OK, comedy fans. We're back with the first (of how many? of how many???) episodes from the New York City auditions, and after some more glimpses of Tommy Johnagin and a naked Andy Ofiesh, here's Craig Robinson strolling down the sidewalk of West 23rd Street on his keytar with judges Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo, plus wannabes in tow. Who here wanna be?
Alycia Cooper from Maryland is our first billed auditioner. She made Giraldo laugh with her jokes about D.C.'s horrible sports teams, but she is adding tags that he and the other judges do not condone. She moves on to the night showcase nevertheless. Our first featured contestant of the evening, however, is Mike DeStefano who shows us his fellas in the Bronx to bust his chops and deliver some classic stereotypical Bronx gruff and stuff. "Hey Mikey, if you win, what's in it for us?" I've told you about DeStefano before. I will be telling you more about him in the future. His jokes about dealing with a potential agent show off his style and personality and the crew loves him as much, perhaps more, than the judges did.
Kevin Bozeman of Chicago said he is pro-life except for two times. Jamie Lissow jokes about not getting the NY Times crossword. New Yorker Claudia Cogan jokes about wanting to be a nasty stripper, while I wonder when she'll reply to my email from months ago. They are all part of a montage of yes votes for the showcases, and there is Elon James White brunching hard but not getting his name on camera. Andy Ofiesh, on the other hand, got almost all of himself on camera since he went onstage without any clothes on. Of course, readers here (or people who have been to a Naked Comedy Showcase show in Boston, NYC or Edinburgh in the past few years) knows Ofiesh is an avowed nudist and comedian. All we see and hear, however, is the judges not being happy seeing all of Ofiesh and he kicks off the night's first montage of horribleness.
Kurt Metzger says he has done comedy for 11 years and wonders about performing for three people, especially when at least one of them works with him regularly at the Comedy Cellar. No need to wonder, since Metzger is moving to the showcase.
And we're back. Robinson walks out to inspect the line of crazies. I also inspected this line outside Gotham Comedy Club the night beforehand. Want to see that?
Tommy Johnagin invites the cameras into his hotel room(?) to watch him write his jokes on toilet paper. Johnagin jokes about how women suck for asking him about keeping track of the one time he had sex. Kindler jokes that he feels threatened by Johnagin's humor.
Todd Catalano brought his mullet across the bridges and tunnels from New Jersey, and guess what, he is Italian. Guess what, Giraldo isn't sure if he was laughing with Catalano's insults about women, and this kicks off a montage of stereotypical Italian New Yorker shtickery.
Jamie Lee from Dallas says she quit her corporate job to pursue stand-up (and it was a job with Comedy Central where she had to deal with people like me!) and if you saw the ads of the past week, you already saw her running with joy after whatever the judges said. Giraldo said she felt "still pretty new" to him, which is absolutely correct, and all three of the judges would like to see her perform in front of an actual audience.
When we return from commercial...
When I heard that Pete Holmes wanted to celebrate his 30th birthday by having his friends and fellow stand-up comedians roast him, my first thought was that he had lost his mind. And then I attended the roast last night at the UCB, and was quickly reminded that this is a rare opportunity for comedians to unleash not only their mocking jabs at one another, but also some heartfelt tender moments. But you didn't click here looking for heartfelt or tender, did you? As Holmes himself said during the show: "I want it to be meaner!"
Leo Allen, the regular host of Monday night's Whiplash, served as the roastmaster (pictured here by Mindy Tucker) -- and despite allegedly forgetting that the roast was happening, managed to find several zingers up his sleeves. The dais was a regular who's who of New York City's current crop of up-and-coming comedians, with John Mulaney, Anthony Jeselnik and Kumail Nanjiani represented. Also on board: TJ Miller, who flew in for the event, Jared Logan, David Angelo, Nate Fernald, Seth Herzog, a tardy Julian McCullough and Holmes' girlfriend, Jamie Lee. Here are a few of the many zingers I managed to jot down for posterity:
I wondered how many of the audience members knew what they were in for (there were a dozen or two other comics scattered in the seats, too), and I knew it'd be something when one young woman, when asked by Allen if she knew who Holmes was, shouted: "Security in the basement!" Yeah, that's a Greg Johnson bit. ROASTED!
