Over the weekend in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada's The Comedy Network handed out the Canadian Comedy Awards, and the Beaver winners (yep, they call them thar comedy awards the Beavers!) were...
Pretty Funny Comic of the Year, large venue: Russell Peters
Pretty Funny Stand-Up, Male: Gerry Dee
Pretty Funny Stand-Up, Female: Nikki Payne
Pretty Funny Stand-Up, Newcomer: Peter Anthony
This is our neighbor to the north's ninth time rewarding comedians with awards. Remember when the United States did this with the American Comedy Awards? In fact, some stand-up comedians still use these old honors in their main credits. It has been several years since the comedy business in the Lower 48 (a Palin reference here? really? c'mon now) attempted to honor its own so publicly. Should we do it again? Is there a quantifiable worth to saying one comedian stood out in 2008 as the best club comic, this performer as the best theater comic, that one (hey now! even timelier reference!) as the best comedian on TV or film? If so, then what is Comedy Central waiting for? Or should someone else take up the charge? And if I were to hand out awards at the end of the year, would I, could I, should I call them The ComComs?! The ComComComs? Discuss, please.
The rest of the 2008 Canadian Comedy Award winners listed after the jump.
Most comedians agree that once you've told a joke on TV, you've "burned" it and need to be wary of using it again and again in your live act. Which brings me to Gerry Dee. I like him. I like his jokes. But my big complaint about Dee is that he continues to recycle the same routines about being in school as a teacher and as a student. On TV, no less. He's said much of this not only on NBC's Last Comic Standing last year, but also on Comedy Central's Live At Gotham, so when I heard it again at the start of his latest hourlong special, "No Reading Ahead," I thought, really? Again? Really? It's a cohesive hour that alternates from Dee's childhood to his adult teaching experiences. There's some new material (yay!) about his Scottish parents and learning karate. But still...enough with repeating routines on TV already. Here's a clip of Gerry Dee talking about recess:
After the jump, Dee's various TV appearances from last year...
As they say in France, que sera sera, je ne sais quoi -- which translates into not one but two cliches. As for French Canada and Montreal, what better way to close out the 25th anniversary of Just For Laughs than with a gala hosted by native son William Shatner. What's that? You didn't know the Shatner came from Montreal? Neither did I, my dear readers. Neither did I. The fest's grand finale (though the festival continues with a couple of shows on Sunday, Saturday night represented the blow-out of blow-out spectacular shows across the board) had the city's streets teeming with comedy fans, and other people, too. Let me share a few salient points and thoughts from Saturday night...
Is there a stage past post-ironic to describe the public persona of William Shatner, especially when he "sings" Canada's rock hits? Or is that simply called ironic? Where is Alanis when you need her?
Zach Galifianakis doesn't need a piano to be funny, although it certainly adds a little something something (perhaps that je ne sais quoi?) to observations such as: "At what age do you tell a highway it was adopted?"
I now have very mixed feelings about Canadian stand-up Gerry Dee. Why? Dee rocked the televised gala audience with his set Saturday night, but I had the strange sense that I had seen and heard it all before -- mostly because I had seen and heard it all before, as his 6-7 minute set virtually echoed the televised sets he had performed this year for both Comedy Central's "Live at Gotham" and NBC's "Last Comic Standing." Most stand-ups understand that any set they've done on national TV gets "burned" (aka retired), so what does this say (or what should I take it to mean) about the rest of Dee's material? Like I wrote, mixed feelings.
Bill Burr deserves a development deal, or a big break. I saw him crush both at the Shatner gala and much much later, past 2 a.m. Sunday, as the final comic in the "state of the fest" showcase, devoted to (as the program says) "this year's breakout acts and must-see talent." He actually closed both shows, for good reason. He literally is sincerely funny and brutally honest onstage.
What are the odds that out of several hundred patrons, the most drunken and annoying one gets seated front and center? Most comedy club customers will say they may fear sitting there for fear of getting picked on by the comedian. But the same is true for the performers, as the New Faces 2 showcase demonstrated Saturday night at Kola Note, with a guy talking to (and sometimes blurting out and yelling at) each of the comedians, publicly apologizing each time until he got kicked out of the show. As host Tom Papa discovered, every square inch of that customer's table was occupied by empty beer bottles. "Two hundred beers and a sailor with low self-esteem equals chaos!" Papa said.
