Screenvision has produced a series of seven live stand-up comedy films from Broadway Comedy Club in NYC that will appear on movie screens nationwide beginning May 4. Here's the trailer:
OK. So host Caroline Rhea tells you to enjoy stand-up comedy "without the two-drink minimum" by watching stand-ups filmed in a club with a drink minimum. Paradox. But whatevs. We also see in this trailer that the first film installment features Erik Rivera, Wali Collins, Vanessa Hollingshead, Mike Vecchione, Modi, Roz G., Steve Rossi and Joe Larson, plus we saw glimpses of Ross Bennett, Esther Ku, Costaki Economopoulos, Godfrey and more. You can check out info on the Stand-Up 360 site. They have deals to screen in cinemas in 39 states.
The full lineup and dates, after the jump!
If you were to ask me at the start of the 2008 New York's Funniest Stand-Up contest, who I thought would win, well, someone did, and before I could say "John Mulaney" (whoops, he's not even in the contest? wait, what? oh, right, Mulaney is headlining at the Punchline in San Francisco this week, so he already had plans), I thought, Julian McCullough was the only Carolines club comic returning from among the 2007 contest finalists, so, yeah, him. McCullough did win the $2,500 prize last night at Carolines, along with a week of gigs at the club and an additional spot opening for one of the New York Comedy Festival headliners.
"I'm going to move to Hoboken with this money," McCullough joked while holding the large cardboard fake-check, in between sincere sentiments about his fellow competitors. "I want to thank Carolines. They've changed my life over the past two years."
McCullough told me afterward that he already had a festival gig opening for Susie Essman at Carolines this weekend. Which makes me realize that picking the winner of this contest is simple! Last year, winner Wil Sylvince had a festival gig before the contest; this year, 'twas McCullough. So if you want to win in 2009, get yourself booked in the fest first!
As even McCullough pointed out when he opened his finals set, stand-up comedy contests don't mesh well with stand-up comedy personalities. "Take the hardest job in the world and pit us against each other," he told the audience. And this contest has some work to do, too -- it uses the same audition process as Last Comic Standing (preferring appointments over open calls), which gives an advantage to comedians who know the system and the Carolines staff; and the name, well, the name of the contest, "New York's Funniest Stand-Up," is about as much of a misnomer as Grammy's Best New Artist. Actually, it'd make more sense if they called it New York's Best New Stand-Up, because even if the stand-up has worked for years, he or she is new to the New York City scene and industry and at least that separates that title from the many great and funny stand-up comedians who live in the city. That said, it's great that the Carolines-produced festival addded the contest to its lineup, because it's one of those events that helps make this week in NYC comedy more special and unique than any other week.
Want to know who I think New York's funniest stand-up is? Want to know how everyone else did in the contest? Keep reading...
One of my newspaper alma maters, the New York Daily News, devoted much of its Sunday features section to comedy, thanks in part to this week's New York Comedy Festival, but also to how much comedy has impacted politics this campaign season. There's a story from Caroline Waxler about how comedians might react to an Obama presidency, brief interviews with fest headliners Sarah Silverman, Tracy Morgan and Carlos Mencia, a profile roundup of the 11 finalists in the New York's Funniest Stand-Up contest, and a look-back at some quotes from Bernie Mac, who appears posthumously in the new movies Madagascar 2 and Soul Men.
A reliable source informed me that these are your first five comedians advancing to the finals of the 2008 New York's Funniest Stand-Up contest:
Nate Bargatze, Esther Ku, Julian McCullough, Stone & Stone, Reese Waters
To all of the thousands of you who have reached my site looking for information about Esther Ku, thank you. For those of you who got here via the Google search terms "Esther Ku naked," shame on you. Although I can tell you that I have seen Esther Ku with her pants off, and, um, what? Yes. Really. Ku wanted me to remind you that we did not fornicate. Oh, no. Just another night in a Pan 9 afterparty in the Boston not-so-suburb of Allston. Truth be told, someone spilled wine on Ku's white pants, and since we were in a house with a functioning washer and dryer, I helped clean things up, and in the meantime, Ku tried to cover up with paper towels. So, so cute. You guys are perverts! No, really. You are. Anyhow. Ku got voted off the Last Comic Standing finals on Thursday night's episode on NBC, and Ku was relieved to finally be able to talk about what happened. She even held a viewing party at a friend's house in New York City, with she being the only person who knew that would be her last show on NBC (though she says all of the finalists will return for at least one show once live episodes resume in August).
