After catching up with a friend and finally seeing the new weekly Williamsburg comedy show, Big Terrific, which under the control of hosts Gabe & Jenny and Max Silvestri, and in the venue of Sound Fix Records lounge, is fairly big and terrific, I get home and what to my wondering eyes should appear on my DVR but a newly recorded episode of Last Comic Standing! So. On with the show.
Did they really have host Bill Bellamy record an intro in Las Vegas for an episode that teases to Las Vegas? I believe they did. Ack. Cue the planes! The planes, boss. The planes.
Before gas cost a gabillion dollars, you could fly comedians from around the world into Miami to perform at the Improv in front of two of the lesser-known co-stars of 30 Rock. This is true, because it's on my TV right now. Apparently, the "top international comics" from five continents and 20 countries are here, because that's what Bellamy says in a voice-over, but I do not believe this to be true. The Brit lady is wearing stereotypical costumes (sort of, but not really) to welcome our international guests from Japan, Argentina (I pretend her shirt is see-through and it gives me something to occupy the seconds before), New Zealand (a sheep outfit, really?), Turkey (now we're talking...Turkey), India (oh, Fearne), even the producers have gotten bored enough with this conceit to skip ahead to the judges.
Stephen K. Amos is from London. England. Got it. Apparently, if you have a dark skin color but speak with a British accent, that can cause confusion for people in Harlem, and make the judges laugh. Alrighty then. You have your standard. Can anyone cross it?
The Irish lady who almost won American Idol is here to compete. No, wait. It's just a lady who sounds eggsactly like her and looks kinda sorta like her. Close enough. NotIdol's name is Janice Phayre. But she really does sound and sorta look like the twin of the real NotIdol. And this perplexes me. How about the judges? Oh, they haven't seen Idol yet this season, because they're on tape-delay. I win? Her sight gag gets laughs. Easy peasy, eh?
Wait just a not cotton-pickin second here (did you know I actually did pick cotton one summer? true story!). You do not mean to tell me that they flew in all of these comedians and still had them wait outside on the sidewalk for hours? And yet they did. But here is the good doktor cocacolamcdonalds, who actually does recognize our Brit girl and sings a song for her to tell us who in the heck she is. What was the thing she did with the little bear? I sincerely would like to know. Google? However. This program already informed us careful viewers (and anyone who reads this site) that the doktor ended up in this season's "best of the worst" showcase, so before he steps onstage, we know the judges will not quite know what to do with him. Poor doktor. Lonny Ross calls him "Gene Simmons on acid." Actually, I'd take that as a compliment. Wouldn't you?
Janelle Koenig is from Melbourne, Australia. Maybe I should be on acid. Uh-oh. Here comes a "lost in translation" montage, and Ken Suzuki from Japan, Bernard O'Shea from Ireland, Desmond Clarke from Scotland, Yossi Tarablus from Israel all get victimized. Papa CJ is from India. "Just look at the disappointment!" he says. Yes. Just look. You know what. I know a guy named Kumail Nanjiani who grew up in Pakistan. He is quite funny. He moved to America, went to college in Iowa, then did comedy in Chicago, lives in New York now. You should look at him instead. You're welcome. Meanwhile, back at the League of Injustice, Papa CJ makes it through to the showcase, as Bellamy says, due to "good karma." Oh. No. NBC is paying people to write those voiceovers, by the way.
Oh, goody good goodness. If I can make it through these commercials, I'm promised "Israel's answer to Carrot Top." That won't have me changing no channel. No, no! That and the fact that I promised you a blog recap.
Kojo from Ghana is a teacher. The judges thinks he'll win if he slows it down. What do you think? It doesn't matter what you think, silly. It was a decent enough joke about motherly discipline. Moving on. French comic Arnaud Collery is here to improve our perception of the French. So he pokes fun at himself. Lonny wants to see how the crowd will react to him. Jim Tavare from London does comedy with a double bass. Take that. Brit lady cohost looks cute on skates. Brit Muslim comic lady not as cute in all black. Shazia Mirza. Was she on that 60 Minutes special about Muslim comics a while back? Tell me Google. That's a yes. OK. Back to the action. Lonny's advice? Her technique of telling joke after joke should work in a comedy setting. Thank you for that, Lonny. Funny booth means early bathroom break. You can quote me on that. Danielle Ward is from England and obsessed with Siamese twins. That's enough. Here is the Israeli Carrot Top, doing a bit offstage that he'll do onstage, as Lioz Shem Tov does what he wants. Prop comedy always translates, doesn't it? Oh....
