Here were are, ladies and germs. The finals of the seventh season of Last Comic Standing. All five finalists are lowered on uncomfortable swings, and all five men -- Mike DeStefano, Felipe Esparza, Myq Kaplan, Roy Wood Jr. and Tommy Johnagin -- are wearing black suits. Host Craig Robinson is going with a tux for the occasion, while our judges -- Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo -- are in business casual, semi-formal and casual Friday, respectively.
Anyone care to guess who won without watching the finale but having read between the lines of my blog this season? If you have, then you win a special bonus prize.
Our first elimination?
Iliza Shlesinger is in New York City this weekend co-headlining at Comix with Kyle Cease. It's not as odd a pairing as when I saw her last at Comix with Glenn Wool, nor, as it turns out, nearly as odd as some of Shlesinger's early stand-up gigs.
"I've definitely been paired up with stranger acts," she said (pictured at right by Seth Olenick). "When I first started out in comedy, I opened up for big black guys." Why? "I guess the bookers thought, she's a cute little white girl and that's a funny juxtaposition for them to see."
With Last Comic Standing returning for the first time since you won two years ago, do you have any advice for the comedians who decide to give it a go? "Just be funny. I keep getting phone calls from people who are participating, people who wre auditioning for it. Don't save your material for some unforseen date. If youre a comedian you should be able to write more material. Do your best stuff. You're not there to make friends. You're there to win a competition. You're there for yourself so don't worry about anyone else."
What did winning the show mean for your career, aside from winning $250,000 and going on a nationwide theater tour? "I think the most important thing, because cash runs out in the long run, is the credit and the boost that it gives your career...Almost every comic would give their left arm to win that show. Two years ago, I couldn't walk into a club and get stage time. If that's not validity, I don't know what is."
You had a development deal with the network, too, right? What happened with that? "It was a holding deal, which is very different from a development deal, which is here's x amount of dollars which is just a bunch of free money, which is fantastic, but that ended a while ago."
And to comedians who criticize the show and say they don't want to take part in it, she maintains: "You can't tell me as a mid-level comic you wouldn't want a quarter-million dollars and a chance to perform on network television every week?! I think most comics didn't play sports so they don't know what it means to lose gracefully. Enjoy doing your B rooms for free chicken, then. This is one of those shows where if they fail, they'll make you look stupid. I have nightmares where the person who wins next is going to be a supermodel who's also in Mensa but I'm pretty sure that no supermodels do stand-up."
Shlesinger did Comedy Central's Live at Gotham last year, and also a half-hour Comedy Central Presents, which will debut April 16. Let's take a look at a clip from Gotham (the CCP isn't online yet).
So. I feel like I need to ask you about the double-standard that women seem to feel and face in comedy, where their sexuality comes into play and is sometimes considered more than the content of the material -- which is something that very rarely happens with men in comedy. What's your take on it?
On "The Early Show" this morning on CBS, Harry Smith moderated the show's weekly roundup to make jokes about current pop culture events. His guests: Mo Rocca, Iliza Shlesinger and Kevin Hart. Smith paused before saying Iliza's last name, then got Hart's name right without pause. But the CBS graphics department, as well as their YouTube department, decided Kevin Hart is Kevin Hall. Somewhere, I'm yelling "No respect!" Rodney Dangerfield knows what I'm talking about.
Here's the video if you care to watch what Rocca, Shlesinger and Hart had to say about this week's pop culture headlines. Hart was in town last night for Hot 97's April Fool's show at Madison Square Garden. Shlesinger is co-headlining Comix tonight and tomorrow. And Rocca is part of the CBS family.
Sorry, comedy fans. The Comic's Comic did not don something scary or silly this Halloween, but that didn't stop plenty of our favorite comedians from celebrating (and sometimes even performing) in costume on Saturday night. And in the age of the Internets (the age...of the...INTERNETS) that also means going online to share our Halloween disguises with our friends and followers. Here are some of my favorites that I spotted over the weekend. Who were yours? Did I miss it? If so, please share!
To kick things off, though, how about a "doodle" from Michael Showalter about Halloween parties:
With no Last Comic Standing on this summer's NBC schedule, we're left to wonder what's new with the last LCS winner, Iliza Shlesinger. So. What's new? Well, it looks like she's keeping busy, and in better shape than ever in this brand-new spoof of the Carl's Jr. bikini burger ad with one of them thar Hills "stars" Audrina Patridge. Here's the link for the original Audrina Patridge Carl's Jr. ad -- now see this supposedly "pre- touch-up" version with Shlesinger, and, I think our comedian trumps our starlet in the overall body of work (literally and figuratively). Roll the clip!
Shlesinger shows she'll go to great lengths for the joke. But then there's the flip side of that, in which we wonder (even while enjoying it) about the predicament of good-looking comedians who use their good looks to their advantage. And then that makes me wonder, since when did comedians get to be attractive, anyhow, and is that allowed? Or are we supposed to be forever the schlubs and ugly ducklings? Or, is it possible for a comedian to start out a schlub/duckling and blossom into a stud/swan?
Sorry for only catching word of this now, but Showtime is in the middle of taping six new comedy specials in Southern California as part of the LOL Comedy Festival. Three specials taped on Sunday, another three on Monday; all in Los Angeles. Here are the details:
Hot Tamales: Kiki Melendez hosts, with Amy Anderson, Nikki Payne, Jill Michele Melean, Kira Soltanovich, Nadine Rajabi, Thea Vidale, and Valentino.
The Indian Slam includes Charlie Hill, plus Larry Omaha, Howie Miller, and others.
