"It took them two years because I'm pretty sure they hired second graders...I remember Phyllis was so upset because the first version of hers looked like Bruce Vilanch."
-- Ed Helms, discussing the official bobbleheads made for cast members on NBC's The Office, after Craig Robinson displayed his own giant custom-made puppet to be a guests on Seth and Ed's Puppet Talk Show on Saturday night at the UCB Theatre in Hollywood.
Background: Compare the Phyllis bobblehead on sale by NBC with a Google image search of Bruce Vilanch.
Here were are, ladies and germs. The finals of the seventh season of Last Comic Standing. All five finalists are lowered on uncomfortable swings, and all five men -- Mike DeStefano, Felipe Esparza, Myq Kaplan, Roy Wood Jr. and Tommy Johnagin -- are wearing black suits. Host Craig Robinson is going with a tux for the occasion, while our judges -- Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo -- are in business casual, semi-formal and casual Friday, respectively.
Anyone care to guess who won without watching the finale but having read between the lines of my blog this season? If you have, then you win a special bonus prize.
Our first elimination?
And now, finally The Final 5 cylons, er, comedians in this seventh season of Last Comic Standing will be revealed and perform for your votes and $250,000 in cash and prizes from NBC. Oh, and almost just as importantly, as host Craig Robinson says up front, there's also the "Last Comic" theater tour.
Oh, we're going to find out right away. Jonathan Thymius is your and our sixth-place finisher.
Which means our Final 5 are Mike DeStefano, Myq Kaplan, Felipe Esparza, Tommy Johnigan and Roy Wood, Jr.
They get to be on tour together "for the next 297 days," Robinson says. Wow. Just wow. Congrats, fellas! And by the way, for anyone who asked me before the season started (including at least one of the finalists),I pretty much nailed it on the head. Enough about me. It's about these five guys. Now time to go for the big prize...
First up is Roy Wood Jr., who gets a full refresher video for us to see glimpses of his journey from the first audition to the finals. Fun fact: He was arrested at 19, and discovered comedy as a coping mechanism. That was 1998. This is tonight. And tonight, Wood also opens up about how excited his drunk uncle is, even though he keeps plugging the wrong NBC show. He says Mississippi residents think everyone hates black people, which, well, Obama? Hey, look, Ryan Hamilton is in the audience smiling and clapping. Not because he likes or dislikes black people, but because he likes this black person, or because the director told the feed to switch to that camera operator. Most likely that last one. Meanwhile, Wood jokes about how he is not going to remember his married friend's dumb lie about hanging out in Puaberto Rico two years ago. And he closes with a bit about women trying to catch their men in the act. Judges? Andy Kindler says Wood keeps getting better and better, and tags his punchline about wristbands. Natasha Leggero tells him to stay single so he can wind up with a hot chick when he wins. Greg Giraldo also congratulates Wood. Looking good for Mr. Wood. But there are still four more comics to compete for your attention and affection.
Tommy Johnagin tells us he knew he wanted to be a comedian since he was a kid, and that his father has been supportive of him along the way. He's going back to the deep blue shirt with tie combo, we see, and lets us know he had a redneck uncle who stole a porta-potty. The dumbest thing he did, however, was visit a gynecologist for a sports physical, and he tells us all about that, which went on much longer than you would think something like that might happen in real life. There's also the time he hit a deer, and the woman sitting in his car yelled "Deer!" Solid stuff. Ixnay on the sweaty pits. Leggero says nice things about him finding jokes inside the jokes, and there goes your theory about her hating him. Giraldo calls him "a great comedian." Kindler says he cannot vote because he has a thermal fax machine, so instead, he'll make T-shirts for Johnagin to sell as merch?
Oh, hello adorable woman in the Lowe's commercial who looks even more adorable in the UCB Theatre basement all this past weekend during the Del Close Marathon. Wait. What?
