The folks at Montreal's Just For Laughs uploaded videos last week from its 2008 collection of comedians participating in the New Faces and Masters showcases, so you can finally see what I saw this summer. Rather than bombard you with two dozen embedded video clips, I'm going to embed one or two of my faves, then link to the rest.
From the 2008 Masters, here is Todd Glass, and you'll immediately wonder, what's the rest of Larry Miller's funny story introducing him, and who is Glass calling back in his jokes. Jokes, people! Jokes! Todd Glass is a comic's comic, so always welcomed here (language NSFW):
And from the 2008 New Faces, here is Sean Patton's set that got industry people talking (language NSFW):
Everyone else after the jump.
The judge's rulings are final. So I'm going to withhold final judgments on some of the New Faces until further review. At Montreal's Just For Laughs, the New Faces have to deal not only with the pressure of a large foreign comedy club, but also with the added nerves of performing for all of the industry people who likewise stand and sit in ultimate judgement from the back corners of the bars, ready to make or break a comedian's career. Wow. What a build-up, eh? First off, let it be acknowledged that nobody bombed last night. Referring to my Simon Cowell Playbook, I can definitely also say, however, that several of the comedians need to do more to make a lasting impression, if they want that impression to be a positive one.
Host Greg Giraldo killed it, both in his opening remarks and also, at the halfway point, after he threatened a particularly persistent idiot heckler, surging into several minutes of high-power comedy. "Maybe I can get a show called Washed Up Hacks Stomp On 60-Pound Dickbags," he wondered aloud. Giraldo also reflected on how important this night was for "these kids," and what it means about his career that he'd be calling the New Faces kids.
Among the kids, the two real stand-outs from last night were Sean Patton and Brendon Walsh. More than a few people asked about Patton afterward and wanted to know what I knew of him, considering that he's based in New York. I have another post coming shortly on that aspect, but can tell you that he delivered a strong set from the get-go, opening with having to call in sick with a case of "the roars," followed by a case of "the beatboxes." With the crowd on his side, he paused for a beat. Then exclaimed: "You motherf%$#ers want to to fight me???" It was the best way I'd ever seen him introduce this bit about how to defend himself in an unexpected fight scenario, and it got a big laugh. He closed wih a weird and wild ode of what his ex did to his broken heart. Messed up, to say the least. As for Walsh, he proved to me once again that the Austin comedy scene seems to churn out very creative and clever comedians. Walsh's opening line: "Just like every other comedian, I have a fictional girlfriend, and we're having problems. It's rough." Walsh also has some very mean pranks up his sleeves, so tell puppies and Gene Hackman to watch out. And he can end any hopes of being forced to sing karaoke again just by taking on "Zombie" by The Cranberries.
For the record, though, current Last Comic Standing finalist Iliza Shlesinger scored not one, not two, but three applause breaks during her brief performance. Someone recently commented on my site that she's like a female Dane Cook, and waching her live, I can see that comparison. Take it for what it's worth. And right now, I can tell that some of you are taking it to either extreme. Suffice it to say, she's physical, she likes playing with sounds, she attacks the stage and has immense stage presence. It's a lot for some to take, I know. I get the sense that Shlesinger is trying to prove a broader point that she should be on TV more, in any capacity, whether it's stand-up or acting. I do know this: You'll be seeing a lot more of her on your TVs this summer, and in the clubs this fall.
Chelsea Peretti and Ira Proctor both delivered decent sets. Proctor's could have been better if the crowd had cooperated with him. Harris Wittels suffered from an unfortunate microphone malfunction, but recovered well enough to deliver a ballsy routine that even the band used as a callback, to hilarious effect on an unsuspecting Giraldo later in the show. There was a moment during Michael Palascak's set when I closed my eyes and thought I heard Mike Birbiglia. Tu Rae's deep voice had his routine down to a couple of key phrases, "know your limitations" and "do the best you can." Is that his advice for his career, too? Discuss. And Erik Griffin, taking the stage last after midnight, didn't get to play to a full and engaged room. They and the other New Face in this group (Seaton Smith) will get a second opportunity to make a first impression on Friday.
It's the second week of the 2008 Just For Laughs festival in Montreal, which means we finally learn the identities of this year's crop of New Faces and Masters to perform later this week. Much more to come, as I'll be reporting from Montreal starting on Wednesday. For now, though, let's deliver some names and congrats to all! Links available via the JFL MySpace blog post.