Last Comic Driving this week is Alycia Cooper. And she's fine with it. But she doesn't even try talking to anyone in the back two rows of seats in that Honda Pilot. How can they hear her? That's not important right now. Stop asking questions. We still have an hour of show to go.
Sam from Armenia, also from previously on the "best of the worst." These judges, out of all of the prelim cities, really did laugh out loud more than the others and enjoyed playing along with the horrible auditions as much as the mediocre ones. Englishman Paul Foot has a secret society? Split decision over Foot's Jesus not much of a carpenter bit. Twins. Twins! The Nelsons. No, not those Nelsons. They're from Australia. Twin jokes. They're going to beg for the showcase. And...awkward. Tony Hendricks from Jamaica is, as he says, "a pigment of your imagination." Uh. Yeah. Montage of people who don't even get IDs. Will John Maloney, just by being identified with a name and a location (England), turn this ship around? Apparently. Now for the showcase...
OK. Before we comment on the showcase. They jump-cut all over the place and the guy from Ghana has a shirt on with two opposite-facing arrows. Up says The Man. Down says The Legend. I type this because I'm pretty sure in one of those Mike Myers interviews I referenced earlier he says he had Justin Timberlake's character wear a shirt like this. OK? OK. It has been noted.
A reminder. These are the foreign-born comics who could be convinced to do the show. And with that, Shazia is shown first (or, for my journalistic tradition, Mirza is shown first). "It doesn't say anything in the Koran about Ecstasy." Good. To. Know. Maloney points out German is not sexy compared to Spanish or Italian. Amos? Irish NotIdol? Is Foot ready to pounce? Are you ready for "Baby Onboard" jokes? Israeli Carrot Top repeats jokes for laughs. Including a "near...far" Grover joke I heard in a contest I was in 10 years ago. Time for ads. Tavare is up next with musical accompaniment. What's French guy got? No shirt, that's what. Mais non. Mon Dieu. Kojo has his mojo to worry about. Chris Radburn is from Australia and you haven't seen him until now and he wonders why people in boats wave at one another. Good question. Fishing also is like dating. He says so. Papa CJ the India Indian starts with a 7-11 joke, segues to a Hindu reincarnation bit. Also says being Indian means he'll win any reality-TV call-in vote. In-ter-est-ing.
Tickets to the semis go to...Shazia Mirza! (not surprised, except when she talks about getting exposure on American television, because, really, so many more people saw her on 60 Minutes than saw this episode of LCS) Jim Tavare! (so he didn't travel this far for nothing, sort of) Paul Foot! Lioz Shem Tov! (who says prop comedy is dead?) Papa CJ! Did you see any of that coming?
So now we get to see the 32 semifinalists, and yes, did you do the math?
Last year, NBC's Last Comic Standing showcased their "best of the worst" auditions during the finale. This time around, they couldn't even wait for the audition phase to end before giving us their so-called most outrageous tryouts. That couldn't be a good sign, could it? They're even teasing the "most shocking audition" from the top of the program with a countdown clock.
Our judges at Cobb's Comedy Club in San Francisco are some guy from Chuck whose name I do not know but whose scary goatee will stay with me for hours to come, and French Stewart in his highest-profile gig since 3rd Rock From the Sun, unless you count that movie from eons ago that replays over and over on Showtime and -- not-so-fun fact -- has Stewart's best friend played by none other than LCS host Bill Bellamy! Jason Downs jokes about how easy it really is to find Anne Frank in Amsterdam, but we keep another eye on the tick-tock clock, and what we get is Shashi Bhatia from North Hollywood. OK. Shock me, Shashi. Wait. Really? That was it? That was the "most shocking audition" ever? We'll have to agree to disagree, and by we, I mean pretty much everyone who exists in the universe.
There's a guy in a fly mask, who reminds me of the guy in the alien outfit, and the Internet tells us that both are real comedians who perform like that. Alrighty then.