Also last night: Angelo Tsarouchas
For Monday, the program begins with Slanted Comedy, hosted by Edwin San Juan and featuring Paul Ogata, Joey Guila, Bernadette Galatas, Ron Josol, Dan Gabriel.
Russell Peters hosts his own special Monday with appearances by Ruben Paul, Jason Rouse, Tom Segura and Paul Varghese.
Pauly Shore also hosts a taping Monday with Last Comic Standing winner Iliza Shlesinger, Carl LaBove, Sammy Shore and Steve Rannazzisi.
You saw that title and perhaps said to yourself, "Where are they now? More like, who are they again?" That's because it was only a few months ago that Iliza Shlesinger was winning NBC's Last Comic Standing and Jeff Dye was finishing in third place. Maybe you watched, maybe you didn't. Well, Dye sent out this video message to his fans over the weekend to let them know how he's dealing with it all.
Tickets for the LCS tour? Check availability after the jump...
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 Las Vegas Sun reports today that Iliza Shlesinger will claim part of her Last Comic Standing prize next week, joining the cast of Donn Arden's Jubilee! at Bally's Las Vegas from Aug. 24-27. And no, she won't be topless, you perverts. She'll be the stand-up comedian among the showgirls. Why such a short stint? Because she's joining the other four finalists on a nationwide tour starting Aug. 29, that's why.
I caught up with Shlesinger this afternoon to find out what she has been up to, and this was her reply via email:
I've been going up twice a night every night since the last show, sort of polishing any jokes that needed work. Las Vegas will be relaxing and a ton of fun. Quite frankly, I wish I could come back home and do more spots in the Original Room at the Comedy Store -- that place is a fantastic training ground.
Everyone keeps making an issue out of the fact that Shlesinger is the first female comedian to win LCS. Louis Ramey took issue with the show in an interview he did last week, saying his fans were more likely to DVR and TiVo the show, rather than watching it live. On the show, cameras captured Ramey trying to get his fellow male comedians to keep Shlesinger off camera. He told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune: "It's the show's sixth year and they never had a woman win," Ramey said. "Through the whole life of the show, they kept saying 'A woman has never won. Could it be Iliza?' That's when I went, 'That sounds too planned; we have to get rid of Iliza.' So I pulled the other guys aside (during the second elimination round) and said, 'We've got to stop voting for Iliza.'" In the Desert News, meanwhile, reporter Scott D. Pierce said Marcus was the real winner, and only lost because he split the male vote. Shlesinger defended herself in a recent conference call with reporters, saying “I think to a lot of people it means a lot of different things,” she said during a conference call with reporters. “But for me, I’m just Iliza and I won. I’m a comedian that won. The female thing I can’t comment on because I just don’t feel that in my heart.”
I asked her about this, too, and her response to the whole debate? "Who cares, really?" She continued:
I'm a comedian and I happen to be a women. While I realized that it's not so cut and dry for most people- I can't do anything but be honest. I didn't win this show for any other reason than I worked the hardest and earned it. I performed every week and never ran out of material and consistently delivered good stuff. Funny is funny and America got that.
Iliza Shlesinger, your Last Comic Standing winner this summer, may be young, but that only means that she likely has taken part in more than a few online comedy video opportunities. So here she is in a couple of rants for Current TV, the cable/online venture started by Al Gore...Iliza hates to heart L.A. for its fitness and traffic:
Shlesinger also starred in an online series for the late DotComedy, which, coincidentally or not, was an NBC operation. It includes an episode with her in a bubble bath. Just so you know.
And, wow, there are a lot of videos that feature Shlesinger on YouTube. No, really.
Who really won the sixth season of Last Comic Standing? Hint: It's not a trick question. First off, anyone who missed the initial broadcast on NBC last week due to football can find it replayed this week on the Fox Reality Channel (check your listings) on Tuesday and Thursday, and on Bravo on Friday. It should make it onto Hulu.com someday, too.
I caught up with the finale over the weekend. And, um, what? God's Pottery got to open the show with a special song that really was an ode to the Olympics, and that only made me think, what did they do four years ago during the last Summer Olympics? Right. That was "season three," the year they brought back the first two seasons of stand-ups and didn't air the finale on NBC. So off to a good start! (Not really) Having Joel McHale and Triumph the Insult Dog on hand to mock the finalists only served to take them down a peg, which is not exactly how you want to feel about your favorite comedian. Why is Iliza's dad clapping after they show her in a bikini? Argh. Having last year's champ, Jon Reep, also reminded us that in past years, we've actually gotten to see and hear more stand-up comedy in previous seasons. What happened this summer? Outside of Iliza Shlesinger, the only finalist to compete in elimination challenges, we barely heard from the others. When Reep won (and Josh Blue and others before them), they appeared live -- live! -- for several weeks performing stand-up to a national audience. Which means it's not a surprise who won...
Iliza Shlesinger! $250,000, a new car, development deal with NBC, slot on Jubilee show in Vegas, yes that's called a solid victory. You don't need to believe in conspiracy theories to see how she won this season, as the producers showcased her both onstage and offstage as much as possible -- and certainly more than any of the other finalists. And in a five-way vote, she had the definite advantage. Have I mentioned yet how severely odd it was to crown a champion in a five-way vote? That's how NBC and the producers wanted to roll this year, though. LCS has its first female winner, and she is only 25. Though the show hasn't turned any of its previous five winners into big stars yet, that only means that Shlesinger doesn't have a high bar of expectations to cross, and whether or not she turns this title into a huge stand-up career, her presence and voices will draw interest from NBC and other networks in creating screen roles for her.