And suddenly, our nationally televised stand-up comedy competition has become a comedy pageant, because right off the top, our seven remaining comedians step up to the mic and tell us their names and "hometowns." But it's going to be too late for one of these seven to win our hearts and our votes, because those votes already have been cast and sealed away.
It has been brought to my attention that perhaps the one mistake Last Comic Standing has made this year that didn't seem like a mistake until now, is that they should not have gotten rid of the house. Some of the challenges of seasons past didn't really do justice to the art and life of a comedian, but the very fact that we got plenty of time to see the finalists offstage meant that we also got to find out whether we liked them, and that might have helped some of this year's contestants much more than an edited or scaled-down set of only two to three minutes. If anything, this season has given the most stage time to its three judges, which is great news for Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo -- and especially for Kindler, who has (if anyone wants to crunch the numbers and challenge me on this, you'll be wrong) generated the most quips, zingers and audible laughs out of anyone appearing on the show this season. So it's kind of weird that only now, with tonight's episode, that we're getting a little more of a look at our finalists. Note: Some semi-finalists and finalists did get introduced to us from the start with behind-the-scenes human-interest pieces, but of those, only a few remain in the running.
Host Craig Robinson calls our judges "incredibly powerful people," which is, well, obvs, since in Robinson's world, he's "the black Justin Bieber." He asks all seven comedians to step forward, and gives Jonathan Thymius the first proclamation of safety -- which, on this show, means buckle up and get ready to do a set. In our backstory for Thymius, we learn that his other business is something called Comedy O' Gram, and with his stand-up so far, we never know when he's setting us up for a fake-out. I mean, look at the sheet of paper as he scribbles out "aniversari" (sic) and replaces it with "anivercrye"! But, well, it appears to be a real thing he's plugging on his site to render Comedy O'Gram services. And here is a short he did that appeared on Funny or Die back in April:
So there's that. What about his actual set for the NBC audience, though? He opens by asking if it's Groundhog Day. Thymius is a weird one, that's for sure. It's almost as if he's not trying to win. I mean, I know from reading his Facebook and seeing his friends help get out the vote that he wants to win and others want him to, too. But still. His slow, absurd style, on a show like this, feels more like anti-comedy. Kindler loves his "lack of energy" and the idea that he would write down "birds" as a joke. Leggero says she thought his cowboy joke was dirty, and says nobody else could get away with doing his material. Giraldo loves that he stays in character all through the set, but feels like he is running out of his A-material. What do you think, America? It's too late to call, but never too late to think.
After the break, Robinson lets us know who is next to perform, and therefore safe for another week. It's Roy Wood Jr. There's something about seeing the looks on their faces, in which they go through a variety of emotions -- from shock that they made it, to relief that they made it, to shock that they have to deliver their set in about a minute or so. It's a complete reverse from American Idol results shows. There, the people who are safe can just sit and smile, while it's the person who is eliminated who is expected to shut down all human emotion and perform in that moment. So it's not the greatest psychological situation for a stand-up, but it certainly tests their mettle and fortitude. Meanwhile, in Wood's profile video, we see his mom saying the family had wished he would have gotten "a real job," followed by him saying it took him a couple of years but now his mom is his biggest fan. Just not enough of a fan to fake an injury to win him sympathy votes. As for his material onstage, he is immediately into the act, at a "certain fast-food restaurant" where another man tries to pull him into his drama for only getting four out of his five chicken nuggets. I'm going to put my vote on Wendy's for this one. Am I right, Roy? What do I win? Giraldo is seen smiling as Wood says he's not going to join the "Nugget Coalition." The crowd is on his side, as well. Wood also feels like he needs to have a bunch of kids at once, because then strangers will give him free stuff, because that is the hustle out there. As we see the audience clap and laugh, we also get a glimpse of a countdown clock. Is that better or worse than getting the light? I'd think some comics would see it and perhaps talk too quickly and/or skip a punchline or tag. Wood is OK, though, and the judges think he is more than OK.
