On last night's episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, comedian Andrew Norelli made a solid case against raising your expectations when you and the gang go on a Vegas vacation, as well as for not trying so hard to pose for a photo. Fun fact: Norelli will be recording a CD for Uproar later this month in Seattle. Random fact about Norelli: He finished as runner-up in the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival contest. Other random fact about Norelli: He used to be a writer for Byron Allen's Comics Unleashed.
And in slightly related news: What happened to the fake-brick Bud Light stage that Kimmel was putting the comedians on earlier? Hmmm.
Roll the clip!
Here were your final results from the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival contest, decided last weekend...
1. Dwight Slade ($5,000); 2. Andrew Norelli ($2,500); 3. Myq Kaplan ($1,000); 4. Dave Waite ($300); 5. Baron Vaughn ($300); 6. Joe List ($300); 7. Rob O'Reilly ($300); 8. Mario DiGiorgio ($300)
How did this happen? Well, let's examine the particulars. The Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston didn't have its usual packed audience -- my memory tells me that festival organizer Jim McCue (who hosted the finals) had a sure-fire headliner in past years with Lewis Black (whom McCue sometimes opens for on tour) to fill the seats, and without that (The Smothers Brothers were the biggest name on Saturday night), the venue didn't even open the balcony. So you've got comedians used to smaller, more intimate club stages moving up to a big theater stage, except they're playing to a half-house (essentially). So you're playing to the orchestra level and a mezzanine. How do you translate your jokes to a mezzanine? There's that to consider. Also, they put the judges in the Muppet seats (as judge/honoree Steve Sweeney remarked) above the stage and near the speakers, where the acoustics were, well, terrible.
As for the performances themselves, I'm not surprised in the slightest at the top three -- Slade, Norelli and Kaplan performed at a higher level than the other five finalists. Those three could have finished in any order and not surprised me. That's how close they were. In the end, however, Slade owned the stage in a way the others didn't, and that most likely gave him an edge on the judges' scorecards.
Spoiler alert! Oh, wait. It's an event, results happened, we were there, and if you missed it, you missed it, so there's nothing to spoil, only news to share in the finals of the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival's stand-up comedy competition. And here are your top three finishers, as announced live Saturday night at the Cutler Majestic Theatre.
1) Dwight Slade
2) Andrew Norelli
3) Myq Kaplan
Congrats. Full recap and analysis to come later today!
There's an old saying that goes, if you can't stand the heat, then don't become a firefighter. Likewise, if you don't like being judged, then please don't become a stand-up comedian, because you're judged immediately and continuously by every audience you see in the darkness under the glare of the spotlight. And certainly, obviously, do not enter a comedy competition, because that's just inviting constructive criticism, and scores, and rankings. If you've read all of that, and still want to compete against other stand-up comedians in a truly arbitrary and subjective manner, then go for it! Did I mention you may face a cold 7 p.m. crowd? Or that your microphone may go out at any time, and perhaps several times, during your 8-minute set? Alrighty then! Let's proceed with the first half of the semifinals in the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival contest!
Semifinal #1, advancing to the Finals at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Cutler Majestic Theatre with the Smothers Brothers and qualifying for a share in $10,000 in prize money...Myq Kaplan and Joe List!
As he did in the prelims, Kaplan proved his stage smarts by opening with callbacks to the other performers, and no one could deny him a chance to move up from 2007, when he was runner-up in this contest. As for List, wow, this guy has become so much more confident in his persona onstage than he was even six months ago when he taped Comedy Central's Live at Gotham. Even knocking his glasses off didn't faze him. "That's jokes 6, 7 and 9. I didn't anticipate that last one. That was 2-for-1, because it was physical." At another point, he directed his attention to a front table of attractive women: "I don't care about the contest. I just want to have sex with one of you three." Well, List, you still made it to the finals.
Which means Sean Sullivan just missed out. The judges told me they also particularly liked him. Not that they hated everyone else (although I can tell you that they really didn't like a couple of the acts -- you can decide among yourselves who those fellas might be and lose sleep over it, if you'd like, but if you ate it and/or turned the crowd off, it might be you). Just that Sullivan would have advanced if they had three spots.
The second semi-final gave me an idea...
Not all contest preliminary groups in the Boston Comedy Festival are created alike. That's the first thing that has to be said for prelims 3-4 last night. In the late show, you could make a case for at least eight of the 12 comedians to make it through to the semis, but there only were slots for four. As for the early show, well, that was a tougher show to grade, because quite a few comedians were off. Andrew Norelli, going up seventh in the order, used this as his opening remark to the audience at the Hard Rock Cafe: "I know we're making it look like it's not fun, but it's fun!" Also, each of the first four prelims has proved problematic for comedians attempting to deal with the wireless microphone -- grabbing it from the stand, at least one comic per group manages to turn the mic off, and thereby momentarily derailing their sets. Tech proficiency can be just as important in delivering and connecting with the audience. Please make a note of it. Thanks. With that, let's get to who advanced and why...
