Are you ready for the seventh season of Last Comic Standing? Dozens of would-be comedians already are, judging by the Tweets I'm reading from Chucklemonkey, who already is in line outside of the Hollywood Improv. Wait. Don't the auditions take place tomorrow? Yep. But as of four hours ago, Chucklemonkey told us there were at least 45 aspiring comedians in line at Hollywood. Yikes.
If you follow Last Comic Standing on Facebook, you can learn some "helpful" tips. Not helpful enough to tell you that you'll have a much better shot if you have an agent and manager who can negotiate a scheduled appointment for you, and even better if you're repped by Barry Katz and New Wave, since they're behind the scenes of LCS. Which also means that even though LCS is only holding open calls in Hollywood and New York City, New Wave presided over local comedy showcases in recent months in both Chicago and Boston, so some stand-ups there already have gotten an initial look-see for the show.
Among the tips from LCS: Auditions run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (March 6 in Hollywood, March 21 in NYC), with no guarantee on how many people the "judges" will see. No parking. Bring a picture ID and proof of U.S. citizenship. There's lots of paperwork to fill out. You get two minutes for your initial audition. You must be at least 18 years old. And if you get passed through to the showcase, those are happening March 7-8 at the Improv in Hollywood, and March 21-22 at Gotham in NYC. Check those club links or Laugh Stub if you want to be in the audience for those showcases and watch the sausages get cooked. The series will return to NBC airwaves with new host Craig Robinson on Monday, June 7, with episodes penciled in through the summer at 9 p.m. Mondays.
In the meantime, former LCS winner John Heffron wants to sell you on his new program, called Perfect State University, which purports to put you in the "perfect state" to perform each and every time you get onstage, whether it's a comedy club show, a one-nighter hell gig, or a big audition. Heffron explained to me: "The big thing I want to get across is IT'S NOT A MOTIVATIONAL tape. Just some easy stuff to help with nerves before stage. I'm not a guru :) just tying to give back a little, that's all." All for the low, low price of $20-$27.
Well, let him explain it himself with his "mind coach" Andy.
If you missed the TV debut last weekend of John Heffron's new stand-up comedy special, Middle Class Funny, then you'll have to wait for the DVD to come out on Aug. 4 (you can pre-order John Heffron: Middle Class Funny through Amazon.com). Curiously, though, Heffron's special, as it aired on Comedy Central, turned out to be even more of a tease than the comedian expected. You see, normally, a stand-up might go back to some classic or "greatest hits" at the end of a special's taping as an encore, or as a treat to fans and put it on the DVD as an extra. But almost half of the 40-plus minutes that Comedy Central aired from Heffron's special were those "greatest hits," with jokes about getting haircuts from your mom with the "dingleberry" scissors, and how men and women interact in nightclubs -- bits you'd likely already seen and heard when Heffron won Last Comic Standing years ago or from one of his previous records/specials (on Comedy Central!).
Comedians who can produce their own specials have, over the past year or two, done so and then sold them to a cable network (Comedy Central, HBO, Showtime), tying the air date to the promotion of a DVD release soon thereafter. Heffron learned a show-business lesson here, since as he pointed out to fans on Twitter (pictured) and Facebook, Comedy Central had the final edit and could cut up his hour any way they wished. Maybe they liked the old jokes better? Maybe they had short-term memory loss? Maybe some other reason? Some of the "new" hour already exists in their Jokes.com database from John Heffron performances in 2007 and 2004! Anyhow. Moving on.
CNN already has established that it's crazy for Twitter. And in this recent report, Josh Levs asked stand-up comedians John Heffron (@johnheffron) and Craig Shoemaker (@thelovemaster) about how to be funny in 140 characters or less, and whether Twitter is a good way for comedians to build up a fan base.
Shoemaker is following nobody on Twitter, so he clearly still needs to learn a thing or two about Twitter. And really, Levs? We're going to see a future in which live comedy is delivered via Tweets? C'mon. We all want to make our friends and fans laugh in short bursts via Twitter, but that's never going to be equal to the visceral thrill both performers and audiences experience alike during a live stand-up show.
Beginning and aspiring stand-up comedians always want to ask veteran headliners for advice on how to become better at the art and craft of comedy. I know I felt that way back when I performed. Some of the big name guys and gals were more patient than others in handling all of these queries. That's still true. The easiest, shortest answer is "Get onstage as much as possible." It's in the doing that you'll find your way, or learn that you should not be a stand-up comedian.