This is a funny picture of me and Ku outside the Abbey Lounge in Somerville, Mass., in 2006, when Ku opened for Doug Stanhope and performed for a crowd that couldn't possibly be offended by anything she'd say -- and two years ago, her act was much racier than anything you saw on TV. Plus, back then, she sold pens as a day job. How many people could say that? Notice how Judi Brown-Marmel somehow isn't quite as excited to be in this picture. Fun times.
So. Let's get to the interview portion of this post.
I already know all about your laugh. Do you think, though, that perhaps you should have warned your fellow stand-ups about it before living together? Did you warn them or try to explain it so they wouldn't turn on you like they did?
So here we are. These are your 12 finalists, and after watching that hourlong recap from last week, we're only reminded of a few good stand-ups who got left behind. Let us not mourn for them, but celebrate them, for they will not have to suffer the indignities of Last Comic Standing's house nor its challenges, nor the little yellow bus.
First off, the house is nice. God's Pottery acts as if they have "dibsies" on the girlie pink room with princess outfits and bunk beds, but eventually are seen unpacking in another room.
But wait, let's talk about Esther Ku's laugh, shall we? Spoiler alert: It's all real. Ku laughs a lot, and laughs loudly. Some comedians over the years have accused her of laughing insincerely, but oh no, my friends, it is sincere...sincerely overpowering. Iliza Shlesinger describes it as "operatic, forceful and when it's this close to your ear, we're talking sonic boom potential" ...Paul Foot calls it..."a machine gun of joy."
We've got a calendar shoot. A wonderfully goofy calendar photo shoot. Marcus as Wonder Woman with smeared make-up and a Bobcat Goldthwait vibe declares: "Don't laugh at me, I'm beautiful!" Sean Cullen has a "superhero medieval hermaphrodite ballerina queen" thing going on. Jeff Dye is the youngest, so he puts on the baby outfit. Ron G says he automatically looked for a pimp get-up. Adam Hunter is a hippie? Shlesinger says she wanted the baby outfit but couldn't because they'd have to blur her breasts. Louis Ramey brings the bling. Papa CJ's outfit is fairly lame. God's Pottery lucked out (or did they?) with the God and Devil looks. Jim Tavare blows his top (well, his wig). Ku is Uncle Sam as a girl? I don't see that. Paul Foot is, I don't know what he is supposed to be.
Tonight's show promises the Last Comic Standing "All-Time Best Jokes Countdown"...Dat Phan makes the Top 10??!?!?!?!? Are. You. Kidding. Me.
They wake up the next morning to find glasses with egg yolks in them. A clue, perhaps? Another opportunity to play dress up, and a chance for us to hear Survivor's Eye of the Tiger as the comedians get into boxing outfits for Last Comic Smackdown.
But #9 on our "all-time best"? Todd Glass with a bit about how bold some people must be to wear awful toupees. #8 goes to John Heffron with his bit about the junk drawer scissors that Mom uses to cut your hair when you're a kid, which means we get to hear the word "dingleberry" on TV again. Hooray.
Our judges for the Yo Momma smackdown are Jamie Kennedy and sportscaster Rich Eisen. Bill Bellamy is sporting a clip-on bow-tie. We begin with a "speed round" in which only four comics will advance? Alrighty, Louis Ramey vs. Jeff Dye. One minute for each comic to get in as many jokes as possible. They make it look as though Ramey scores early, Dye hits back late. But before judging, it's on to God's Pottery vs. Ron G. Oh boy. God's Pottery is going to be up for this challenge with the anti-Yo Momma jokes strategy, playing into their "Christian" ethic. They have Ron G off his guard. The look on his face is precious. Even his eyes are sighing. Marcus vs. Adam Hunter. Jim Tavare vs. Iliza Shlesinger. Paul Foot vs. Papa CJ. Esther Ku vs. Sean Cullen. They show Eisen really enjoying Cullen's joke of how Korean Ku's mom is, describing her body as both North and South Korea. The judging: Kennedy is claiming a few comics were telling really old Yo Momma jokes. Your four finalists in the challenge? First a commercial.
And another installment of Last Comic Driving, with Brit Lady Fearne Cotton "driving" contestant Stevie D. (btw, if you saw the repeat earlier this evening, they completely cut Brit Lady out of the picture for time, so boo, and oh, yeah, Stevie D. made some jokey jokes about long hair, but couldn't really hold my attention, did he hold yours?)
Grandma Lee from season 2 has the #7 joke? If it was so good, how come she didn't make it into the house, producers?
