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!
If you knew nothing about comedy and turned on NBC tonight, the first few minutes of Last Comic Standing would not help you discern whether Americans actually have a sense of humor. And the celebrity judges from The Office, Kate Flannery and Brian Baumgartner are not helping matters.
First up at the Acme Comedy Company is Pete Lee, who's listed as from New York City. Ah, nothing like traveling to another city to audition for a TV show. Kate's acting as if she knows what she's talking about. The next guy we see in Minneapolis is Alex Thomas, who hails from...Van Nuys, Calif. Hey! Aren't there any Midwestern comics representing here? (Psst...there are, but we haven't seen them yet)
Jared Logan is from Chicago, and does his lesbian joke that I believe I just saw on Live at Gotham on the Comedy Central and those people laughed at it, but Kate and Brian do not feel the same love for Mr. Logan. Sorry about that. He gets lumped in with a loser montage. And then there's the Amazing Arthur, from Omaha, Nebraska. Um. OK. Whenever you need to put a superlative in your name, we know you have issues. He does juggling and yo-yo tricks, and no actual jokes. So, there's that. It does fill time?
"Who can follow that?" Kate asks. Dan Cummins. That's who. He investigates his Norwegian heritage for a funny offstage taped bit. "Please take your hand away from my ass!" sounds so much funnier in Norwegian. Just FYI. His actual jokes hit, too. We'll see more of him.
Stan Chen! I competed with him 10 years ago in the Seattle comedy competition, and he since has moved to Indiana, and oh, poor Stan. Two problems with this audition. First, Stan calls out celebrity judge Brian, which in very specific circumstances, can work to a comedian's advantage, but in this case, as they say, not...so...much. Second, you only get two minutes for your first audition, and his routine takes too long to get to laugh lines. In a quick, closed-room audition like this, you really need to make a quick, good impression, then build from there. You can't try to slow-roll your way to a laugh at the end, because they won't be waiting with you that long. Sorry, Stan.
Doug Mellard. He'll work hard for your laughs. He is from Austin, Texas, which is nowhere near Minneapolis. So he makes it to the nighttime showcase.
Tim Harmston actually is listed as from Minneapolis, so hooray for that! They like his "train of thought," whatever that means. Karla Smith takes a phone call onstage. "No, I thought that was comedy I was doing." Alrighty then. Darlene Westgore, from nearby Burnsville (yeah, I know my geography! and also shared a house with three guys from St. Olaf's once!) is a single mother and brings the requisite cynicism which works with Kate but not Brian...but she is billed as America's Funniest Mom (hey Nick at Nite!). John Evans from Sherman Oaks, Calif., makes it, too. Tracey Ashley's big forehead is enough for a callback. Carl Lee, all the way from Medford, Ore., is billed as a guy who has worked the road for seven years and is ready for this...but is he ready? We'll find out tonight. Er, I mean, later in the show. He apparently has done a Tribble Run. So he gets a point in my book for that, at least.
Showcase time! Harmston gets our first look, Whoopsie, the inappropriate touch clown? He gets in a bee beard world record joke (which touches me personally, from hearing two bee beard jokes during the 50-hour marathon show). Dave Landau from Michigan is getting good editing. Ashley jokes about her mentally ill mom. Thomas jokes about big city people? Cummins wants a squirrelador, which is half-squirrel, half-labrador. In case you were wondering.
And now, Last Comic Driving presents...Eddie Pence. He jokes about pet birds and a woman who has been subjected to passenger seat duty for all of this so far is seen and heard saying, "That's true." Yes, ma'am. It's funny because it's true.
Lee is up next. Jokes about getting out of Fargo. Westgore hates parent-teacher conferences. Mellard's neighbors need to wipe their paws. Evans jokes about watching porn with his wife. Lee is not violent, but willing to drop pennies on Iraq.
Tickets to the semis go to...Pete Lee?! John Evans! And Dan Cummins!
And now we move on to Nashville with Norm and Cliff...