hilarious, or both. You pick. There's another montage of folks in a confessional booth of some sort. Then we get the return of Dan Naturman, only the show hasn't set this up yet, and Naturman's delivery has the judges confused, but in a good way. Susannah Perlman gets to walk around the sidewalk in different costumes, and we're led to believe something will come of this, but instead, she's being set up for a big fall. Comics forgetting their punchlines. There's a bad baby montage -- which we saw coming, but Myq Kaplan didn't know this when he went onstage with a guitar, and got dismissed before playing said guitar. Gently weeping. Al Jackson gets the reality TV role of guy chasing dreams as his wife gives birth, and his Bush joke gets him a callback. Marc Theobald's teeth get a laugh. Dan Curry works in a sex joke around Kevin Bacon. Michelle Buteau gets Facebooked!
At the callback performance show...Sank opens with Project Runway jokes. God's Pottery has a song for Jews. Curry sends a text message to the wrong friend and big laughs. Ku is joking backstage with some comic that's never introduced to us. Her set's not the best, but she's cute and confident. Jackson's wife and newborn get camera time.
During a commercial break, we get...Last Comic Driving? That British lady's the one driving, though, so it's Last Comic Shotgun, as, one a time, presumably, we'll get a comedian trying to tell jokes to hostages in the back seat. That sounds like it's never going to work. But one comic will win $10,000 somehow??? Online voting. That's how. Oh. No. Anyhow. Andrew Norelli is up first. He tells jokes about plastic surgery, former models and people who aren't quite broke. Oh, wait. I get it. The comic who wins this also gets a new car, so he/she will be driving that. Moving on...
Naturman jokes about how no one predicted the Internet, not even Star Trek. Theobald jokes about candles. Ramey plays pranks at tanning salons. Angry Bob is, well, angry. Buteau filled out credit card applications for candy bars? Hello! Stone and Stone are still talking over each other. That's the act.
The called backs are assembled onstage, and we see Aparna and Costaki and Jon Fisch and that still-unidentified woman, even though we've never seen or heard from them on the show yet. Does that even count? Hmmm. Getting red envelopes, at least on camera, are Ramey, the Stone twins, Ku, God's Pottery and Naturman. Did some people get robbed? Yes. Of course they did. Aparna even vanished from the stage (she got a ticket, only something must have happened).
Next stop: Tempe, Ariz.!
This is an early review! HBO just taped four episodes of a new stand-up showcase, Down and Dirty with Jim Norton. It'll air this fall (update! debut is midnight Oct. 4, with other episodes premiering Oct. 11, 18, and 25) They taped two episodes last night and two tonight at the BergenPAC in Englewood, New Jersey. At last night's tapings, things got, well, down and dirty.
Al Jackson, who I'm watching on Last Comic Standing as I type this, deserves special honors for his work warming up these rowdy crowds. He got some serious laughs and comedy points during the intermission between shows (an intermission that didn't allow the crowd to move) with material about being a teacher and a story involving his first trip to Starbucks.
Fans literally lined up around the block in this suburban Jersey town for the shows, which Norton promoted on his MySpace and via the Opie & Anthony show. Did I mention the crowds were rowdy? Alrighty then. I still haven't gotten full confirmation from HBO on this, but the first night's shows sure seemed like a suburban, white, rock version of Def Comedy Jam. Norton hosts all four shows and does about five to six minutes upfront, and there's a special podium set up for Lemmy from the band Motorhead, who introduces Norton and contributed the theme song. The fans clearly were on board with Norton from the get-go, welcoming him with a standing ovation.
In the first show, Norton opened with a funny bit about our past and present New York governors and their sexual tendencies. Russ Meneve came out first, and when some guy in the audience shouted out during Meneve's first bit, I got more than a bit worried that this crowd wouldn't know how to behave at a TV taping. They settled down, though. And they laughed and laughed. They gave Meneve an applause break when he joked that his last four girlfriends had died in sailing accidents. They continued laughing throughout the night. Joe DeRosa, whom I first encountered opening for a rowdy audience waiting for Dave Chappelle, certainly held his own with an opening bit about what life really is like for comedians on the road. Ari Shaffir went next, though, and attempted to steal the show when he ended his set with a joke about being ready for a blowjob anytime, demonstrating such by dropping his pants and his underpants for a full frontal moment. A moment that continued when he stood like that, then walked away with his pants still down. Hours later, Shaffir told me he didn't warn the HBO folks about his Full Monty moment, because he figured a warning might only result in HBO telling him not to do it. Then again, it is HBO. Moreover, he didn't really give them any chance to edit around his penis. So to speak. Let's see Carlos Mencia try to steal that bit. Norton's retort? "He looks like me, if I was taller and had a clit." Jim Jeffries got introduced as a special guest and had a funny opener about getting a ride home from an audition, followed by his story about coming down with a case of penis cancer. Audience naturally loved him. But they gave a standing ovation welcome to the first show's headliner, Andrew Dice Clay. Yep. He had his leather jacket, giant belt buckle, sunglasses and cigarette. No nursery rhymes. Instead, some different ancient premises that boiled down to dick jokes, black dick jokes (Siegfried and LeRoy???) that resulted in his philosophical outlook on how black men are ruining us. Or something like that.