Your finalists in this challenge will be: Adam Hunter, God's Pottery, Jim Tavare and Sean Cullen. Oooh. This round is "you're such a hack" jokes! Hunter says fighting God's Pottery is like fighting Borat, and Borat, er, God's Pottery makes it to the finals. Cullen vs. Tavare. Tavare references Carrot Top! So it's God's Pottery vs. Tavare in the Main Event.
#6 "all-time best" features Doug Benson's joke about being "inconvenienced" on his way to a convenience store by a guy asking if Benson was going to Hell. Yay!
The Main Event is anything goes, but make it funny. Will God's Pottery succumb to temptation? What do you think. The winner of immunity is Jim Tavare.
Back at the house, Tavare makes dinner and Foot runs around like he's Rowan Atkinson, and he might look like the Mr. Bean man, but he's just not the same. Plus acting like Bean isn't going to win you any friends in this house. We get a peek at a graveyard set where the comedians will make their showdown nominations.
And we're back to Ku's laughter, suggesting she'll come up for votes. Marcus does a Christopher Walken impersonation to describe Ku's laugh "as a tsunami of pure evil." Well, the fog machine at the cemetery is working, and Iliza can hear them playing a "Thriller" medley because she's the only one doing the dance. Bellamy brings up how comedians "kill" and "die" onstage, "so we thought it would be a great idea" to hold elimination votes in a cemetery! Get it? Three people get voted into a live audience showdown, and the audience picks the winner, leaving the other two comedians to hit the road.
#5 on the "all-time best" LCS joke list goes to Roz from season 4, who has a retort when her boss asks her why she's always late to work: "Because it makes the day go quicker!" Oh, that Roz. She has issues!
The votes pile up for Ku! So she gets to pick her two opponents. Ku picks God's Pottery and Iliza Shlesinger. Ramey is shocked! Shocked! Rut-RO! We could have both of the ladies going home in the first episode...really...Ku says she didn't like how Shlesinger went after her laugh. And in the tease, we see that Ku's set is the one I had on my site two months earlier, and that the winner of this three-way (er, make that three-act, four-way) got 68 percent of the vote.
Dwayne Perkins from season 5 gets #4 on the "all-time best" LCS joke parade. Wait. He didn't make it in the house either? What gives, producers! Are you trying to make up for past transgressions here or something? Lavell Crawford, runner-up on season 5, jokes about being fat and breathing hard, and that gets him the third "all-time best" LCS joke.
Shlesinger oozes confidence in her backstage interviews with producers. This is a really interesting showdown, and Ramey points out that you should not underestimate Ku because the audience votes on who they like as much as who has the best jokes. Plus, you've got an audience deciding between two attractive but less experienced female stand-ups and a Christian acoustic parody act. I could not predict how they would vote. Yikes. The other finalists get to watch on a monitor. As mentioned previously, we've already seen Ku's showdown performance. It gets a mixture of big laughs and weird groan laughs, as audience members try to figure out if they can laugh at some of her jokes. Her Taco Bell joke doesn't quite work and closing on M*A*S*H, eh. Even the other finalists are not sure what to make of her chances. But more commercials before we see Ku's competition. Plus, we still have the top two LCS jokes of "all time" to discover, again. God's Pottery beckons, "if you put on your partici-pants, put them on!" The audience claps instinctively and immediately. I really would have loved to see God's Pottery take on Papa CJ. Maybe we'll get to see that because the audience is singing along. Another good sign for Team Jesus.
Season 4 winner Josh Blue gets the second-best joke by blaming his Republican vote on his palsy arm.
Shlesinger says she has deer legs, and it's still somewhat sexy. Her ditzy girl voice comes out. They like her dinosaur getting hit by a rock look, and I gotta tell you, it's a good look. But I wouldn't hit Iliza with a rock. Not unless she threw one at me first. Even then, probably not. I'm a writer, not a fighter. The nine boys in the back of the room back home think Shlesinger nailed it. What did you think? With the fewest number of votes, first one out is God's Pottery! Oh, no! It's for the best, fellas. Who crushed it? Iliza Shlesinger, that's who! She did nail it. Sorry, Ku. The rest of the final 10 appear onstage, and Bellamy tries to call them "the funniest 10 folks in the country," which isn't even geographically correct, let alone anywhere near to the truth, and even the finalists know that. Shlesinger obviously made a statement to the remaining guys. Next week, we'll get to see Carrot Top! I think Shlesinger will be safe for the next week, at least, because who wants to face her after that trouncing? Papa CJ and Paul Foot, however, may need to watch their steps. Ron G seems a little unsure of himself, too. Jeff Dye, of course, is the kid. What I'm saying is Ramey and Marcus seem like tough competition, Tavare is a wildcard, and Hunter and Cullen could go either way. And If the producers want to give me a hint, that'd be cool, too.