After another break -- looks like we're getting one comedian per segment now -- Robinson asks for applause for "the biggest letters in primetime," as the giant C-O-M-I-C backdrop remains in place from weeks past. Myq Kaplan breathes a big ol' sigh of relief as his name is called, and in his video, he gives us a music video. It's wordy, it's quirky, it's Myq. Onstage, he does what he does in tagging Wood's bit on chicken nuggets, and he sets up his own bit on TV, and then other bits in which the audience laughs and applauds, quick hitters, until he gets to his closing bit about Final Destination. The judges all love him, and Leggero says he would definitely win Last Comedy Writer Standing. That's not what this show is, but you knew that, because you can read the title of this post.
Previously, we watched this seventh season of NBC's Last Comic Standing through the magic (and sometimes witchcraft) of several-weeks tape delay. The comedians themselves could have forgotten how their performances had gone, only to see them slightly changed in the editing room. But not now. Now the final 10 have flown and/or driven to Glendale, Calif., for same-day competition, with morning tapings set for broadcast that same evening. They would know, and we would know, how it all shakes down today.
Oh, and our judges -- Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo -- all have returned to the arena of comedy battles, all of them also fresh off of their own performances at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival. Host Craig Robinson opened with a LeBron James joke before re-introducing us to the LCS 7 Top 10. Would the results of last week's voting be drawn out for the full hour, a la American Idol? Nope. Not too long at all for four comedians, as Roy Wood Jr., Mike DeStefano, James Adomian and Myq Kaplan are asked to step forward (all others, Robinson says, should shuffle offstage). Robinson gives the OK to DeStefano, then Wood. It's down to Kaplan and Adomian, who exchange creepy smiles at each other awaiting their fate, as only one of them will continue onward. It's Kaplan! Who in his close-up, breathes a very realistic sigh of relief. Adomian, meanwhile, is still smiling and also now clapping. I talked to Adomian in Montreal, and based on what he told me, I don't think he was surprised at all. The producers play an "In Memorium" for him, which also includes his pre-taped farewell, in which he declares: "America, next time, don't look a gift horse in the mouth." He holds his head high and off he goes.
First performer of the evening is Mike DeStefano. He says thanks for keeping him on, and tells us he bought some soap that cost $75. "Does it clean shame?" he asks. He also doesn't know how to express his feelings to a woman on a dinner date, because all he feels is hungry. "Deep down inside, I'm really hungry." He gets an applause break when he's asked why he is at couples therapy (presumably asked by the therapist), and says it's because the woman is broken and needs to be fixed. Blaming people for his problems? "That's my mother's fault. Sorry, mom." He continues with the idea that he's not good with therapy. Nor is he good with a woman on a first date who thinks they've been together for much longer than that. Last week, no judges around to influence the audience. But they're back. Kindler calls DeStefano "frightening and lovable" and makes up his own scoring: 5 HAs! Leggero has kind words for him, even if he doesn't have kind words to say about women. Giraldo wasn't listening to Leggero (tag!) but also liked him.
Robinson teases the first commercial break by saying we'd get to hear from "Internet sensation Mel Gibson."
After the break, he gets in a dig on "The Bachelorette" airing in competition with them on ABC, saying that show is even sadder than knowing three comics will have to go home. "There's a reason why she's single," Robinson said.