Norelli acknowledged the early roughgoing and proceeded to get the audience on his side by talking about steroids in baseball, and how other drugs might make it better. A routine on massages went from happy endings (predictable) to massage talkers and the inanity of the phrase, "Push the stress out your arms." He also has a good retort to porn stars who claim they don't know who he is as a comic, as well as people who claim they're broke but still have plenty of money.
Dustin opened with a passing remark to the stage: "Nice ramp. I would've brought my wheelchair if I had known." Tonight's show had plenty of comics noting their surroundings, by the way. But no one else in the contest had to deal with waitresses dropping the checks during their contest set. Dustin still managed to get their attention by talking about vibrators -- "OK, the lonely girl has spoken!" Dustin noted in reference to one shouty audience member -- and jokes about sex and work and things you don't want to hear in bed. I'd heard it all before. It still worked.
Hunter could have had a terrible set by opening rather loud on the mic, but once he focused his routine on one lengthy bit about the many enticements and redeeming qualities he offers the ladies -- namely, everything they tend to like and act like -- got his vocal delivery in a more appealing rhythm that worked. "I'll be by that instrument after the show," he said, in case you wanted to take him up on that offer. Good luck.
O'Reilly also overcame a mistaken gametime decision. For reasons only he can explain, he decided to stop his routine in the middle to engage in crowd work with retired women in the front table. Crowd work that didn't go anywhere. And this was in the middle of O'Reilly joking about sex. His jokes about being a bastard do provide him with a solid line, however, that he can use for callbacks and laughs.
Others in this group deserving mentions of one sort or another: Jono Zalay wore an American flag sweater but didn't explain it, instead delivering a routine about feeding cocaine to rats and monkeys (it's for his studies). Dustin Chafin was rough around the edges, which works better in NYC where he lives now than in the Hard Rock in Boston (especially with the retired ladies up front), and went with midgets, redneck jokes, Bush is dumb, and a good line about how Obama can look more patriotic (hint: Apollo Creed). "Yay!" may not be the most effective catchphrase to utter every 15 seconds. "Big" Alvin David and Kendra Cunningham both had a fun presence, and plenty of crowd support, but couldn't translate that into winning sets. Shawn Donovan picked his doctor just for the name and comedy premise alone, but needed to sell it better. I can see why Myq Kaplan liked Donovan's style (Donovan even borrowed Kaplan's phrase and inflection to deliver one punchline?!).
OK. Moving on...
OK. So we've had more than a few weeks now of this silly little Last Comic Driving contest, and it's time to spill some beans. For one thing, anyone else consider it odd that NBC put the first contestant, Andrew Norelli, up on Hulu, but no one else? Conspiracy? Or did they just think, er, maybe no one wants to see this again?
So far we've seen Andrew Norelli, Whitney Cummings, J. Chris Newberg, Jacob Sirof, Alycia Cooper and Eddie Pence take the not-so-hot seat in the Honda Pilot. In the back seats, it's often hard to even hear what's going on in the front. How do they fix this? Well, first off, the pay the passengers. Sure, you guessed that part already, didn't you? I read online elsewhere that someone thought the other contestants were the passengers. Oh, what misery that would be. No, no. You shall pay me to sit in a car and listen to multiple takes of comedy. Also, you shall put this car on a trailer, because I don't trust Brit lady to drive and talk and look at the camera at the same time. I like Brit lady. I really do. But, no driving in Los Angeles, please. In that case, why don't you just park the car for a while? OK. Done. And, well, how are we supposed to hear what you're saying with the air conditioning on? Alrighty then. Turn it off. That sounds like fun. I hope you're not sweating too much back there in the back-back seats. Oh, you are? We're not going to pay you extra for that. Sorry. This is so much more horrible than the last parallel online contest the show ran, and yet, well, someone will win $10,000, so at least one of the comedians will have something happy to remember from this miserable experience. Four more contestants to go...
If you watched the debut of NBC's Last Comic Standing, then you also saw a curious contest within the contest called Last Comic Driving, in which 10 stand-up comedians who didn't get picked for the show somehow (selection process not explained therein) got to compete for $10,000 cash
and a new Honda Pilot (you can win the Honda Pilot) by telling jokes from the passenger seat of a Pilot (how's that for product placement?). The British lady Fearne Cotton does the actual (or simulated) driving. No idea how you get picked to be a hostage, er, I mean, back seat comedy audience member, nor how much they paid those folks (actors) to act nice for the cameras. This sounds horrible, and logistically, if you're in the back seat, trying to listen to someone talking in the front is horribler, which may not even be a word. At least they edit it so it's not horriblest. You're supposed to be able to rate each comedian online if you want to enter the contest for the car. First up, Andrew Norelli.
There's an extra clip on Hulu, included after the jump. Do you think NBC actually used his best jokes on TV, or online? I think NBC chose wisely.