The Meehan Brothers (previously seen on video on this blog via Hulu) get by with a little help from each other, and you can debate whether they're stand-ups or street performers all you want, but I'm not sure how duos or trios or groups are supposed to compete in the house challenges this show promises later on in the competition? It seems better suited for a different show, really. And here, now, we present Iliza Shlesinger, who showed up briefly in many of the promo ads and tells us she's only been in comedy for three years. Which means she could be this year's Amy Schumer or April Macie. Either way, she's charming, has good stage presence and wears shirts with cleavage to remind us that she's a lady, and even the guy from Chuck thinks Stewart is asking her out on a date. Jesse Case came here from Nashville and is clever enough. Drennon Davis plays to seals? Children's songs that go dark? Who's heard that before? An industry in-joke gets a pass. The two A-Holes are next...er, um, I mean Sky and Nancy Collins from Orange County. They have sweaters (and you saw them previously on this blog). Joe Klocek needs exposure? Done. A montage of good comedy follows, with Candy Churilla, Jonathan Thymius, a skinny guy, Jeff Dye and Mike E. Winfield all making it to the live audience showcase round.
As the showcase begins, we see Whitney Cummings! Spoiler alert? Actually, NBC spoiled it this time, because they already showed us Cummings last week in the separate "Last Comic Driving" contest, so we know she ain't getting a ticket here tonight. Or at least they won't show her advancing. We see Case perform first, and his jokes about playing a prank on Best Buy (hello, Improv Everywhere!) and tailgating to see the other vehicle's DVD player (clever, but I've heard others do that one, too) get a good audience response. The Collins, well, yeah. Thymius does foot ventriloquism? Odd. Cummings is up next, but like I said, we know what happens to her. Farting or no farting. Larry "Bubbles" Brown...Bubbles? Dye proves how bad-ass he is. "If they're not entertained, I will dance," he tells the British lady. Hey, that's my line!
By the way, this week's contestant on Last Comic Driving is...J. Chris Newberg. And he's got songs to sing. Yeah. I cannot think of a worse act to put in the passenger seat of a car than a guy with a guitar. No offense to Mr. Newberg. This simply isn't the right venue for that sort of thing. C'mon, NBC. You can do better than this.
The Meehans do an Irish Three Amigos thing. Downs describes the cheapest cruise ever. Andy Haynes has a thing against teeth, and does he look like he does meth? Klocek explains why you don't need a sign that says "how to order," and saw a guy punch a pigeon. Shlesinger eats like a guy, apparently. That skinny guy seen earlier now identified as Tony Dijamco, and he's too old for a pedophile. Winfield can't handle his wife's pregnancy scares. The Brit lady reminds Churilla to be nervous, and she says she prefers weed and alcohol to speed dating. Davis does another song, and it sounds just like the last one, only longer, and he ends with an Andy Kaufman thank you. Hmmm.
Tickets to the semis go to...Davis???? Shlesinger! The Meehans. Dye! As they show the winners backstage, it looks as though Winfield is holding an envelope, too, but not for long? Shlesinger talks to her mom on her cell phone and leans forward (ahem), but her mom isn't particularly congratulatory. "You're really sucking the joy out of this," Iliza says. You're telling me.
Onward to Toronto! Bellamy is in a Mounties outfit. Naturally. Someone wisely notes that American Idol lets its auditioners wait inside. At Yuk Yuk's, Dave Foley and Richard Kind might be my favorite judges so far with their honesty and their humor going through the motions here, although the comics as a whole here aren't extraordinary. Maybe it's a Canadian thing.
AltCom fest organizer Brian Joyce paced backstage at the Somerville Theater minutes before the scheduled 8 p.m. showtime and tried to pump up his performers. "It's a healthy crowd," he told the comedians. "There's not a stretch of empty seats downstairs." Eugene Mirman couldn't help but laugh right away, telling Joyce his pep talk really helped. Actually, there wasn't a need to worry. By the time Myq Kaplan and Micah Sherman took to the stage at 8:25 p.m. to open the festivities with their "Comedians National Anthem," fans had filled most of the seats in the lower orchestra level.
Nevertheless, Mirman felt like addressing the seating situation upfront, inviting folks from upstairs to come downstairs. "Why spread people out, unless you're different races?!" he announced with his usual absurdist flair. "This is Boston!" Mirman had plenty of fun throughout his 20-minute set, especially by poking fun at himself and his tendency to color his routine with local jokes and town names. "Now to stick it to the old Fleet Bank machine!" he said at one point. Later, he enjoyed ad-libbing a thought about a local audience member attacking a bear and yelling at it, "You're queah!" that he completely skipped over his usual punchline and tags on his bit about bears. He tailored another portion of the set for the Boston-area audience with a clever video spoof of ads for Boston.com, the Boston Globe's online portal. Mirman also included a recent observation from his 236.com-sponsored trip to Philadelphia for last month's Democratic debate, talking about anti-abortion protesters, and ad-libbing a retort to his own description of the presidential race as "Obama and the lady."