Roy Wood Jr. opens by saying: "Good to see you guys. I just did a show in South Dakota. Because I like performing where there's no people." Looks like we're getting more of his "sports bar" chunk, and notes that America is still exciting even if we did not win the World's Cup. And he thinks the world is better for that, because some countries hate us for political reasons, and he compares it to having the Lakers lose to Al Qaeda. "That would suck," he said. I'm not sure about this, because it would mean we'd know where they were and could trap them all, so let's hope those terrorists get off of the jungle gyms and start learning how to shoot hoops! But back to Wood. He realizes that at age 31, he will not be paying off his student loans. Note to Wood: If you win the $250,000, the college loan people probably will notice. Look at me, shooting all sorts of truth holes into his fictional premises. Moving to L.A. from Alabama, he has noticed there are more Latinos in this country than black people, to which audience members hoot and holler. "You're winning, shut up," he retorts quickly. Wood doesn't understand why black people are mad about Mexicans and other people wanting civil rights, since, he notes, wasn't that the point? More of a statement than a joke, that last one, but he comes off well in his set. Leggero gives him advice on his college loans, but calls him likeable. Giraldo jokes that he didn't like Wood's "pro-Mexican" material, and Kindler agrees, but says he cannot get away with saying "blacks and Mexicans." On a more substantial note, he also said that he loved Wood's voice and would listen to anything he had to say.
Strap in, comedy fans. We're about to see 10 comedians perform stand-up on primetime network TV in front of giant letters lit up in light bulbs to spell out "COMIC." But nobody is king (nor queen) just yet, so none of these 10 can rightfully wear a robe and crown like Ricky Gervais did for his stand-up special. Nope. Not yet. This...is...Last Comic Standing. Season Seven. The final 10. Here we go! Host Craig Robinson is excited. The judges are not excited, since they are not televised this evening.
Laurie Kilmartin said she has thought about quitting the comedy game before, so she just "wants to have fun while I'm here," whether she finishes first or tenth. Kilmartin opens with a premise that her ex-boyfriend wants to get back with her -- cue the ooohs and boos from the live studio audience, and as if they were cued, they ooh and boo. Good job, live studio audience! Wait. We're supposed to be listening to those expertly-crafted jokes that the judges kept telling us that Kilmartin was writing. She mocks her ex's mistress for her misspellings. And she jokes that her son can only be good if he's gay. And yet, he also makes her want to give up, while on the toilet, or even when reading "The Little Engine That Could" for the sixth time in one evening.
Felipe Esparza is up next, and this is the biggest thing for his career -- c'mon, now, this is obviously the biggest thing for the careers of all 10 of these comedians, otherwise they wouldn't be here, but that's just one of the things that people on a reality TV contest have to say. That, and this is nerve-wracking. And eventually someone will have to say that he or she is not here to make friends. Esparza comes off, though, as the kind of guy who would be anybody's friend. He jokes about his frequent ride-alongs with the police, and Fortune Feimster is forced to watch from the audience as he jokes about getting his college degree. He says Mexico would help America with the war in Iraq, if only they could hitch a ride. And one smiling white (albeit blue-lit) woman gets every visual cue to smile when Esparza says a punchline about immigration, and she is even shown giving him a standing ovation.
Roy Wood Jr. tells us he auditioned in 2002 and 2007 for the show, and his goal is the same this year, except he is much closer to reaching that goal, as Tom Shillue can see from that background shot of a previous episode that did not acknowledge his presence. Third time the charm for Wood? He has a sharp opening line about getting punched in the face at a sports bar, and about a fan who takes it a little too far. He also thinks there is a way to make swimming more popular, and swimmers will not like it one bit. And why would you kick him out for giving kids realism in their Career Day. We all need chicken nuggets and lap dances! That may be the wrong message for first graders, but Americans are on board. Unless they are vegan and feminists. That might be redundant. I don't know.
"Welcome to Last Comic Standing, the best stand-up comedy contest on NBC." So sayeth host Craig Robinson, so sayeth we all.
Wait. Who's running the show, a bunch of monkeys? A lone chimpanzee? What's going on here?
I'll be sure to tell you all as soon as I can watch the rest of this two-hour episode -- and update with videos as soon as they're up. This is the episode in which Tommy Johnagin zings judge Natasha Leggero for calling him competitive in a nationally-televised competition.
Alabama native Roy Wood, Jr., meanwhile, says before taking the stage that he has been at stand-up for 12 years, and well, why not him? "It's my turn to eat. Let me get some of this money." Why not? He opens with a joke about a date so bad, the woman makes you drop her off at another man's house. Damn. That's a bad date. But a good joke. He also has a funny story about trying to write out his will. Good start! The judges agree, from Andy Kindler to Leggero and also Greg Giraldo. Looking good for Mr. Wood. Even if he could not find a coat that fits to impress Giraldo.