The final five all are winners, as the rest of their 2008 is booked with a nationwide club, theater and casino tour that begins Aug. 29 and doesn't end until Jan. 31, 2009. The 62-city, 63-date tour is listed under several different names on Ticketmaster (Note to Ticketmaster: Stop that! Consolidate!), but you can find the dates here.
A surprise winner was Brit Lady, aka Fearne Cotton. Yay, Fearne! Though kept on the sidewalks in the early episodes, and then trapped in a car for Last Comic Driving, then almost disappeared entirely, she returned big-time by the finale, proving to be a more friendly and appealing host than the host himself (that was Bill Bellamy). She could be the Cat Deeley of Last Comic Standing if only the producers could figure out how to have this show hosted -- ever since Jay Mohr left, it's been a ragtag missionary position. Ahem. Not that Bellamy has been bad, but he has been more bluster than luster, more about shouting for our attention than about endearing us to him and the show. Whereas Cotton makes us care. More Brit Lady, please!
Sean Cullen. Even if his onstage songs didn't win over America, he actually was the funniest guy on the show this season, through his many asides and on-camera confessionals throughout the program. Like Doug Benson the year before him, Cullen made the most of every moment he appeared on TV, and producers loved giving him the airtime. The comic relief on a show that supposedly honors comedy. So Cullen should get some more TV offers out of this.
Marcus. Made himself known for impersonations, so much so that he tried to avoid them altogether in some of his showcase performances (including the finale!). But viewers and Playmates alike have loved his many voices, even the ones that were voices of other comedians. And the club circuit always has room for an impersonator or two, and with Frank Caliendo busy on his TBS sitcom and Darrell Hammond heading back to work on SNL, that means more gigs for Marcus!
Jeff Dye. His aw shucks demeanor and neon shirts won him many new fans over the past few months. Was it only a month ago that Dye was a New Face in Montreal (yes, yes it was, and so too, was Shlesinger, so what does that tell you!)? The nationwide LCS tour will allow him to build his fan base even more, and give him a chance to prove he deserves more stage time. Dye is only 25. Lots of potential. If Barry Katz has his way, he'll turn Dye into the next Dane Cook, or at least the next Gary Gulman. Either way, he'll be an even bigger hit on college campuses in the year to come, and likely move up to headliner status at bigger venues, too. Just like Gulman did after 2004's LCS appearances.
Louis Ramey. He finished fifth, apparently (we never heard the actual vote totals, mind you). But the veteran road comic dominated the NBC promos for the show and will get more work and better pay out of this TV exposure.
That's right. Iliza Shlesinger is your sixth winner of Last Comic Standing. Congrats, Iliza. You get a pile of cash, a development deal, and a new car, right? Wow. Here is a clip! Marcus finished runner-up.
Did you have TV/DVR issues last night? If you were in the New York City and Cleveland areas, at least, then you most certainly did, because preseason NFL action pre-empted the finale of NBC's Last Comic Standing, and some reports from the field say the show, if it aired at all last night, aired at 3 a.m.!? Other folks had TVs telling them LCS would air at 10 p.m., only to find America's Got Talent on their recordings. Nice work, Peacock Network. Nice work.
Anyhow, Shlesinger's MySpace page already is newly tricked out to celebrate her victory. She becomes the first woman to win this stand-up competition. I'd say I'm surprised, but I'm not. As I noted earlier, NBC showcased Shlesinger more than the other finalists, and with her being the only one in the final five to get primetime airtime twice in elimination challenges, plus being the only female in a five-way call-in vote, she had a decided advantage in getting support. She also was the final finalist to perform last week, so viewers had her more on their brains when the voting lines opened. That's not to detract from her victory. But I'm still a bit weirded out by NBC's decision to make this finale a five-way vote, as well as the decisions to pre-tape both the final and last week's final competition show, instead of going live. Perhaps that says something about how the network feels about LCS after all of these years.
You will get to see Shlesinger and a few of the other finalists live on a nationwide tour that begins later this month.
Also, I heard some buzz that Barry Katz, one of the LCS executive producers and Dane Cook's manager, is looking to manage not only Shlesinger but also two of the other finalists. You should not need more than two guesses to figure out who those other stand-up comedians would be.
Stay tuned for more info about the tour and everything else.
This is shaping up to be the screwiest finale in Last Comic Standing since the whodunit that ended season three's "all-star" challenge round. For one thing, will anyone in the New York City area find out who won?
NBC says the finale airs tonight from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., but the NYC affiliate is airing the New York Giants preseason (preseason!) football game then, and telling viewers that LCS will air afterward, and only from 10 to 11 p.m. Where will the other half-hour go, pray tell? Seriously. What gives? And that's beside the fact that your season six winner essentially gets crowned by a toss-up call-in vote (or producer finagling, for you conspiracy theorists with a touch of reality TV cynicism) among five people. You could win a five-way vote with only 21 percent, you know. Twenty-one percent. That's telling America you're their favorite, isn't it?!
So...who will win? Let's assess.
Marcus probably is the betting favorite. He won last year's Seattle comedy competition. He does voices. Lots of voices. And people like impersonations. Even the hacky ones. You know why? Because hack works. That's why it's hack in the first place -- hack comedy is stuff that is so popular and consistently successful that other comedians say it's unworthy for achieving real laughs. But getting real laughs out of three Playboy Playmates got Marcus a free pass into this finale. And all of his voices, even Christopher Walken, make audiences smile and laugh...and vote.