The name "LaQuisha" always seems to get a laugh (New Face comedian Geoff Keith proved that again). Must be the "qu" sound. At least that's what the comedy textbooks say.
New York stand-up Kurt Metzger politely informed the Canadians "why America is like, the best country": We own the moon. "Where is the weird Quebec separatist flag on the moon?" Eh? Metzger also made a somewhat compelling case for why God could be a woman. I shan't dare repeat it here and now.
As New York stand-up Matt McCarthy (no relation, well, not to me, anyhow) and I decided, Montreal is like the French Texas of Canada. Just a little bit different. Acts like it's its own country. And as the other McCarthy said during his New Face showcase, "I have never seen so many churches and strip clubs in my life. Make up your minds!"
Speaking of Texas, New Face stand-up Lucas Molandes showed yet again that Austin breeds very smart and clever comedians. His closing bit on the war in Iraq involved a sexual conundrum between a raccoon and a cat, but he apologized by saying, "Sorry folks, I just read 'Animal Farm.'" A couple of his other touchy observations: Native Americans made the dreamcatcher, "but the one dream they couldn't catch was the American Dream." And reading Anne Frank's diary "taught me you can't hide from your problems." Yikes! Still quite funny, though.
Also quite funny: Tommy Johnagin. His performance could be used as evidence that "Last Comic Standing" does indeed find and put promising comedians on TV.
Andy Kindler really is the comedian's comedian.
Joey Kola's and Bobby Kelly's impersonations of a female voice sound oddly similar to an impersonation of Joe Pesci. I don't mean that as a funny like a clown way, either. Just funny. And that's a wrap for now. Time to catch a plane back to JFK.
If you happen to visit New York City anytime soon, let me put in a word for a stop at the Maritime Hotel in Chelsea. Or is it the Meatpacking District? The site says it's in Chelsea, two blocks north of the Meatpacking District. Anyhow. I've already gotten away from the point. Point is, if you have several hundred dollars per day to blow on lodging here, you're likely to have casual encounters with celebrities. And not just all of the stand-up comedians who stayed at the Maritime last week. In a period of less than 24 hours, I exchanged words with Michael Stipe (whom I now realize was hanging around for Monday's induction of R.E.M. into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!) and saw Tate Donovan hanging around in the lobby. I believe my exchange with Stipe went something like this:
5:50 p.m. Saturday, comedian Dan Boulger and I head down the steps and out of the Maritime. Just then, Stipe is heading inside. We almost collide. "Oh...hi!" I say. "Hello," he replies. Boulger stares oddly. And that was that. Stipe wore some sort of beret and was sporting a grayish brown beard.
And now for the rest of the weekend story.
Boulger invited me to hang out for Saturday night's tapings of Live at Gotham. During the day, all of the stand-up comics get to run-through rehearsal. They'll put anything on the teleprompter, even a word-for-word transcript of a comedian's routine. Odd to think you could get on TV and simply read your stand-up routine. Who does that? It's odd just to see a comic read off their notes during a major set. But I suppose Comedy Central might also offer this service just in case a comic gets a case of the TVs and freezes up. Plus, it turns out the teleprompter also can be used as an alternative to the light, sending messages such as "one minute left!" As for audience members, they're told no food, no bathroom breaks, the better to keep disruptions to a minimum. And the production hired a special audience coordinator to hand out specific seat assignments. Apparently, seating a comedy show can be looked at as a science. Put the best-looking best laughers front and center. Put industry people in the back corner. Audience members also got instructions on what not to wear (no logos, no whites). And then, as talent manager Max Burgos pointed out before the first taping began: "The smoke machine really does it, man." Suppose it adds an old-school comedy club feel, although it'd really be old-school if they let you smoke. The tapings also have an official warm-up comedian. Dan Ahdoot more than honorably worked this non-televised job, working the crowd (and adding another several minutes of material when the second show incurred technical difficulties) and helping establish pre-show shots of crowd applause and laughter.