After the first commercial break, Robinson has more self-deprecating quips up his sleeve. He's enjoying the gig, and I am enjoying him in this gig. Great work, team comedy! Now about this Fortune Feimster. She lets us know she is a lesbian (shhh, don't tell anyone), which is odd when she tells us about this guy who hit on her. This story, alas, does not have a happy ending. Kindler gets in a dig on Ellen DeGeneres for her dancing, and digs on Feimster. The other judges likewise smile fortune upon Ms. Fortune. Jerry Rocha says he does not want to be depressed for months if he does not win. Onstage Rocha wonders why any billboard about carpooling would be in Spanish, and whether it's a good idea to call to get his credit checked. There is some quibbling in judgment about his use of voices and races, but they seem to be more positive than negative.
Another break, and we're back with Guy Torry, who has been in the movies and on the TV, but according to Torry, they don't know about his stand-up comedy career. He wants to let the people know he is funny. Scratch that. "I'm trying to be the greatest, the greatest stand-up to ever touch the stage." Whoa, whoa. Settle down. It's good to set the bar high and all, but when you say something like that out loud, to a TV camera, usually you're setting yourself up for failure. He is taking a while to get to the laughs when he does not have a headlining amount of stage time tonight, and not only that, but when Torry says "negro," camera cuts to Giraldo squirming. Torry is talking a lot about Barack Obama and has a bit about why the KKK supporting Obama. Oh, and I almost forgot. Torry also used a Monica Lewinsky joke. In 2010. Afterward, he seems to think he crushed and also is not concerned about whatever Leggero has to say. And about that bet Torry wanted to make with Giraldo, in which he said Google the KKK supporting Obama? Torry won't want to click on the first link that comes up. Jacob Sirof wants us to know he has a wife and a kid and not much money from the comedy -- that's the opposite of what Torry was boasting -- and opens with a bit about how L.A. people are into the motorcycles these days, even if it means buying gay clothing. Not that he's got a problem with that, considering his stance on bros hugging bros. Nice tag, btw, on the "Google it" from Torry afterward. Then we see him, Torry and Maronzio Vance chatting backstage, and Torry says he had more fun bantering with the judges. Somehow I don't think he'll be having as much fun later that evening.
Nikki Glaser says she will cry whether she makes it to the finals or not. Foreshadowing? Glaser says she is single and recently performed for the troops, just for the applause breaks. She became single over Skype, on her terms. She also makes an unusual choice by promoting teen pregnancy and joking about getting an abortion. I'm not sure the primetime network suits will be on board with that, no matter what the judges may say. Taylor Williamson says he is charming and adorable, and well, wouldn't you know the audience is laughing at him as soon as he speaks, and then throughout his set, because they cannot believe his premise that he has a girlfriend, and then even laugh again when he admits he doesn't. Williamson also jokes about sex, but between animals (black poodles and white labs, camels). Everyone enjoyed it.
Hey, look everybody. It's Tom Shillue in an ad for PearleVision! Did you know he was in this semifinal round, too? No? What do you mean no?
Someone decided it was hot enough in here to buy some ice cream treats, stay home, and get giggly with it tonight. OK. Fine. It was so hot in NYC today that my brain obviously isn't working, so maybe the mush of the TV will make everything right in the world again. Either that, or Craig Robinson and a kitty cat will tell me it's time for the first part of the semifinals of season seven of NBC's Last Comic Standing. Finally we're getting somewhere. UPDATED: Now with video clips!