Louis Ramey is a veteran road comic. NBC loved using him over and over again in promo ads to tease this season. He made a broad appeal to viewers with his pandering patriotism set in the finale. Could that work? Perhaps. Aside from Marcus, Ramey is the only American in this finale field with enough material to headline clubs and the oncoming LCS tour. He could win. Producers wouldn't mind in the slightest if he won, either.
Jim Tavare. He's British. He has a proven track record in the UK. And his shtick has survived two decades of performing. Is that enough? Guessing not.
Iliza Shlesinger. The only female in this bunch. Works a Dane Cook stage persona so effectively that even the show's producers (one of whom is Barry Katz, aka Cook's manager) have noticed the similarities. And everyone has noticed her cleavage, for better or for worse. Shlesinger obviously hopes all of those Google oogle oglers cast millions of votes for her to win. She's the only one of the five to take part in the live audience challenges this season. Odd, but true. That means viewers have seen and heard more from her than the others. She's so fresh in the stand-up game, though, and I don't think she's ready just yet to headline. Making her the winner might be too much. But no female has won LCS before.
Jeff Dye. Like Shlesinger, he is young and attractive and has a lot of fans because of it. People Google phrases such as "is Jeff Dye nice?" and "is Jeff Dye single?" Seriously. They do. And yes, he is nice. Not married. I expect many women voted for him because of this. Also an odd choice for a winner because, while he is funny and nice and has a good stage presence, he's not a headliner yet. But if NBC is looking to be a star-maker, they could be looking at Dye as a younger, fresher Dane Cook. His odds are as good as Shlesinger's.
But it's a five-person race. So, really, anyone could win. Does that make any sense, though? We'll find out tonight.
Looky looky! It's Bill Bellamy and Brit Lady (Cotton Fearne!), back together for the audience finale vote on Last Comic Standing! This doesn't look taped at all, except I know it's taped because finalist Jeff Dye is in Chattanooga, Tenn., right now performing at a comedy club...all I know for sure at this moment is that Marcus will be around for the finale next week, and that all of the top 12 will be there for one reason or another...
What's this? The Dan Band? These audience cutaways seem as if they do not fit. Or the audience has gotten more than plenty of a serving of happy juice! All of the finalists are coming up with one-liners for why they'll be the last comic standing...ooh! "I'm Ron G and I'll be the last comic standing because I make this microphone look sexy!" "I'm Adam Hunter, and I'm going to be the last comic standing because I want to prove that blondes have more fun!" "I'm Jeff Dye, I'm going to be the last comic standing because I can do 17 push-ups in an hour...believe it!" "I am Jim Tavare, and I am going to be the last comic standing because I am the new Miley Cyrus of comedy!" "I'm Marcus, and I'll be the last comic standing, because just like Jack Black, I keep things rocking! Let's go!" "I'm Iliza Shlesinger, and I'll be the last comic standing, because out of all of these guys, I'm the most experienced...winning!" "I'm Louis Ramey, and I'll be the last comic standing, because I'm huggable. Come to daddy, America!" "I'm Sean Cullen, and I'll be the last comic standing, because I've dreamed about it...since I was a little girl!" OK. This was taped. But Brit Lady is here, so I have no need to fear. Right?
No. Fear. Fear! Strange but true, this year's competition is coming down to a five-way vote. Which means this year's Last Comic Standing will win based on at least 21 percent of America's phone and online voting tendencies...congratulations, comedy!
Marcus, guaranteed a spot in the final five, goes first. He reveals that he worked at a radio station for two years for no pay (!) and that the local club in Utah, Wiseguys, eventually asked him to come down and perform after hearing all of his impersonations and whatnots. His "live" set focuses on the things you can and cannot bring on a plane (you can bring a wrench!), the lyrical stylings of Eddie Vedder, Aaron Neville's multiple syllables, Motown nostalgia, and versus new songs, such as "lady humps." It's very engaging for the crowd in Las Vegas, with broad appeal to whomever may be watching at home. Do you like music? Any kind of music? This set is for you. He gets a standing ovation. Will everyone this night?
Next up, Ron G, who goes home again. Onstage, he has a vest and a tie, so you know he's serious about this night. How are you supposed to be a thug with a retainer in your mouth? Um, I don't know. Church isn't the same with a Bluetooth in Hollywood. Love the graphics reminding me not to change the channel and stick around to vote. He has a series of jokes about the various commercials you may see on late-night television. But Ron G has been eliminated from the competition. Dunzo! He tells Brit Lady he appreciates the chance and the fans.
Last Comic Driving? Remember that? You don't? Oh, here was a very very very quick reminder. Hope you didn't fast forward through it.
Brit Lady gets more hosting duties, yay! Here comes Jim Tavare, with double references for you audience members (The Hills Are Alive, or Uncle Fester, you pick). He calls for a rescue dog. One-liners aplenty. What's wrong with his Hendrix impersonation? But can he play the bass? Brit Lady delivers the news...and...he's in the top five! Hooray for the U.K., Brit Lady!
Oh, Brit Lady is hosting so we can have Bill Bellamy do stand-up...he jokes about visiting Idaho and being in the outdoors...cut to white people having fun...phew. That's over.
But now we get an extended preview of an upcoming NBC competition...America's Toughest Jobs. It's not supposed to be comedy, so stop laughing.
Louis Ramey gets the childhood photo treatment next, and Ramey does a pretend version of running around on the New York City club circuit for the cameras makey nicey. The Amish pay in cheese? His jacket looks like it fits better this week. He jokes about Amish gangs. Also about Houma, Louisiana. And a twist on a terrorist alert joke. A big redneck twist. And he's still in it to win it!