Each comic got to work out about 10 minutes of material, knowing that Comedy Central might edit out a couple of minutes for the Web and other material for ad time. I'd think they might cut Callen's bit about wanting to change his own name to something along the lines of Meeeeowww Cah! (Um, didn't he see the whole online debate about Louis CK and Dane Cook?) Guess not. Also, Breuer had to come back onstage at the end of the first show for several attempts at pronounciating the Colbert Report. The second show had much more energy. Perhaps that had to do with the lineup. Goldman had so much more going on than when I'd seen her last year at a Laughing Liberally show at Jimmy Tingle's. Boulger, going up after her, looked nervous for the first time that I'd ever seen. Then came Andre, who blew the roof off the joint, took extra time out of his act to encourage the audience to make fart noises, just to see if Comedy Central would use it! Hoogasian, up next, tried to sound like Emo Philips but mostly sounded weird. And it seemed odd at the end when Scolaro went with a bit about cavemen having to determine what was edible (since in the previous show, Ramsey had a similar bit about the first guy to bite into a pineapple!). No matter. At least not for me to worry about. That's why they're on separate shows, right? Right. Anyhow, onto the after parties, first downstairs, and then out onto nearby streets and a place called Dusk which was small but had a good vibe, especially when a bunch of comedians and like-minded people took over the bar. Good times.
Jay Mohr is out and Anthony Clark is in. Ponder that for a moment. Now let's move on to a new season of Last Comic Standing.
The first two hours aired last Tuesday. There's an hourlong recap tonight at 8 p.m., but while you wait, here are some things you likely don't know but probably should.
Past winners John Heffron and Alonzo Bodden get updates, while original LCS weiner Dat Phan...um...where is he now? Buck Star gets invited back, but not Dat Phan. Ouch!
Many comics "auditioned" in the other cities (rather than NYC and LA) for an easier chance.
Bob and Ross act as if they don't know who Gabriel Iglesias is, which is odd, considering they've booked him before on The Tonight Show. Same with Bil Dwyer (I hung out with him at a Cubs-Brewers spring training game in 2003, when he was appearing at the Tempe Improv and hosting TV's Battlebots -- he more recently hosted The 70s House on MTV and Extreme Dodgeball).
Doug Benson, best known from VH1's Best Week Ever but also part of a long-running touring trio gig called The Marijuana-Logues, what is he doing on this show?
Only a brief shot of Kyle Cease onstage...wha? Kyle is huge on the college circuit and just got a Comedy Central half-hour special and CD package, so he's going to be OK. Another face in the L.A. comic crowd...was that Yoshi? I think it was. Matt Iseman, too. How'd you like to be the comedians who made the live face-off but got zero face time? Is that a bad thing? Perhaps not, if they bombed. You don't want THAT to be how America first sees you. Marc Price (Skippy from Family Ties) and Theo Von (from MTV) get extra screen time, credit for past TV experience. And Theo, because his experience is all "reality" challenge-based, gets a pass to Vegas.
But first, the show heads to Tempe. Ah, Tempe. So many memories on that Improv stage. No sign of Dan Mer, but I see other familiar faces here. First up is Josh McDermitt, who I put in a Tempe Improv showcase/contest a couple of summers ago (and who has been working with the Tim & Willy morning radio crew there in Phoenix for several years). Good for him. Ron and Ryan, though, come off as two-bit amateurs. Not good for them. Their shtick never quite worked at the Improv, jumping around after making the most basic jokes, especially when they were supposed to be hosting the big shows there. April Macie, not local -- from L.A., and girlfriend of Gary Gulman. Hmmm. I saw Mark Cordes standing in the background onstage, but no jokes from him. Too bad. Didn't recognize a single face in the audience, though, and no glimpses of the staff. Argh. Of others making it through, it should be noted that Ty Barnett was on Star Search only a couple of years ago.
Austin? Um, whatever. Next. New York City. Angel Salazar? He was in Punchline, for crying out loud! Brody Stevens?! Yeah. Former Mass. comic Jon Fisch got a callback. But he'll be at the Comedy Studio this Thursday instead as part of a sold-out benefit show. Kerri Louise got relegated to background duty. Moody McCarthy -- no relation. Chicago: What was Jimmy Pardo doing there? And Larry Reeb, he was on a Rodney Dangerfield special in 1989 with Tim Allen, Jeff Foxworthy and Sam Kinison. Um, yeah. Gerry Dee has done both Star Search and a CBS golfing "reality" show. John Roy won Star Search, so, um, yeah. Then Miami, where Flip Schultz is a no-brainer selection: Another Star Search competitor (and I saw him in Aspen a few years back).