Oh, and speaking of which, the producers picked season 5 winner Jon Reep as having the best joke ever on LCS with a punchline about the redneck version of red, white and blue.
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!
Want to talk Last Comic Standing with one of its "potential" (ahem) finalists? Esther Ku is offering a live chat on her site at 10 p.m. Eastern once tonight's semifinals show from Vegas ends. I've already warned Ku to watch out for the crazies!
Related: Ku was a guest last week, along with Richard Lewis, on NPR's Talk of the Nation to talk about the business of stand-up comedy. You can listen to the half-hour interview and call-in segment here.
Welcome to the first half of the semifinals in Las Vegas, the night when Dan Naturman gets the shaft for a second time on Last Comic Standing -- spoiler alert!!! -- where we see if Bill Bellamy tell jokes, and because he has had a career as an MTV VJ, parts in big crappy movies, and tours the nation as a stand-up, you'd expect him to, so he does tell jokes for at least a tight minute before introducing our judges, who are, wait for it, Richard Belzer and Steve Schirripa, aka the guys in New York City who hated a lot of great comedians. Great. Just great. We know we're in Vegas because of the showgirls who perform at the Paris casino/hotel. OK. Enough already. We're going from 16 semifinalists to five finalists. Same thing next week. So here we go!
Adam Hunter from New York stretches a lot backstage. The producers evidently want us to see that. He says: "I know for a fact I will make everyone laugh." Hunter is rather loud. Is this because he wants to make sure everyone in the theater hears him? Makes a dig at Asians in porn, followed by Mardi Gras in the Middle East. Jokes about living in L.A., where even the homeless are in the biz. As Schrippa notes, even though some jokes don't hit, Hunter gets a lot of jokes out in his short time. But they show him getting a partial standing ovation from the audience and kind words from the judges. So that's all you need to know for now.
Phil Palisoul from Denver. He makes a bidet joke, but not the one you're thinking of. Notes how people would never act the way they do walking as they do when they drive. But. No standing O shown. No words from the judges heard. Uh-oh.
Jeff Dye from Seattle. Actually, Kentwood High School, as his people told me via email earlier this week. Same fluorescent T-shirt? Lucky T-shirt? He jokes about doing ecstasy while working out. Applause break for a joke about women wondering why people are staring at them when they have "juicy" written on their butts. More jokes about the gym and workout machines, and Dye goes straight at the judges. Dye gets interviewed by the Brit lady. This, plus the emails I got telling me to watch Dye in the semis, tell me and you all we need to know.
Erin Foley says it's time for a woman to win this competition. Bellamy bills her as another New York City comedian. She auditioned in Los Angeles. Anyhow. She has a baby shower to go to, but there's a lot of different kind of juices to consider. Her dictionary jokes aren't getting big laughs. A bit about being a sideline reporter for football telecasts. No big faces or energy? What gives? Did someone tell her to hold back?
Dan Naturman. Here we go, people. A nod to his Connecticut roots. He does his bit about Internet dating and photos. Prescription drugs. He ends his routine mid-joke. They laugh. I laugh. It doesn't matter, people.
Another installment of...LAST COMIC DRIVING! This week, Jacob Sirof gets the hot seat. Eh. I have more to say about this in another post.
Ooh. It's the Israeli Carrot Top (Bellamy even says so!) Lioz Shem Tov, or as Bob Biggerstaff likes to call him, Mozel Top! Anyhow. Carrot Top has a standing gig in Vegas, so you'd think Mozel Top would do well, too, right? He shows us Mickey Mouse ears on Viagra, a turtle, Spider-Man cutting himself shaving, a long bit that's PC-based. Oooh. We go back to the judges. "It wasn't typical jokes," Belzer says. "There's no rhyme or reason to what you were doing, but it was funny," Schirripa says. Hard to tell, people. The Brit lady is starting to grow on me. Maybe it's her kindness. Just as likely it's her sexy outfits.
Dale Jones is from Nashville. I sense he'll have some funny voices and faces, just by looking at his face. He starts out with big energy to play to the big room. Gets an applause break for acknowledging that he is "the strange on the road." Well, he didn't pee his britches or nothing.
Erin Jackson from Washington, D.C., just got a second-place cash prize at the festival in Nebraska, so we know she can do a short TV-friendly set. Jokes about how being a comedian actually should make her better marriage material. Black stereotypes, and the Tooth Fairy are also targets. So far, so good.