New Faces Montreal, 2008: Brendon Walsh, Tu Rae, Ira Proctor, Seaton Smith, Chuck Watkins, Sean Patton, Vanessa Fraction, Erik Griffin, Mo Mandel, Harris Wittels, Mike Palascak, Iliza Shlesinger, Jeff Dye, Kenny Johnson, Chelsea Peretti, Anjelah Johnson, Trevor Boris, Jamie Kilstein, Nate Bargatze, Malik Sanon.
Masters Montreal, 2008: Billy Gardell, Todd Glass, Thea Vidale, Henry Phillips, Hal Sparks, Kevin Brennan, Henry Cho.
After all of this, we have come to this...the second semifinal round in Las Vegas, where another 16 stand-ups will be cut down to five (make that seven) finalists for the sixth season of Last Comic Standing. Time to deadblog it now! Esther Ku tells the NBC cameras if she makes the final five, she will cry onstage...so get ready for that in about two hours. Oh, look, little people impersonations of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and Kiss. This should be a fun 118 minutes, right? Belzer and Schirripa are back as judges.
First up, Marcus. Adam Sandler and Al Pacino? More foreshadowing, people. Wait. What's this? A routine on the Willy Wonka movie being both great and scary. These are not celebrity voices, per se. Maybe this is how Marcus won the Seattle comedy contest last fall. Closes with a song suggesting the Oompa Loompas get sent for Britney Spears. Schirripa begs for impersonations. So we get: Christopher Walken. Out of all the ones to pick. Walken. Not that the audiences minds one bit as they're crazy for Marcus. Two standing ovations. One in. Who are the other four? Stay tuned. If you want to see 20 minutes of Marcus from the Seattle contest, then ta...da!
Dan Cummins is next, pre-show informing us how the power of primetime TV can turn his current fan base of about 40 per show into several hundred. He tells the audience he has "brought three minutes of great jokes." What tattoo would he get on his face? That's one of several premises that works.
Iliza Shlesinger is now billed as hailing from Dallas, which, considering she lives in L.A., is another sign that NBC (and perhaps Shlesinger) are marketing her for a wider audience. She says backstage she's here to win. Her MySpace profile says she is 25. That is young for stand-up comedy. Then again, I know at least one guy that young who already is brilliant. Just saying. Let's cut to a commercial.
Eddie Pepitone! Opens with a fairly ordinary yet relatable joke about being big enough that when he drops something, he now has to wonder whether it's worth trying to pick it up. He has two cats, and talks to them. He also gets heckled and wonders what it would be like if he got heckled by someone who really knew him. This bit I have seen him do and it is sublime. But is this enough? He'd certainly liven up the comedian house.
Papa CJ came all the way from New Delhi, India, to be here. He opens with an outsourcing joke. Take that, Americans! He directs one joke to a guy in the front row, getting into a crouch to deliver a comeback that wasn't prompted just so he can joke about Hindu reincarnation. Hmmm. OK. Backstage, he tells sparkly Brit lady that he had a lovely time. Lovely.
This week on Last Comic Driving, it's Erik Griffin! I believe I met him in Las Vegas last fall during The Comedy Festival. Not that you care. He's OK. It's not up to me. It's up to you kids and your secret online ballots.
Belzer and Schirripa loved Stone & Stone in the New York auditions. Will the love continue? There already is one duo in the house, and so I'm going to vote no. Even though the audience doesn't seem to mind the twins talking over each other all the time. But the cameras cut to a middle-aged guy with his arms crossed. Belzer reiterates his love for the fellas. So to speak.
This next person, Bellamy tells us, may be "the next great voice in comedy." It's Mary Mack. And no, fans of Maria Bamford, Mack and Bamford are not alike, just because their speaking voices sound that way. They are both great. But different. Bamford's voices help her tell her story. Mack is about off-kilter jokes. And musical instruments. "Rural is a word you can say both drunk and sober," Mack tells us. And she tells her mom: "If you didn't want me to be a comedian, you shouldn't have boozed it up in your fourth trimester!" Give it up for Mary Mack, everybody. Schirripa calls her "a great writer" but then says she makes him sleepy. Lasagna also has that effect on him.
Bob Biggerstaff is up next. He misses pagers. Who knew? He's not as much of a fan of the cummerbund. He's doing well, but the cameras aren't telling us that -- they're saying he's just doing OK, but not well enough for a slot in the house. "I killed it," Biggerstaff jokes as he walks offstage.