The second show last night couldn't help but seem tamer. Norton opened that show with a few quick jokes about breaking up with his girlfriend (somehow Facebook alerted this to me first?!) before launching into his extensive breakdown of a video that I have seen (thank you, Joe Rogan?) of a man dying in Washington state a few years ago after allowing a horse to have sex with him. Indeed. I did say this show seemed tamer, though, and that was because the first few acts weren't quite as aggressive, even if they were still raunchy. Louis Katz introduced his own sex move, the Vengeful Louis, and closed with reasons why premature ejaculation is not necessarily a bad thing. Kevin Shea, introduced as Korean-born, also informed the crowd that he was college roommates with one of the YouTube founders-turned-billionaires. Jason Rouse, Canadian, living in England, started with a topic DeRosa had covered earlier but took it in a different direction. Rouse's jokes weren't just filthy but also somewhat misguided. After one joke, Rouse even said, "I know I'm going to Hell for that joke. But f#@k it, it's warm, and I'll know people there." Patrice Oneal closed out the second show with 15 minutes about how he's gotten creepy as he's gotten older. It's funny because it's true. But also because he's really not that creepy.
They filmed two more episodes tonight, with headliners Bill Burr and Artie Lange, and a lineup that looks more subversive (wish I'd seen that!) and includes Anthony Jeselnik, Whitney Cummings, Andy Andrist, Sean Rouse, Geoff Keith, Jacob Sirof and Jim Florentine.
The eighth and final preliminary competition in the Boston Comedy Festival stand-up contest, and for once, all is right with the world. And by that, I mean it’s not going to be difficult to predict who advances to the semifinals. And by that, I mean read the recap.
Prelim 8 (in order of appearance):
1) Roz Browne: No, not that Roz. Comes up to a cold crowd, leaves it cold. Bites the proverbial opening-comic bullet. Sorry. Better luck next time.
2) Al Jackson: Another teacher? What’s with all of the stand-ups who previously worked as teachers? Could it be the students? Must be. But Jackson has funny teacher jokes I’ve never heard before. I won’t repeat them here. Guessing you might have another chance to hear them later this week.
3) Amanda Beals: I’m calling her Little Miss Fancypants. Her pants are fancy and full of flowing fabric. She even sounds fancy. Dahling, let me tell you a funny little story.
4) Stan Chen: The audience is not loving his Lance Armstrong bit. So he moves on to Sarah Jessica Parker, calling her sexy but ugly, which provoke laughter. Also argues for Asians in real sports. Is hot dog eating a real sport? I don’t find out in this set. He came off a bit loud tonight for my taste, the kind of loud that gets in the way of the material loud.
5) Myq Kaplan: Strongest set of the night. Opens with Snakes on a Plane inspiring other movie titles. Absolutely love his bit about losing a cell phone. But I feel like his material in the past year has gotten so strong, it’s actually stronger than his closer, which is a weird thing to say, I know, but I didn’t say it. I typed it. Myq should appreciate that.
6) Jy Harris: Another high-energy boost, immediately goes to crowd work. Lies down for a bit, which can work sometimes, but not this time. Makes a funny case for why you shouldn’t immediately suspect vegetarians are gay.
7) David Landau: Opens with an Ashlee Simpson joke, which backfired yet worked for Kjell the other night. Landau moves on to observations about gas prices, smoking warnings. Good. But not as good as other comics before him this night.
8) Nick Hoff: Acts out what happened when he saw a spider right before going to sleep. This happened to me with a moth the other night, which makes the hunt trickier, because the moth can fly away. Hoff also is afraid of surfing. I can see why. Good. But not as good as other comics before him this night. Can you sense a trend?
9) Ali Rizvi: Talks about his Muslim family. His mom is a ninja. Loves to dance alone in elevators. Want to see and hear how that might go down? Rizvi will show you. Can the breakdancing Muslim win? Depends upon the contest.
10) Mike Prior: No festival bio or mug shot. Maybe it’s because he told us he’s broke. Wonders why schools don’t let the last-place student give graduation speeches. Says: “I’m having way more fun than you people are.” Correct, sir. You win a prize. Just not the prize you seek.
11) Jay Hewlett: Hack opening line. Talks about getting drunk, sex, work. Has “anal glaucoma.” What’s that? “I can’t see my ass coming to work today.” Fair enough.
12) Tom Kizirian: He’s a recent Northeastern U. grad, and it appears as though he thought this was a bringer contest, or maybe he just has a lot of loving, supporting friends and family. Let’s not be so cynical. It’s the latter. Are you really so tired of writing prelim recaps that you have to go that route? Sorry. Sidetracked. Kizirian says Rollerblading is so gay, even gay guys don’t do it. Now what am I supposed to do with my Rollerblades? Thanks a lot.
The time-killer for this show is Jesse Joyce (for the previous show, Jeff Caldwell). They’re both funny fellas, but at this point, I just want the prelims to be over. Wish granted.
Advancing to the semis, your prelim 8 winners: Myq Kaplan and Al Jackson.