Adam Hunter wrestled in high school. This news does not surprise me. He attacks the stage and looks like a scrapper. No, that's a good thing. Right? Jokes about San Francisco, cocaine, pot, rappers, George Bush Speak N Spell, Obama is black, McCain is old, more drugs, sex, strip clubs. All over the place. He is a New York guy doing Los Angeles comedy. Does that make sense to anyone? He has been eliminated. The crowd boos.
Jeff Dye. They show lots of clips from Seattle, so that gets my vote. Gives a shout-out to his parents, then proceeds to joke about them. Before and afterward, he delivers the set he gave earlier this month at Montreal New Faces. Pan out to show the audience clapping enthusiastically. We're thinking he goes through...and...he did!
Cullen goes back to Toronto, where they love him already. Wow. Did you see some of those flashback stage shots. Did he have long curly hair at one point? We believe he did. He threatens to spin into the crowd with his pinwheels and fists of death. Jokes about Sean Connery and his amazing ability with accents. Why Australia can never have a James Bond villain. Why Neil Young and REM won't do Bond theme songs, which lets him sing some more.
Shlesinger, too, goes home again. She jokes about her Olympic experience being limited to Beer Pong. She wears a tight red shirt, which explains the pervy Google searches already heading this way (calm down, people). Why did you send that 40-page blank fax, again? Jokes about former co-workers. Iliza isn't as energetic as usual in this performance, slowing things down just a bit. A poised, confident five minutes.
And the final spot goes to...Iliza Shlesinger! Which means your final five for season six are: Marcus, Jim Tavare, Louis Ramey, Jeff Dye and Iliza Shlesinger. Would it have turned out this way with additional weeks of challenges? We'll never find out. Nor will we get to see the final five whittle down, one by one. Instead, come back next week and find out who won.
We're down to the final 8 comedians on season six of Last Comic Standing, and already, we're being promised a conclusion that lets us vote -- plus hints that the vote moves people into "the final" -- so will we speed up to the finish in time for the Summer Olympics? Perhaps.
Everyone still in the house is talking about Iliza Shlesinger, who has taken out four other comedians already, and wondering if they should not challenge her ever. Nice strategy, fellas.
Another pointless sight gag challenge that has no consequences?! That's right. Our comedians go to a sushi house and have to perform jokes for four tables: Female bodybuilders, Deal or No Deal models, frat boys and little people. Adam Hunter's energy easily gets the Suitcase Sorority giggling, while Ron G is distracted by the ladies (theme alert!). Marcus resorts to his Christopher Walken, again. This is pointless. Let's get to the real challenge, already. The comics return to the house to find breast implant helpers (cutlets!) on their pillows. Whatever could it be? We know, because they've teased us with the Playboy Mansion! Lots of bouncy bouncy! Our comedians pick titles, then have to come up with bedtime stories for The Girls Next Door, aka Hef's girlfriends, aka the Hugh Hefner Playboy Playmates with a TV show on E!
First up: Ron G, with "Jack and the Bean Stalker." Ron cannot stop looking at Kendra, and this gets him off track multiple times, but he recovers by ad-libbing a rhyme about Hef and the Bunnies. When he leaves, we learn that they liked him. Not so much for Adam Hunter, who really tried to come up with a story for "I'm The Same Age as My New Mommy." Know your audience. "Hit that, Adam," joked Mr. Sean Cullen. Iliza Shlesinger, with "The Pirate, The T. Rex, and Grandma," may have had the toughest sales job as the only female stand-up left, but the Bunnies compliment her before she even begins. Her story has the three titular characters (that's not a play on words, people!) as competing Playmates. Could she win immunity?! Louis Ramey had to tell, "The Princess Who Had to Pee," which isn't quite how his fantasy started, and yet, the Bunnies are in suspense. They think it's an actual bedtime story. "Dragons Just Don't Understand," by Sean Cullen, is a fanciful tale with big words, and Bunnies just don't understand. "It might have been that I smelled of rotten squash," he quips afterward.
Last Comic Driving, still!?!? It's my only chance to see my dear Brit Lady Cotton Fearne, and Ben Morrison is getting in the way by telling jokes from the passenger seat involving text messaging.
Marcus has "All Dogs Go to Heaven, but Grandpa Didn't," and it's told via Morgan Freeman, Adam Sandler, Gilbert Gottfried, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, and of course, Christopher Walken. "I'm going to bring in the voices," he says. "It's going to be the thunder." Playmates don't know no hack, don't you know. Jim Tavare, with "Pretty People Always Get Their Way," takes the ladies back in time. He got them with his closing line, though. Jeff Dye gets to tell them "Daddy Loves Mommy, Mommy Loves Lattes," and gives Bridget several nicknames, which they like. Dye has his feet on the bed. They remember the Brizzle My Nizzle line, which I think they came up with themselves. And that's why the Playmates chose to award immunity to...Marcus! He brought the thunder.
"For the rest of you, it's just not that easy," host Bill Bellamy intones. Uh-oh. The other seven all will perform for America's votes. What does this mean, exactly? Everyone not named Marcus is anxious and nervous and other words that mean those emotions. So they prepare a Last Comic Standing Last Supper, and there's a montage of those left behind.