Are you ready for your first semifinalist, Myq Kaplan? I put the comma in the wrong place there, because he is more than ready, he is already done because this was a taped performance. Don't call in with your votes just yet. Kaplan is feeling bookish this evening, telling us about books, movies, and movies about books. Kaplan also is the first, at least if we're presuming they haven't edited the placement here, to have to deal with the hyped-up live audience at the Alex Theater in Glendale, Calif. Judges Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Andy Kindler all have nice things to say about Myq Kaplan. Kindler says Kaplan "absolutely killed" which means he lost the pool? "I can't think of a funnier line in comedy than Brad Pitt is in this book." And we're getting judges notes, as if it really is going to be the American Idol version of LCS. Then again, we did hear judges give notes to comedians during the semis in previous seasons, so maybe it's just time for a commercial break. Any predictions? I have one!
Jamie Lee is up next, and she admits backstage that she is terrified about being seen by millions on the TV. Too late! You're on TV! Lee gets whoops from audience members when she says she's originally from Texas, but wants to joke about her model roommate in NYC. Lee also mentions dating a comedian, and knowing it's bad when even their inside jokes were bombing. (Note: Lee already has told me that her jokes about her comedian ex are not really about her comedian ex, for those of you who were thinking about someone specific just then). Leggero says Lee has "huge potential," while Giraldo says it wasn't her best set. Based on these notes, you could swap them out with Idol, couldn't you? You could. You could.
Mike DeStefano wants to be so good, the audience sets the place on fire. I'm not sure that would actually be a good thing, but it makes for a soundbite. DeStefano jokes about how everyone in his neighborhood was Italian, including the old Chinese guy and the young black kid. Did you know that Italians shrink and get mean when they get old? This audience is so hot, they're hooting and handing out applause breaks for everything. DeStefano keeps saying "thank you, thank you" like a politician trying to get back to his stump speech. Because he wants you to know how he deals with pretty ladies. Kindler finds him "hilarious" and could not criticize any portion of his set. "And you have screamers," Leggero added. She asks about his Jesus tattoo, and DeStefano corrects her: "It's Jim Caviezel."
We're one week away from the reboot of NBC's Last Comic Standing for season seven, with new host Craig Robinson, new judges Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo, and new contestants. So how about a few new online-only preview clips? Sounds great!
Stuckey and Murray kick off this first clip, which also features appearances and/or performances from the host and judges talking about how it's legit now, plus Tommy Johnagin and Felipe Esparza. Roll it!
Here's a clip of Craig Robinson hosting in what could be the intro to next week's premiere...followed by performances by Maronzio Vance, Kirk Fox, Tiffany Haddish, among others. Roll that clip.
And here is Andy Kindler talking up the season, with a clip of Jonathan Thymius. Taking it to the next level! Roll the clippy clip!
NBC and producers of "Last Comic Standing" announced a new host late Friday in Craig Robinson from NBC's "The Office" and films such as Pineapple Express, Knocked Up, and the soon-to-be released Hot Tub Time Machine. In a separate email, producers for the seventh season also noted they had changed the dates for their two open calls --- LA: March 6th at the Hollywood Improv, and NYC: March 21 at the Gotham Comedy Club.
The casting of Robinson as host is more than a little bit intriguing. The guy has comedic and musical stage chops, but doesn't seem like the sort to do the traditionally mechanical hosting duties we see out of reality TV competition hosts, LCS or otherwise. Considering earlier hints that this season may focus more seriously on good stand-up, well, I'm certainly looking to see how they reload LCS for thus summer's run.
Seeing Craig Robinson in Montreal this summer at the keyboard, something about it looked very familiar, even though I couldn't place it at the time. This was the guy from The Office and Judd Apatow productions Knocked Up and Pineapple Express, on the keyboards? I knew it made sense somehow. So, thanks to my friends in comedy at The Sound of Young America for reminding me of this: Craig Robinson was Chucky in this hilarious very very NSFW musical sketch with Jerry Minor as L. Witherspoon in HBO's Sketch Pad 2, a collection of live sketch comedy acts from 2003 that I have seen a few times over the years and laughed every time. Enjoy!