The next comic is desperate? That's what Bellamy says. It's Louis Ramey from Atlanta. The tallest man in Singapore. By the way, if you want to know who's still in the race for Last Comic Standing, a visit to their MySpace profile offers hints, such as, oh, they put Last Comic Standing in their titles and headlines. Now Ramey is doing the same jokes he did in his short routine in the New York City regionals. Which means he was right in the pre-show interview when he said he really, really wants to win. He will tell the jokes he feels he needs to get to the next level.
Sean Cullen also really wants to win. Well, don't they all, when it comes down to it? Cullen is Canada's last hope in this competition. He is not afraid to go after the "whatever happens in Vegas" slogan. And a song. About porn. Another comic who crouches down to play to the front row in a crowd of thousands. Interesting choice. But as I know and you know and now we know, Cullen played a big Vegas stage last fall for the Ellen Degeneres variety show that was part of The Comedy Festival.
John Evans from Minneapolis will prove to the kids that he really is a stand-up comedian. Even if someone thinks he looks like Count Chocula. He's married, so he doesn't really care what you think. Cut to cleavage! We'll be seeing him at breakfast, at least.
Heath Hyche describes his act as a one-man sketch energy show. He's got props, people. And voices. He told us he wants us to rethink what comedy is all about. Done. Belzer and Schirripa are not having any of it. We them shake their heads in shame. Don't they know Hyche appeared on the sketch TV version of Blue Collar TV? Belzer says he is "allergic to ethnic stereotyping in 2008." Wonder what he'll say after Ku's performance? Of course you do. You're spellbound at this point. But you'll have to wait through at least another commercial break, or two, or more.
Ku is next. Esther Ku to you. She opens by joking about how she can sleep in class and no one would know. Jokes about not being able to tell fellow Koreans apart. Hey, a joke about putting a "Made in Korea" sticker on her brother's butt isn't self-hating. A lot of guys want to buy her dinner. Would you? Schirripa would, although he deflects it to the crowd. Belzer reveals his crush. He says, if you make fun of your own ethnicity, it's cool by him. So that explains that. Wonder what he'd think of her black jokes?
Jackie Kashian cannot wait to use a big bag of money as a doorstop after she wins. She is not from Milwaukee, but from South Milwaukee. Make a note of it. She is mouthy because her parents were funny. As a kid, she wanted to be blind so she could get a dog. Want to know what her parents thought about that? You really should be watching the show. Her parents really do sound crazy. You'll have to wait to find out more about that, though.
Pete Lee moved away from the Midwest so he could go back to the Midwest and make it through to the semis in Las Vegas. I just heard Lee will get to do a half-hour Comedy Central Presents later this summer, so that's a consolation prize already (if he needs a consolation prize). Opens with jokes about his name as a car horn. Baseball. Sex in a car wash?
Lastly, Jim Tavare from the U.K., and he got decked out for this, in tails, with his big ol' bass. He can show you after, if you'd like. He was part of The Sketch Show, which means I probably even saw him back in 2002 in Aspen. But all of my memories of that are fuzzy. Belzer says "very, very good." Did you know Tavare had a TV show back in the day named for him that also featured Ricky Gervais? Now you know.
Which means one more break and we're ready to announce our final finalists, right? Right.
Moving on and moving into a house together in Hollywood...Marcus! Jim Tavare! Esther Ku! Papa CJ! Sean Cullen! There are two tickets left? Oh, OK then. Iliza Shlesinger! Louis Ramey! How very international, this group.
They join the other finalists: God's Pottery, Adam Hunter, Rob G, Paul Foot and Jeff Dye.
Coming soon: Yo Momma jokes in a boxing ring, silly outfits, Ku's laugh, challenges and more. Come back next Thursday!
The third season of Comedy Central's Live at Gotham -- the show that replaced Premium Blend as the showcase for up-and-coming stand-up comedians and put them in a more intimate comedy club setting at NYC's Gotham Comedy Club -- debuts tonight at 10 p.m. after a not-so coincidental rebroadcast of Jeff Dunham's special, "Arguing With Myself." That's because Dunham hosts the premiere, with routines from JR Brow, Erik Griffin, Jared Logan, Anjelah Johnson, Michael Palascak and Lenny Marcus. I showed you a clip from Johnson earlier. Here is a teaser clip:
More teaser clips from each of the other performers, as well as your host, after the jump!