The inaugural Great American Comedy Festival got under way last night with an amateur stand-up contest in Norfolk, Neb., hometown to the late Johnny Carson. Eddie Brill, David Letterman's comedy guy, is coordinating the effort, and we all know how Letterman felt about his late-night TV mentor. Robert Klein is set to perform Saturday night along with Brill and the winner of the following...
There's also a competition featuring 24 comics from around the country, with $5,000 going to the winner. Participating: Jesse Joyce, Vince Maranto, Micah Sherman, Matt Braunger, Roy Wood Jr., Erin Jackson, Joe DeRosa, Chuck Bartell, Chris Coccia, Deacon Gray, Robert Mac, Jamie Lissow, David Powell, Paul Varghese, Drake Witham, Myq Kaplan, Joe Klocek, Shane Mauss, Tapan Trivedi, Jim McDonald, Dan Boulger, Marianne Sierk, James Smith and Darryl Lenox. They'll be split into four groups, with two of each six advancing to the finals, all needing to deliver TV-friendly sets. Each night also features a late show hosted by David Reinitz.
If you thought prelim 5 of the contest proved tough to judge, what to make of prelim 6, which had comics all over the map from good to bad to ugly? Well, let’s attempt a recap!
Prelim 6 (in order of appearance)
1) Dana Eagle: The old I may look prim and proper but I’m crazy trick. Perceptive self-reflective opening line: “Number One is good at the end of the night!” Showed her panties for laughs. It worked. Talked about the phenomenon of tattooing one’s backside. On hers it’d say: “Road blocked — go around!”
2) Rich Aronovitch: Horshack’s kid is pretty funny. But. As he even remarked, “I open with porn, I close with porn. I do Holocaust jokes in the middle.”
3) David Reinitz: He opens by telling people not to read the paper, so he’s automatically not funny in my book. Not funny! Closes by reading the side effects of ads for Zocor, Viagra. But he does accurately point out that having Southwest Airlines as the festival’s official airline sponsor is ridiculous, since Southwest doesn’t even fly to Boston.
4) DT Owens: Church and bible jokes, from a guy from Birmingham, Ala. Who knew?
5) Dale Jones: Ernest Goes to Jim Carrey Camp.
6) Shane Mauss: Is there an applause break curse? Shaner gets one on his first joke! (Kelly Mac got an applause break the night before, to no avail) I will also note that before he went up, he whispered in my ear: “So far, I’m winning.” After his very funny set, he’s right. But there still is half a show to go.
7) Chicken Towel: I didn’t catch his name when he went onstage, so Chicken Towel it is, since that was his first of SEVERAL long routines. Actually, maybe his name should be Cirque du Silly. Actually, maybe I should look up his name. Michael Rayner. And he’s turning out to be actually quite entertaining. But he went on and on and on so long, he couldn’t possibly win. Did he care? I didn’t get a chance to ask him. Someone suggested that perhaps, he just wanted the stage time to impress the real judges in the room and get some gigs.
8) Dwayne Gill: He’s a cop. Anything I say can and will be used against me in a court of law and public opinion.
9) Brad Upton: I remember him from Seattle. And frightening enough, he remembers me. But why is he here? He’s a headliner. Does he need some new road gigs, too? I had a theory about white guys in suits (they don’t do well in contests, but black guys in suits do). But that’s just silly. And Upton is funny. On immigration and aliens stealing “our” jobs: he recently hired a 20-year-old foreign girl to do a job his wife wouldn’t want to do! The crowd loves him. Good for him.
10) Joey Carroll: He’s been in Iraq. So this should be smooth sailing. Until he tells a joke about Anna Nicole Smith’s son, who just died. Earlier, though, he had a winning bit about Halloween, including the one time he dressed up as the Grim Reaper and kicked in his grandma’s door. “C’mon! Let’s go!”
11) Frank Santorelli: Another longtime headliner in this contest. What gives? “Listen, I don’t need to be here tonight. I was on Star Search. I shook Ed McMahon’s hand on television. What did you do tonight?” He rips on host Jim Lauletta: “A very funny man…offstage.” Tells the crowd he is 48, but feels young by shaving his pubic hair. Ah, youth.
12) Dan Sally: Opens with all new material! Suri Cruise pictures! His newlywed wife is preggers! As they used to say on TV: “For originality, a perfect score of 30!” Closes with his tried-and-true engagement story. Good stuff.
And the results are…another three-person advancement!
Brad Upton, Shane Mauss and Frank Santorelli move on to the semis! If only they had room for four, Mr. Sally. If only they had room for four…