Someone asked me if going first in a contest meant certain elimination. That entirely depends upon a few factors, such as: How proficient your host is in warming up the audience and getting them to laugh, what time your show starts (the later, the better, it'd seem), and how quickly you can get an audience to laugh. In the first two nights of prelims during the Boston Comedy Festival contest, the comic who drew the first slot advanced from each of the later shows, but not from the earlier shows. On night three? Foreshadowing. Or not.
Kaplan knocked his set out from the start, riffing callbacks on pretty much everyone who went before him, starting by announcing: "I'm also 1/2 white...and the other 1/2 white as well." Then landing a joke that combined "baloney pony" and "rapex" before going into his own, already-strong routine, closing by putting his wordplay to extended play on the word, "boobies." Hooray-bies! No doubt as to whether he'd advance.
Lewis, by the way, was one of several biracial comics of the black/white variety to perform this week (and the one Kaplan was calling back to), which, you might think, could be of benefit to Obama's candidacy if somehow all of these comedians could help him. Anyhow. Got off-topic for a sec. He joked about how blacks run everything in Alabama, and how people mistake him for Mexican. I don't think Mexican jokes work as well in Boston, just because the Latino influences here aren't from there. But it didn't hurt his score.
Hawkins wasn't shy about announcing he was the only Canadian competing. The start of his set took a similar reversal of gender roles pattern that Eric Hunter used to score victory the previous night (an almost completely different set of judges, though, and no, I was not among them), joking about how women act in the dance clubs. Halfway through, he shifted to cat territory, and how he's not good with felines, with a lengthy act-out that had you thinking, where's the Meow Mix? Earlier this summer, Hawkins, from Edmonton, won the "Homegrown Comic Competition" at Montreal's Just For Laughs.
Boeh avoided making a joke of his name (Ty Boeh) because, well, he had just come back to Boston from winning the first week of prelims in the San Francisco Comedy Competition, and he has other jokes in his arsenal. Such as a guy pimpwalking on a treadmill. Or a local slogan for Harpoon beer. But the real feature of his routine on this night would be beatboxing and noisemaking, with big sound effects on having sex with women of the black and tracheotomy variety. I discussed this with another comedian last night, and it's one of those things that can divide comics in a contest when you see a competitor who closes with beatboxing or singing or playing an instrument. They almost always get a huge crowd response. Is that a bad thing? Depends upon whether you feel the point is telling jokes, or getting laughs. Whatever works, right? This is a debate we can have sometime down the road.
The rest of this group suffered some bad breaks. Liz Miele never had a chance going first, as the host had bombed. Maggie MacDonald, going second, had Miele warming them up, but her strong set based on her veterinary job apparently still not enough. Could it have been too sexual? Who knows. I wasn't judging this night. Joe Vespaziani, going third, had a brilliant set, so what happened there? I'd thought he was a cinch to advance, with jokes about turning 40, watching porn with the closed-captioning, body pillows, untying a vasectomy and more. He got robbed. And I'm not just saying that because I competed with him 10 years ago in the 1998 Seattle Comedy Competition. Ira Proctor managed to pop the microphone, which got him off on the wrong foot, which in turn, only plays into his onstage humorous rage. And Ms. Pat came a long way from Indianapolis to tell us about where her daughter puts her Oreo cookie crumbs (!).
OK. Moving on...
Big weekends don't begin on Fridays, but rather on Thursdays, so that's how I found myself on a bus to Washington, District of Columbia, last week to arrive just in time for the kickoff of last weekend's DC Comedyfest.
Someone joked that night that D.C. really was hosting the Chicago and New York fest, due to all of the comedic talent arriving from those two cities, but I know I wasn't the only person excited to see the all-local District of Comedy showcase, as a few other industry types joined me in the DC Improv's lounge on Thursday night to check out some comedians we hadn't seen before. How would we know at the time -- how could we know? -- that this show would prove more worthwhile than the official industry showcase that followed on the Improv's mainstage later that night? But we'll get to that soon enough.