On the bus ride, Shlesinger says she's doing some brand-new jokes tonight, "which is always a bad idea," Ramey replies (off the bus). Hair and makeup, people! Producers try to build up the tension level with all sorts of little scenes and whatnots before we get to the actual show. Adam Hunter is up first, and he's so broke he is combining his foods. Hunter's stage presence is a bit frantic, but perhaps that's because he is trying to get so many premises across in a short set. Shlesinger remains committed to telling new jokes, and she goes after how women relate to each other, and does a few big act-outs. Next: Sean Cullen in a suit. Singing. To support the farmers? An appeal to the heartland voters out there? He's silly enough that it might work. Jim Tavare brings his tux and his double bass back to the stage. Wait. Bellamy just said "next week's final," so this means we're speeding to the finish, alrighty! Congrats to Marcus for getting a speed pass. But back to Tavare. Quick and clever one-liners. Tavare balances on his instrument, so to speak, to win you over. Did it work? Jeff Dye chose a bright orange shirt for the evening, so at least you'll remember him. He jokes about how childhood favorite movies might not hold up when you watch them again as adults, such as The Sound of Music? He acts out a homeless guy reciting his favorite things. Maybe Super Mario is homeless, too. Just ask Dye to tell you why. Ron G wishes Marcus was in this contest, but Ron G has to go onstage now instead, and he wants to know where the single people are at, and why they're not leaving MySpace comments or missed calls on the phone. He keeps mugging as Bellamy recites the voting details. One more performance, and it's Louis Ramey, who jokes about the book, "The Female Orgasm," (men don't need a book), and other sex tips, such as adding food to the proceedings. If a man wants to cover you in honey and lick it all? "That's a man that's never done it before." His set on sex is just edgy enough for primetime TV without being bleeped. So...how many people get to make it to the finals? Tell us! Tell us! Next week is the final performance show, so get to it, people.
UPDATED: Here is NBC's two-minute recap for you. If you cannot watch Hulu (I see you, Canadians!), then watch it here.
Too late to vote now, sorry!
You can vote up to 10 times per person on NBC.com, or call one of these limited-time-only numbers to support your favorite... Adam Hunter: 1-877-FUNNY-01 Iliza Shlesinger: 1-877-FUNNY-02 Sean Cullen: 1-877-FUNNY-03 Jim Tavare: 1-877-FUNNY-04 Jeff Dye: 1-877-FUNNY-05 Ron G: 1-877-FUNNY-06 Louis Ramey: 1-877-FUNNY-07
Getting in the mood for tonight's new episode of Last Comic Standing, let's relive the fun of last week's episode (especially since three of the final 10 comedians and myself were in Montreal at the time)...so, let the foolishness begin!
Iliza Shlesinger returns triumphant from her showdown with Ku and God's Pottery, and gets kudos from Marcus "she just owned that stage" and deserved to win, while Paul Foot and Papa CJ think she's vulnerable (foreshadowing a spoiler alert!!!). Oh, you crazy editors.
Comic Car Wash? I certainly hope this is as productive as the calendar shoot was...and can I hit the fast-forward button yet?...wait, what happened that put Jim Tavare on crutches? Now that would be interesting on camera...no? This is some morbid variation on that whole Last Comic Driving scam, because our comedians are telling jokes to the car wash participants for tips, or something, and whomever gets the biggest tips wins something or other? Cue the everyone gets wet montage. Is it wrong for me to be staring? Ad break!
Comedians get a barrel of carrots and overthink the challenge, because, yes, it's Carrot Top! They head to a Bed, Bath and Beyond and get "mad props" -- racing around the store to find props and whomever does them thar prop comedy the best wins immunity. "This is kind of funny that I'm teaching you!" Carrot Top tells the finalists. Well said, sir. Well said. So The Top Propster trots out some examples to share with the wannabes. George Bush's "decision master" is a tank on a map. Bobby Brown's new book is powdered. Get it? Got it? Good. Now run through the store. You figure it out. Ron G. suddenly has a mohawk...is that his prop? And it's showtime for our judge, Sir Top Carrot of Muscle Mania Man, and a live audience (and where from whence did they come?). "Where did they get these people," Sean Cullen asks. "Well, I guess they live here."
Up first, Louis Ramey. Sushi at night? Better luck with a light bulb affixed to the bottom of a pot thing, and with the shower curtain postcards. Then Marcus, who you'd think would do something, like when unicorns need braces? Lifetime's version of Iron Man? A Tommy Lee jokes gets a thumb's up and a smile from Carrot Muscles. Ron G., however, has jokes but not so much with the props. "This is not what I do," Ron G. acknowledges to the cameras. Papa CJ reimagines flashing headlights, so to speak, and does not know props, or how to make people laugh. Sean Cullen? Well, he tried, at least.
Last Comic Driving is still going?!?!? Ah, Brit lady. I miss you so. Tom Clark is in the hot seat. Wow, that was quick. Moving on...
Adam Hunter gets his chance, goes after Tom Cruise, Flavor Flav, O.J. Simpson, Paris Hilton. Um. OK. Jim Tavare opens with wordplay. Carrot Top said he was "clever." Iliza Shlesinger shows us Khloe Kardashian's foot corn pads, a mouse saddle she made, and, well, here's Paul Foot to dazzle us. Or not. I don't know what's going on here, and I don't think he did, either. Jeff Dye gets to close, it seemed, and goes for quick movie re-enactments which seem to work well with the live audience. And Big Red awards immunity to...Jeff Dye for his originality! Big Red knows enough to mock himself.
Back at the house, Ramey notices that the young comics are more insecure and therefore more likely to lash out at one another. Like, say, for instance, Foot throwing a nerf gun off of the balcony, perhaps? That won't win him any votes, unless he wants to get voted for elimination. Ramey predicts that the showdown will come down to Foot, CJ and Shlesinger, with Shlesinger prevailing again. Anyone want to bet against that? In the cemetery, host Bill Bellamy got outfitted in crazy again. Suddenly, Tavare is off crutches again. The votes are in...Ramey, CJ, Foot, Hunter, Tavare, Foot, Ramey, CJ, Foot, CJ...so Paul Foot and Papa CJ each get three votes, and they bring Shlesinger into the ring with them. Good luck with that, fellas.