After another break and some onstage foolishness that we don't quite get to see, the Brooklyn Christian acoustic duo known as God's Pottery takes the stage. Only time for one song, and they pick their ditty about premarital sex, "The Pants Go Off When The Ring Goes On." Both judges say how they believe the guys and think it's not an act anymore. Wink. Wink. I already know they're through, and now so do you.
Ron G. auditioned in L.A., but he's from Atlanta, and he talks about how it's tough to hold onto a job, even a one-day assignment. He has a special voice he uses when he's in trouble...do you?
Drennon Davis, with a South Lake Tahoe residence listed, comes out without the uke or a guitar. So no songs tonight. Will this work? First joke, not so much. Vegas joke, better. Davis does some beat-box rapping, though. Um, yeah.
Winston Spear we saw in the initial previews standing outside in the snow saying he was going to be the last comic standing, and I certainly didn't believe him then. But then again, here he is in Las Vegas in the semis. So it's possible. He has won big comedy awards in Canada. Can he win here? A funny time-machine joke. Schirripa doesn't get his twitching and everything else. Hmmm.
Shazia Mirza, aka the British Muslim lady we've seen on 60 Minutes, jokes about her background. OK when you only have three minutes. Makes me wonder what her longer set sounds like. She tells the Brit lady she wouldn't want to do this again? Well, the producers certainly can make that not happen.
Englishman Paul Foot says he has never been to Vegas before, so hooray for that, and he starts with a bit comparing his skills as a lover with his skills as a driver. Why must cakes always be described as moist? Good question. And with that, I'm hitting my space bar wherever I may choose.
How many commercial breaks will there be, anyhow???
Andi Smith says what you really need to know about being on Last Comic Standing and winning, is that it means clubs will book you as a headliner knowing you'll "put butts in seats." She's from St. Louis, but she has performed in West Virginia for a crowd of eight, and had a funny joke or two or three about that. She clearly is not worried about offending anyone. Even in Vegas. Fearless or crazy?
The Meehan Brothers from San Francisco also could be described as fearless and crazy. Because this bit relies solely on one of the brothers and his physicality. Actually, I'm going to chalk this up more to crazy than fearless.
And your first group of finalists, moving into a house in Hollywood, are...Adam Hunter! God's Pottery! (I love how they kept up their goofy grins throughout the dramatic lighting sequence) Ron G! Wait. Only two tickets left? Oh, right. Paul Foot! Jeff Dye!
Obviously, Naturman should have made it through. Again. No fussing this time around. An interesting decision to move a parody duo into a stand-up competition, but the boys are funny. Including Foot allows you to say you're international. Dye represents youth. Well. There we have it. Next week, the other half gets cut down to size.
OK. They just ended with an "in memory" card to George Carlin, which, sure, Carlin has done so much for comedy, but if you're really going to honor him, you need to start making this show about finding the next great original inspirational stand-up, OK? Alrighty then.
ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT?! Yes, indeedy...
Judy Gold gets dismayed by all of the foreigners in the crowd, but only because it's making her work harder for her crowd work. She plows through nevertheless. Gold tells a joke about seeing an Asian baby...with Asian parents...as comedian Esther Ku (as seen on this year's Last Comic Standing) approaches my corner. Kismet! Two brothers sit down and please Gold by telling her they're from Short Hills, NJ. They please me when they say they heard about this show from Time Out magazine. Bing bong!
Stephenson vows to host the entire 50 hours. Will we both make it for the duration?
Jeffrey Ross is taping an hourlong Comedy Central special this Saturday at The Borgata in Atlantic City (and my friends at Comedy Central Insider inform us that you can save $15 online by using the promo code ROASTMASTER), so he'll be ready to shoulder the load for a while as we approach the three-hour mark in this adventure. He opens with a solid zinger. "How about a hand for all of the comedians who won't be showing up...Chris Rock (audience laughs)...Jerry Seinfeld (more laughs)." But he hits a roadblock trying to engage the Guinness record watcher/verifier in the audience. Instead, the Guinness guy says, "On with the show!" To which Ross replies, "OK, well I guess I'll just f$%& myself, then." He does, however, get on with the show.
So we begin the sixth season of NBC's Last Comic Standing, and already it's clear they're still playing from the American Idol of Comedy playbook, what with host Bill Bellamy delivering the introduction...wait for it...turn on the lights...to a large audience! Get it? This is big, people. Anyhow. We're going to endure plenty of people plucked from the lines for the sole purpose of mocking them because they're willing to be mocked to get on TV, plus hundreds more who now will be billed in comedy clubs as "as seen on Last Comic Standing," even though you never saw their names and perhaps never heard them deliver a funny joke on the program.