Jason Weems, from Baltimore, appeared on both the D.C. and industry showcases that night, performing essentially the same set twice, although he had the misfortune early in having to compete with a noisy waiter and an awkward atmosphere later. And, um, "scrotum meat?" OK. That's a phrase that certainly sticks with you...hope you didn't order the nachos. Also noticed his vocal delivery seemed to be influenced by Chappelle. Not that that's a bad thing. He's also all over that McCain joke about how his being a POW doesn't make him good at winning wars.
Aparna Nancherla claims she is an introvert, which is an odd-but-true trait for a stand-up comedian, but is quick to point out, "I watch, TV, too!" so you can relate to her. She has a good, strong stage presence. If only she hadn't gotten the silent treatment from Last Comic Standing this year, perhaps she would have been the first female winner?
Kojo Mante sees why it'd be foolish to endorse a national gas holiday, but has more to say about the foolishness of building a statue of a homeless guy, which apparently they've done there. Hampton Yount is one shiny, happy, white boy, and the audience loved his boyish boyishness (that's a not-so-hifalutin way of describing his energy), all the way through his closing bit about the energy you need to sustain to write an angry letter. Jay Hastings went to the trouble of wearing the same outfit he had on in the Post's Express spread on him, but apparently, people don't even read free newspapers in D.C. any longer. "You think when you make the Express you'd be on the showcase," Hastings ranted. Although his bit on fingering probably would not have worked there...trust me on this one. Jon Mumma closed the local parade by imagining "swirlio" guys at the gym doing calf raises, poking fun at a Brad Paisley lyric, and noticing the things kids can get away with that adults simply cannot. He sounded like a guy you hear on the radio.
So, yeah. About that "Fresh Voices Industry Stand-Up Audition Show." It'd be for the best if I left all of the names out to protect the innocent, but really, some things need to be said about this show, which went awry from the get-go and only barely got back on track for a moment or two. Comics were buzzing before the showcase about the fact that TJ Miller couldn't make it to D.C. to host because he was in New York City auditioning for Saturday Night Live (catching up with Miller later over the weekend, he said, well, perhaps I shouldn't say what he said because SNL is making final decisions this week on him and a few others as possible cast additions). But without Miller, the festival looked to Dave Hill to substitute as host. As much as I love Hill and his quirky sensibility, he's really more of an anti-host. It's more than fine when it's his own show, but he doesn't bring the kind of energy to the room that young comics looking for TV exposure are going to want or need. So that started the show on an odd foot. But Jared Logan, first up, made things terribly awkward by starting his showcase for the industry by verbally attacking Hill -- "Is that the host we're going with tonight?" -- and creating a mood where the audience was expecting a night of fights rather than laughs. Which leads me to another point of order. If you are performing for a panel of TV scouts (which this was, with people representing Letterman, Comedy Central, VH1 and E!'s Chelsea Lately), wouldn't you want to do material that you could imagine them delivering on the TV? As I texted someone later during the show: "Some odd choices to showcase yourselves to TV scouts. Crowd not great, but not their fault." Many in the lineup simply didn't bring the right stuff on this night. Kumail Nanjiani, or am I supposed to be calling him Ali now, went long but managed to engage the crowd and get everybody involved with the show again, leaving some scraps for the final two performers of the evening, Sean Patton and Brooke Van Poppelen. Patton got applause for his bit about calling in sick, and Poppelen found more than a few fans with her thoughts about brunch. You know what? It is for the best to leave out the other names from this showcase, because they'll have better opportunities to shine in the future.
On a brighter note, I managed to get some sleep on the Greyhound bus back to New York City on Friday morning without losing my head. So hooray for that.
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...
The third season of Comedy Central's Live at Gotham -- the show that replaced Premium Blend as the showcase for up-and-coming stand-up comedians and put them in a more intimate comedy club setting at NYC's Gotham Comedy Club -- debuts tonight at 10 p.m. after a not-so coincidental rebroadcast of Jeff Dunham's special, "Arguing With Myself." That's because Dunham hosts the premiere, with routines from JR Brow, Erik Griffin, Jared Logan, Anjelah Johnson, Michael Palascak and Lenny Marcus. I showed you a clip from Johnson earlier. Here is a teaser clip:
More teaser clips from each of the other performers, as well as your host, after the jump!