Shlesinger says she'll use her Los Angeles residency to her advantage, while the boys backstage think it's going to get messy. Foot goes first. Puts awkward foot forward, trying to explain how he doesn't like early to bed, early to rise people. Eventually gets applause. Nervous giggles. Man, he's making me nervous with the pacing and the stammering and the looking at his watch. Shlesinger goes second. Reminds the audience what it was like to play high school sports, joking about the coaches. More nostalgia: You guys remember the game Oregon Trail? Yay, audience says. Other things and movements. Gets applause from the boys in the back. CJ goes last. Seems unfazed about it, and his opening joke about "L.A. being the most beautiful part of Mexico" gets a good reaction. Doesn't like "random" selection for airport searches. Again with the deliberate pointing at a front-row guy for no reason whatsoever. Don't mess with Indians, he threatens. He fails miserably with an Iraqi joke. Tries recovering with that old Hindu reincarnation joke, plus going back to the guy in the audience who wasn't asking for it. Ugh. Even the boys know CJ did the same jokes he did in Vegas. And the audience votes for...Iliza Shlesinger, with 62 percent of the vote! Bye bye, Paul Foot and Papa CJ.
The rest of you kids, I'll see you back here tonight with a new LCS recap!
It's time for one last look around the 2008 Montreal Just For Laughs festival, which Variety reports raked in $10 million (which is about the same in Canadian as it is in U.S. dollars these days!) this July. Which means this final recap must begin with the guy who buzzed about the festival...
Doug Stanhope, who set up his Slamdance to their Sundance, aka Just For Spite festival with shows Friday and Saturday at Club Chaos, told me on Saturday night that he'd been offered a paltry $1,100 to perform 10 nights of one-man shows at the fest (or as he added, less than what he earned during his first trip to Montreal's JFL), which prompted his fury. Much of the buzz about Stanhope during the fest itself centered around two incidents, both of which Stanhope wrote about online. He first aired his grievances on Wednesday via 236.com, then on Friday night, after getting kicked out of a JFL venue by fest organizer Bruce Hills, Stanhope went to his MySpace to fill us in on the details.
Most pleasant surprise in a one-man show: Patrice Oneal. Here's a guy who seems so in your face and so not safe for work that, well, that's how his career even began in Boston, challenging another comedian. And he has made his name on the club circuit as that guy who won't take no gruff. But you take him out of the comedy clubs and put him in an intimate theater setting, give him a stool or a chair and just let him speak...wow. As I noted earlier, his one-man show, Positivity, is positively brilliant. He may think he's not getting any smarter. But this show is the smartest thing he has done.
The lucky New Faces bump? Last year, Tom Papa hosted all of the New Faces showcases and handled himself with such professionalism and managed to bring the funny, that I recall singling him out and hoping he'd get a show of his own. This year, Papa got the special one-man showcase named after the late Richard Jeni and earned nightly standing ovations for his show, Only Human. Here's the Montreal Gazette review to chew on. I saw similar magic coming from Greg Giraldo this year in hosting New Faces, and hope he gets a similar promotion in 2009. Giraldo always has mastered the art of topical social commentary, but there also has been so much going on in his world, both professionally and personally, that could be mined for a one-man show. Let's make that happen.
Funniest comic-on-comic impersonation: Greg Behrendt, who introduced himself to the audience as "a 45-year-old alternative comic," doing Russell Brand at the midnight Alternative showcase, slinking his way around the stage and joking about Brand having sex with Kate Moss.
Toughest ticket for a show I wished I'd seen: They say you mock the ones you love (some do), so Behrendt must have been paying tribute to Russell Brand's status as the hot comic of the moment. You had to sweet talk your way into his sold-out performances. Thankfully, I got to see Brand a couple of days later in New York City (my review of Russell Brand).
Toughest ticket for a show I'm not sorry I missed: Apatow For Destruction. Movie producers and movie stars should not always be confused for great stand-up comedians.
How young is he, again? Bo Burnham, at 17, is the new sensation, already signed to Gersh with a Comedy Central EP that zoomed up the iTunes charts. Where did he come from? Outside of Boston, since you asked. He generated some "heat" as they say in the bidness. I saw him the previous weekend open up for Joel McHale at Carolines and deliver an amazingly proficient and efficient 13-minute musical set of songs and rap. How did this tall, scrawny high-school kid making YouTube videos gain so much poise onstage with less than 20 live performances to his credit? He told me. "I'm young, dumb and fearless." Here's a recent fairly NSFW video from Bo fo yo (argh, I just really typed that and didn't backspace backspace delete, didn't I?):
State of the Industry vs. Comedy Person of the Year: Andy Kindler wins in a walk-off, as Kindler filled the room to more than capacity, with people standing in the foyer, then half of them walking out to skip the festival's awarding of "Comedy Person of the Year" to Judd Apatow. Having Apatow did guarantee that all his famous friends and industry associates would show up in Montreal, though, leading to some heartfelt words from Apatow himself, and a funny quip from Seth Rogen: "Look at us. We're a parade of bad fashion...It's like we're at the rehearsal for the award."
Just Comedy? Remember the days when you didn't have to pay $500 to attend a festival thrown on your behalf? Oh, those were days. But Just Comedy's two-day confab proved to be kind of eh. As I joked to Andy Kindler in our short video interview, I only stayed at the Webisode to Episode panel for about five minutes, because that's as long as that panel should have been. Don't they know this already? Because of that, I missed out on perhaps the liveliest panel of the confab, as club owners kvetched at length about the business of live touring.