John Heffron, who won the second season of NBC's Last Comic Standing, recently gave an even shorter piece of advice to a newbie: "Don't suck." Upon further reflection, Heffron has offered up 10 tips that any beginning comedian should consider when taking to the stage in front of a live audience. Some of it is specific to comedy clubs, some of it is remembering to take into account what audience members are thinking, and some of it is just about being patient. But it's all pretty good advice.
A sixth Last Comic Standing will be named tonight on NBC (well, that's the plan, anyhow), so let's check my comedy club calendar and see what the first five winners are up to this weekend...
Dat Phan is at the Improv in Temecula, Calif., tonight through Saturday.
John Heffron is taping a new DVD at the OC Pavilion in Santa Ana, Calif., on Saturday.
Alonzo Bodden appears to have this weekend off, but will be performing later this month at the Ice House in Pasadena, Calif., and Hilarities in Cleveland.
Josh Blue is at the Funny Bone in Dayton, Friday through Sunday.
Jon Reep is at the Improv in Houston, Friday through Sunday.
So here we are. These are your 12 finalists, and after watching that hourlong recap from last week, we're only reminded of a few good stand-ups who got left behind. Let us not mourn for them, but celebrate them, for they will not have to suffer the indignities of Last Comic Standing's house nor its challenges, nor the little yellow bus.
First off, the house is nice. God's Pottery acts as if they have "dibsies" on the girlie pink room with princess outfits and bunk beds, but eventually are seen unpacking in another room.
But wait, let's talk about Esther Ku's laugh, shall we? Spoiler alert: It's all real. Ku laughs a lot, and laughs loudly. Some comedians over the years have accused her of laughing insincerely, but oh no, my friends, it is sincere...sincerely overpowering. Iliza Shlesinger describes it as "operatic, forceful and when it's this close to your ear, we're talking sonic boom potential" ...Paul Foot calls it..."a machine gun of joy."
We've got a calendar shoot. A wonderfully goofy calendar photo shoot. Marcus as Wonder Woman with smeared make-up and a Bobcat Goldthwait vibe declares: "Don't laugh at me, I'm beautiful!" Sean Cullen has a "superhero medieval hermaphrodite ballerina queen" thing going on. Jeff Dye is the youngest, so he puts on the baby outfit. Ron G says he automatically looked for a pimp get-up. Adam Hunter is a hippie? Shlesinger says she wanted the baby outfit but couldn't because they'd have to blur her breasts. Louis Ramey brings the bling. Papa CJ's outfit is fairly lame. God's Pottery lucked out (or did they?) with the God and Devil looks. Jim Tavare blows his top (well, his wig). Ku is Uncle Sam as a girl? I don't see that. Paul Foot is, I don't know what he is supposed to be.
Tonight's show promises the Last Comic Standing "All-Time Best Jokes Countdown"...Dat Phan makes the Top 10??!?!?!?!? Are. You. Kidding. Me.
They wake up the next morning to find glasses with egg yolks in them. A clue, perhaps? Another opportunity to play dress up, and a chance for us to hear Survivor's Eye of the Tiger as the comedians get into boxing outfits for Last Comic Smackdown.
But #9 on our "all-time best"? Todd Glass with a bit about how bold some people must be to wear awful toupees. #8 goes to John Heffron with his bit about the junk drawer scissors that Mom uses to cut your hair when you're a kid, which means we get to hear the word "dingleberry" on TV again. Hooray.
Our judges for the Yo Momma smackdown are Jamie Kennedy and sportscaster Rich Eisen. Bill Bellamy is sporting a clip-on bow-tie. We begin with a "speed round" in which only four comics will advance? Alrighty, Louis Ramey vs. Jeff Dye. One minute for each comic to get in as many jokes as possible. They make it look as though Ramey scores early, Dye hits back late. But before judging, it's on to God's Pottery vs. Ron G. Oh boy. God's Pottery is going to be up for this challenge with the anti-Yo Momma jokes strategy, playing into their "Christian" ethic. They have Ron G off his guard. The look on his face is precious. Even his eyes are sighing. Marcus vs. Adam Hunter. Jim Tavare vs. Iliza Shlesinger. Paul Foot vs. Papa CJ. Esther Ku vs. Sean Cullen. They show Eisen really enjoying Cullen's joke of how Korean Ku's mom is, describing her body as both North and South Korea. The judging: Kennedy is claiming a few comics were telling really old Yo Momma jokes. Your four finalists in the challenge? First a commercial.
And another installment of Last Comic Driving, with Brit Lady Fearne Cotton "driving" contestant Stevie D. (btw, if you saw the repeat earlier this evening, they completely cut Brit Lady out of the picture for time, so boo, and oh, yeah, Stevie D. made some jokey jokes about long hair, but couldn't really hold my attention, did he hold yours?)