The opening montage, already leaked to the Internets weeks ago, includes Eddie Pepitone, Michelle Buteau, Dwayne Perkins and a bunch of fools. Celebrity judges get billed as NBC talent, even if you'd never link them to NBC. Although Dave Foley delivers a funny line we'll hear again later this season, after Richard Kind says "Dreams, just crushed," retorting: "You know, then we can make dream juice, and that's refreshing in the morning." Yes, we will suffer, too, watching the parade of audition rejects before we can get to the actual professional comedians, and yes, just as with Idol, producers will select several acts merely for casting a TV show than for their talents as a comedian. Also, FYI: Jay Mohr still gets a consultant credit this year. Some British lady (Fearne Cotton) is out on the streets near Gotham Comedy Club talking about all of the people who showed up for the open call (as if they'll ever get picked for this). Cue the montage of people walking into the room. Split-second looks. Hey, that's a guy with an online comedy radio program. Hey, there's our judges for New York City, Richard Belzer and Steve Schirripa. Belzer's comedy career goes back decades, even though he's more known for being Detective Munch on TV for years. Schirripa, meanwhile, has run a comedy room in Vegas for years, even though he's known pretty much only for being Bobby on The Sopranos. So keep this in mind. Also, I was at the NYC callbacks and saw Belzer and Schrripa personally talk up a few of the acts, while plenty of others got kicked out prematurely for little or no good reason. Want to see what I saw behind the scenes? Click here.
Anyhow. First up is someone in a half-chicken suit, Buck B'Gak? Montage of awfulness. Louis Ramey, billed as Forest Hills!, does a black guy in Aspen bit and a Detroit is tough bit, and because producers set this up with special camera time, we know he'll go through. More faces. Baron Vaughn and Ophira Eisenberg get split-second shots, but no talky talk. There's a "what are you gonna do" montage. Adam Sank is a gay Jew who worked at Fox News, so he gets to come back, although Schrripa makes a bad gay joke in doing so. Esther Ku is 24? That is not something I knew before. Cameras follow her around the city as she talks to her mom on the cell phone. Ku took part in last year's NBC Stand-Up For Diversity program, so the network knew about her already. And she makes Belzer laugh out loud. Wins them over, anyhow. A montage of freakiness, paused for a few seconds to allow ventriloquist Carla Rhodes to bring out her Keith Richards dummy. God's Pottery gets some advance billing, performing on the streets and playgrounds of Brooklyn, before cutting to the club audition for their Christian folk duo routine. I saw these guys last year at the Montreal festival and they drew raves. The judges here clearly get it, saying as much. But even now, months afterward, I'm still confused how they're supposed to compete in a stand-up contest -- especially one with challenges and so forth. Speaking of which, after a commercial break, it's Stone and Stone, identical twin brothers who talk over each other. This is going to be annoying, hilarious, or both. You pick. There's another montage of folks in a confessional booth of some sort. Then we get the return of Dan Naturman, only the show hasn't set this up yet, and Naturman's delivery has the judges confused, but in a good way. Susannah Perlman gets to walk around the sidewalk in different costumes, and we're led to believe something will come of this, but instead, she's being set up for a big fall. Comics forgetting their punchlines. There's a bad baby montage -- which we saw coming, but Myq Kaplan didn't know this when he went onstage with a guitar, and got dismissed before playing said guitar. Gently weeping. Al Jackson gets the reality TV role of guy chasing dreams as his wife gives birth, and his Bush joke gets him a callback. Marc Theobald's teeth get a laugh. Dan Curry works in a sex joke around Kevin Bacon. Michelle Buteau gets Facebooked!
At the callback performance show...Sank opens with Project Runway jokes. God's Pottery has a song for Jews. Curry sends a text message to the wrong friend and big laughs. Ku is joking backstage with some comic that's never introduced to us. Her set's not the best, but she's cute and confident. Jackson's wife and newborn get camera time.
During a commercial break, we get...Last Comic Driving? That British lady's the one driving, though, so it's Last Comic Shotgun, as, one a time, presumably, we'll get a comedian trying to tell jokes to hostages in the back seat. That sounds like it's never going to work. But one comic will win $10,000 somehow??? Online voting. That's how. Oh. No. Anyhow. Andrew Norelli is up first. He tells jokes about plastic surgery, former models and people who aren't quite broke. Oh, wait. I get it. The comic who wins this also gets a new car, so he/she will be driving that. Moving on...