All-around favorites: You couldn't go anywhere in Montreal without someone reminding you how great John Mulaney and Brent Weinbach were at the festival. I shall sing Mulaney's praises to anyone who asks, and it was great to see him knock it out of the park (that's a baseball term) at JFL, with people especially rapt over his tale of playing a joke on a restaurant at age 11. Mind you, he's only 25 now. He will tape a Comedy Central Presents next month and you will enjoy it. He's also co-headlining at Comix next month (Aug. 22-23) with Nick Kroll. As for Weinbach, he won the Andy Kaufman Award in Vegas last year for a reason, and showed why in Montreal with an over-the-top performance at the alternative showcases.
New Faces recaps: My favorites or yours? Brendon Walsh stood out for me with his cleverness, while Sean Patton surprised me because I had never seen him in a mainstream club before. Harris Wittels delivered the ballsiest set, ending a routine that included misnamed bands and masturbation issues with a joke about racism. Ira Proctor turned it around so much from the first set to the second that veteran Larry Miller couldn't stop complimenting him. Mo Mandel was the singular standout from the other group. Although truth be told, most people I talked to from the industry were relatively underwhelmed by this year's crop of New Faces as a whole. Then again, they were relatively underwhelmed in general.
State of the New Faces Industry: What does it say about the comedy industry and Montreal's New Faces that two of them, Iliza Shlesinger and Jeff Dye, are among the finalists for this season on NBC's Last Comic Standing? A few things. Among them: The NBC producers prefer fresh-faced comedians, even if they're relatively inexperienced, because it allows them to have control (read: earn money) by launching their careers nationally. Also, it means tough luck for industry wanting a piece, as NBC and the producers have them under its contractual spell already. Anyone want to guess whether Shlesinger and Dye already are locked up for the nationwide club/theater tour that follows the season finale?
The Masters: Speaking of Larry Miller, what a class act he proved to be in Montreal, not just for actually watching younger comedians and saying nice things to them, but also for being the consummate host for the Masters showcases. Miller has been one of the more amusing voices of reason on Bill Maher's HBO chat show, Real Time, and it's so nice to be able to see Miller onstage again doing stand-up. As he told audiences, "Almost everyone on the show is someone I've known for years and respect -- and they're all good." Well, I'll be the judge of that. Henry Cho, a Korean raised in Tennesee, "so I'm South Korean." If you didn't enjoy Esther Ku's jokes about getting Koreans confused for each other, what would you make of this master's trip to the homeland with his father: "When we went to Korea, he walked 20 feet away and I lost him!" Hal Sparks continues to sport his Criss Angel hair and magician look, despite how it looks. It looks like Criss Angel. Instead, Sparks ranted against people who miss his short hair, talked about losing his Kentucky accent, and did a big act-out about sexually peaking. Cathy Ladman hates her New York voice, and Montreal audiences weren't exactly thrilled with it, either. Another trip to the therapist and everything will be OK. Henry Phillips and his guitar? Well, here's a little number you may have heard before, "Sweet Little Blossom of Mine." Todd Glass: I hadn't seen him live in four years, and man, how I missed seeing his energetic self. Glass is a guy who's always on, even when he's not on he's on. What a bundle of fun! Remember when Glass was on Last Comic Standing and kept mugging for everyone at everytime...good times. At the Masters, Glass riffed on both Sparks and Phillips and then himself, and destroyed with a bit about how easy recipes are, such as corn pudding! Meantime, here's an oldie but a goodie from Glass. Thea Vidale and I sat next to each other on the "regional jet" up from New York City, and regional jet means really small plane, which means I actually should have and could have used the phrase, "C'mon and sit on Daddy's lap!" And Billy Gardell closed by focusing on how kids have changed and how we've all changed because of anti-depressants, with a presence that shows you what a veteran stand-up headliner's set is all about.
Shuttle buddies: Don't know how it worked out like this, because we didn't see other during the fest and came from different cities, but Kent from Ask A Ninja and I ended up on the same shuttles to and from the airport in Montreal. Serendipity?
But what about next year: What about 2009? As noted or hinted at previously, several industry folks grumbled openly about wondering why they'd come to Montreal again in the first place. The festival certainly didn't dispel stereotypes about the friendliness of French Canadians, as they tried every manner in the book to get industry up to Montreal -- including their annual withholding of the New Faces and Masters names until two days before most would arrive, adding this two-day Just Comedy confab and charging industry $500 to show up -- then giving industry folks multiple hassles once they made it to Montreal. And that's not to mention the outrageous prices in the Hyatt Regency ($3 for a Coca-Cola, $10 for a bottle of beer), the attitude of the Hyatt toward the industry (even though the festival encouraged them to stay in the Hyatt) and the fact that some Hyatt workers were picketing outside made for a big barrel of not-fun. Stanhope wasn't the only one to openly ask if Montreal has become more about making a profit off of comedy fans and less about being a place for discovering and launching comedy careers. So what will happen in 2009 when JFL joins up with TBS to host a comedy festival in Chicago the month before Montreal? Will the industry go to Chicago and skip Montreal entirely? It only served to make me miss the atmosphere in Aspen, a festival run by people who really wanted it to be a home for the comedy industry (even if it proved too expensive and snowy). It also makes me want to start up my own comedy festival, a true showcase to bring industry to the talents worth watching, both new and old. If anyone wants to help me make that come true, please holler my way. Thanks.
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.