Also worth noting about Eugene Mirman: Michael Showalter followed him around offstage with a video camera (for a documentary? for a spoof? just because? we'll investigate this further), and Mirman told the other comics beforehand that he and his fellow Stand-Uppity Tour performers (Andy Kindler and Marc Maron) are looking forward to hitting the road together next week. Actually, that tour starts Sunday in Kentucky! Moving on...
Emo Philips joked with Todd Barry beforehand about Barry being limited to a 20-minute set. "If you're having fun," Philips told Barry backstage, "you'll want to fight that impulse...to stay onstage!" Barry also joked with me about the New York Times review earlier in the week of his performance opening for Flight of the Conchords, noting how reviewers often resort to lame jokes in critiquing a comedian. The Times, for the record, said this of Barry on Thursday: "A comedian whose deadpan delivery was drier than an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting." I won't attempt anything of that sort here. Leave that to the couple of audience members (fans of Barry's, it'd turn out afterward) who felt compelled to shout out oddities during his set. And that's even after Barry told his joke about an audience member "who wanted to challenge him...comedically." Argh. Barry also had to bear witness to a couple near the front who stood up and apparently walked out. Not his fault. "How awkward would that be if I cleared the room?" he joked. Not as awkward as what happened next, when he asked a guy in the front row if he was the most famous person to ever talk to him. "No," the young man replied, and then, after a pause, offered: "Wesley Willis." I hadn't heard of the late, overweight, schizophrenic, homeless musician, but Barry had. He joked about that, then went on with his act, and I thought he'd close on his Facebook jokes, but just then, Mirman's laptop computer -- still onstage -- beeped loudly. "Eugene got a new Gmail?!" Barry said. Another pause to regroup. A couple more jokes. And by then, Barry had gone 28 minutes. Again. Not his fault. Just one of those odd sets that gets derailed by the audience and other factors out of his control, forcing him to take extra time to get the show back on track.
Kaplan and Sherman also attempted at this point to remind the audience not to get in the way of everyone's good time. They did not, however, fully prepare everyone for doktor cocacolamcdonalds. How could they?
This one-man band from the UK has wowed crowds in Edinburgh and plays the big Leeds and Reading festivals later this summer. He'll also be swinging down to NYC on Monday for a show at the PIT. You have to see and hear this guy, and even then, you might not believe it. He bounded onstage wearing only face makeup, a scarf tie, colorful briefs and sneakers, and alternated between a keytar and other odd instruments for a few musical numbers. First up: "When you generalize, the general...lies." Another song he wants to be more R&B, so a GameBoy supplies the beats. His truncated set (this only showcased him for about 18 minutes) also included an appearance by his performance poet, Ray: Man of Words, who closed with a "cover" -- in this instance, his rendition of the theme rap song to TV's Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. You could hear doktor cocacolamcdonalds on the radio, disc or iPod and chuckle a bit. But his humorous success proves it's really all in the presentation.
He also proved to be a good transition between the stand-up of Mirman and Barry to the headlining performance of Emo Philips.
I spent so much time trying to jot down notes between giggles the last time I saw Philips that this time, I wanted to sit back and absorb his set as a fan. What really hit home with me now was what also connected deeply with me when I first devoured Emo's E=MO2 over and over again as a teen. Sure, his jokes and one-liners are amazingly funny. But what makes him amazing is how devious and mischievous he is. It goes beyond clever. The guy opens with remarks about appreciating us appreciating live stand-up comedy, and somewhere in there is a joke about incest. He knew enough about Boston to work in baseball jokes, and also, perhaps unbeknownest to some in the crowd, a dating joke with a wickedly funny and subtle nod to the Kennedys! Philips also manages to jab at religion, politics, the homeless and so many other topics with his trademark wit and mannerisms that you're usually too busy laughing to get how wonderfully subversive it all is. For example, here he is on capital punishment: "We shouldn't execute the mentally retarded. No. Right? But what if they do something wrong?" Or this little ditty: "I like the South, but, of course, I'm prejudiced." By the end of his 55-minute set, the crowd couldn't help but give him a standing ovation.
AltCom continues Saturday night with Patton Oswalt, Morgan Murphy, Jim Jeffries and the Walsh Brothers.