Naturman jokes about how no one predicted the Internet, not even Star Trek. Theobald jokes about candles. Ramey plays pranks at tanning salons. Angry Bob is, well, angry. Buteau filled out credit card applications for candy bars? Hello! Stone and Stone are still talking over each other. That's the act.
The called backs are assembled onstage, and we see Aparna and Costaki and Jon Fisch and that still-unidentified woman, even though we've never seen or heard from them on the show yet. Does that even count? Hmmm. Getting red envelopes, at least on camera, are Ramey, the Stone twins, Ku, God's Pottery and Naturman. Did some people get robbed? Yes. Of course they did. Aparna even vanished from the stage (she got a ticket, only something must have happened).
Next stop: Tempe, Ariz.!
Even comedy bloggers need a few hours away from the computer now and then...right? Right. OK. Watch this clip from NBC's upcoming season of Last Comic Standing, which debuts May 22. It's my friend, comedian Esther Ku! I won't tell you how she does...yet. Enjoy.
This just in. YouTube user kdlmd243, who previously has uploaded NBC promotional content for our mutual enjoyment, now provides us with five "unaired" and "uncensored" looks at the upcoming season of Last Comic Standing 6 (a tip of the hat to my friend Todd at Dead-Frog for finding this). It's definitely real footage. It all comes complete with raw time codes.
Curiously, though, each of the five videos is a mashup of initial auditions and live audience callback performance footage from the various clubs. So these are calculated leaks. Very interesting. Here's how NBC has grouped them: Go blue or go home! Or perhaps, what they're saying is go "blue" and you'll go home. These comedians know they're trying to get on primetime national network television, right? Here is one of the videos that features my friend (and rumored finalist) Esther Ku near the end, talking about how a guy tries to impress her by saying he likes Korean food.
After the jump, links to all five videos and their NSFW topics.
The Boston Comedy Festival kicked off with its ever-random charm last night, a stand-out stand-up show off the comedy club grid, a well-attended gay-themed show (last year’s had to be canceled) and two equally unpredictable preliminaries in the comedy contest.
I’ve told people this before. As both a former participant (Seattle, 1998) and judge (Seattle, 2000; Boston, 2005) in stand-up comedy contests, you really need to take it all in with the proverbial grain of salt, throw caution to the wind, je ne sais quoi, devil-may-care attitude. Because — brace yourselves — comedy contests, more often than not, never determine who the funnies person in the room really is. There’s politics involved. Lots of BS. Your look might sway people as much as your 5-7 minute set. What’s the crowd like? Who are the judges? Have the judges seen your act before? What’s the scoring system? Where are you in the lineup? Who’s in your preliminary? And Boston adds another layer of madness, since it tries to fit the entire contest into one week. At least San Francisco and Seattle have full weeks of prelims and semifinal competitions — several nights in several different cities and venues — to weed out the flukes and let the premier comics rise to the top. Boston’s contest offers no such luck. Or rather, it’s often about luck. The funniest person in the entire contest might not even survive a prelim.
With that, here are last night’s results.
Prelim 1 winners: Logan Jacobson and Matt Malley
Prelim 2 winners: Frank G, Chris Tabb and Russell Bell
Which, of course, means some of last year’s finalists and semifinalists (Rob O’Reilly, J-L Cauvin) didn’t make the first cut. EJ Murphy, who was in the first prelim, told me he thought everyone in his group “crushed,” so it was hard to tell who’d advance. Chris Tabb, meanwhile, said he was unsure how he’d fare, since he often relies on crowd work and longer stories. “I don’t do five minutes!” he said. Last night, he must’ve figured out something. Also talked last night with Darryl Lenox (that’s the official spelling, despite all of the variations you may have seen elsewhere), who I had the privilege to open for back in the day (and no, that day was not a Wednesday, but a weekend back in 1999, or was it 2000, in Seattle and Bellingham) and can verify his funniness. Of course, Lenox also has won the Seattle contest, finished runner-up in San Francisco and Boston, and appeared this summer on Comedy Central’s Live At Gotham. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll win — last year he got bounced out of the prelims. This year, he says he’s focused on putting that behind him. But he’s in a prelim tonight with fellow Seattle contest winner Floyd J. Phillips and fellow Boston finalist Ira Proctor, among others. Something’s gotta give.
But first, a report from the Abbey Lounge, where Doug Stanhope found fans aplenty to pack the hot room last night for the “Cruel and Unusual” show. Stanhope took the mic at 9:18 p.m. when no one else would, and with his voice hoarse, brought up Brian Joyce, a guy originally from Somerville who had spent a year in Ireland. Naturally that led into material about alcoholism and not letting the terrorists win by backing off of that, somehow transitioning into prison rape (which reminds me of another pet peeve of mine, which I won’t get into here) and gay marriage. Joyce brought up Esther Ku, who dazzled the crowd into revered silence. They were afraid to laugh at Ku’s racially realistic observations, but showed their approval by giving her rousing applause at the end of her 7-minute set. Tom Dustin followed by ripping on both Ku and the Abbey. Dustin also delivered a killer bit about HPV, which I won’t repeat here. Next up, Spike Tobin. Tobin provided the old-school Boston comic set mentality, and even received interference from Annette Pollack, which should tell you something. But Tobin turned Pollack’s heckle around right quick, making her scarf out to be her panties. A final unadvertised set from Norman Wilkerson and then, finally, Stanhope.
Over the course of 57 minutes, Stanhope, despite the hoarse voice (and the weirdness of performing with family and friends nearby, since he was born in Worcester and had a gig there the night before) covered familiar territory and offered new insights on life. Yes, his first request was for liquor: “Do you have any clear tequila?” But the shot was for his girlfriend, suffering with flu-like symptoms. I hadn’t seen Stanhope in close to four years, back when I lived in Arizona and he was coming off an Aspen appearance and about to get married and famous. Now he lives in Arizona and is unmarried, still flirting with fame. Anyhow. Back to his set.
Stanhope reflected briefly on his month in Scotland, where he got lumped into a media report on anti-Semitic comedians, which led him off on a wild tangent about Jew-hating material. “I hate Jews?” he pondered. “You hate cats, but you don’t want them all put on trains and gassed!” Eventually, he came back to a oft-repeated premise of his, that religion causes too much nonsense and too many wars. No wonder some critics try to compare Stanhope to the late Bill Hicks. Stanhope isn’t a comedian in the traditional, stereotypical, set-up punch, jokey joke vein. Rather, he’s more of a truth-seeker, soapbox kind of comic. Is that like Hicks? A bit. But it’s also court jester, too. The kind of guy who can say the most outrageous things and get away with it, because, well, there’s quite a bit of truth to what he’s saying, and because, well, look at how foolish he looks. It’s not as if we have to worry about this guy, do we? That’s what makes the whole Stanhope for President in 2008 idea — on the Libertarian ticket — so intriguing. Is he serious? Outside, after the show, Stanhope told a fan that he doesn’t really want to the rule the country. “I don’t want anyone to rule the country,” he insisted, which is a Libertarian way to go.
Some other highlights of Stanhope’s performance last night: Noting that guilt has nothing to do with being Jewish, using man’s evolutionary relationship with apes as an obscene example. Noting that nationalism only teaches people to hate other countries and to take pride in things they’ve never accomplished (Example: Bailing out the French?). A funny aside about Boston: “There’s an awful lot of history in this town, but not a lot of future.” Some candid reflections about turning 39 and not being able to keep up his wild lifestyle. Wondering why the only new drugs are prescription medications designed not to expand our consciousness, but close up our thinking so we forget our depressing and dull our lives truly are. Noting how the world revolves around women, and particularly, sex with them, which is why the government and religion tries so desperately to make sex seem shameful. At one point, Stanhope engaged the audience in a discussion on monogamy, wondering if it’s instinctual or learned, and what that might say about love. He said he loves MySpace for its marketing efficiency, and joked about comedians who make fun of MySpace, wondering where the comics are who first made fun of cell phones and e-mail in the early 90s are now. But Stanhope hates the idea that the media makes MySpace out to be full of pedophiles — which led to a prolonged routine on pedophilia. Don’t worry, parents, he said. For one thing, online pedophiles are far less dangerous than the old-fashioned real-life pervs. And for another thing, “odds are, no one wants to f— your child!” This riled up him to a killer closing routine about child pornography, describing how it cannot be rampant as people think it is, how it’s the only crime you can be nabbed for simply by looking at it, and then wildly figured out a way to use child porn as a way to attack an anti-abortion campaigner. Never have you heard the phrase “pre-term necrophiliac child molesters,” or so I’m guessing. I’m also guessing many of the people in the crowd hadn’t seen Stanhope perform before. Who knows what they were expecting? They didn’t get an out-of-control, ranting lunatic alcoholic (if that’s what they were expecting). All in all, they heard thought-provoking and funny stuff.