Grandma Lee from season 2 has the #7 joke? If it was so good, how come she didn't make it into the house, producers?
Your finalists in this challenge will be: Adam Hunter, God's Pottery, Jim Tavare and Sean Cullen. Oooh. This round is "you're such a hack" jokes! Hunter says fighting God's Pottery is like fighting Borat, and Borat, er, God's Pottery makes it to the finals. Cullen vs. Tavare. Tavare references Carrot Top! So it's God's Pottery vs. Tavare in the Main Event.
#6 "all-time best" features Doug Benson's joke about being "inconvenienced" on his way to a convenience store by a guy asking if Benson was going to Hell. Yay!
The Main Event is anything goes, but make it funny. Will God's Pottery succumb to temptation? What do you think. The winner of immunity is Jim Tavare.
Back at the house, Tavare makes dinner and Foot runs around like he's Rowan Atkinson, and he might look like the Mr. Bean man, but he's just not the same. Plus acting like Bean isn't going to win you any friends in this house. We get a peek at a graveyard set where the comedians will make their showdown nominations.
And we're back to Ku's laughter, suggesting she'll come up for votes. Marcus does a Christopher Walken impersonation to describe Ku's laugh "as a tsunami of pure evil." Well, the fog machine at the cemetery is working, and Iliza can hear them playing a "Thriller" medley because she's the only one doing the dance. Bellamy brings up how comedians "kill" and "die" onstage, "so we thought it would be a great idea" to hold elimination votes in a cemetery! Get it? Three people get voted into a live audience showdown, and the audience picks the winner, leaving the other two comedians to hit the road.
#5 on the "all-time best" LCS joke list goes to Roz from season 4, who has a retort when her boss asks her why she's always late to work: "Because it makes the day go quicker!" Oh, that Roz. She has issues!
The votes pile up for Ku! So she gets to pick her two opponents. Ku picks God's Pottery and Iliza Shlesinger. Ramey is shocked! Shocked! Rut-RO! We could have both of the ladies going home in the first episode...really...Ku says she didn't like how Shlesinger went after her laugh. And in the tease, we see that Ku's set is the one I had on my site two months earlier, and that the winner of this three-way (er, make that three-act, four-way) got 68 percent of the vote.
Dwayne Perkins from season 5 gets #4 on the "all-time best" LCS joke parade. Wait. He didn't make it in the house either? What gives, producers! Are you trying to make up for past transgressions here or something? Lavell Crawford, runner-up on season 5, jokes about being fat and breathing hard, and that gets him the third "all-time best" LCS joke.
Shlesinger oozes confidence in her backstage interviews with producers. This is a really interesting showdown, and Ramey points out that you should not underestimate Ku because the audience votes on who they like as much as who has the best jokes. Plus, you've got an audience deciding between two attractive but less experienced female stand-ups and a Christian acoustic parody act. I could not predict how they would vote. Yikes. The other finalists get to watch on a monitor. As mentioned previously, we've already seen Ku's showdown performance. It gets a mixture of big laughs and weird groan laughs, as audience members try to figure out if they can laugh at some of her jokes. Her Taco Bell joke doesn't quite work and closing on M*A*S*H, eh. Even the other finalists are not sure what to make of her chances. But more commercials before we see Ku's competition. Plus, we still have the top two LCS jokes of "all time" to discover, again. God's Pottery beckons, "if you put on your partici-pants, put them on!" The audience claps instinctively and immediately. I really would have loved to see God's Pottery take on Papa CJ. Maybe we'll get to see that because the audience is singing along. Another good sign for Team Jesus.
Season 4 winner Josh Blue gets the second-best joke by blaming his Republican vote on his palsy arm.
Shlesinger says she has deer legs, and it's still somewhat sexy. Her ditzy girl voice comes out. They like her dinosaur getting hit by a rock look, and I gotta tell you, it's a good look. But I wouldn't hit Iliza with a rock. Not unless she threw one at me first. Even then, probably not. I'm a writer, not a fighter. The nine boys in the back of the room back home think Shlesinger nailed it. What did you think? With the fewest number of votes, first one out is God's Pottery! Oh, no! It's for the best, fellas. Who crushed it? Iliza Shlesinger, that's who! She did nail it. Sorry, Ku. The rest of the final 10 appear onstage, and Bellamy tries to call them "the funniest 10 folks in the country," which isn't even geographically correct, let alone anywhere near to the truth, and even the finalists know that. Shlesinger obviously made a statement to the remaining guys. Next week, we'll get to see Carrot Top! I think Shlesinger will be safe for the next week, at least, because who wants to face her after that trouncing? Papa CJ and Paul Foot, however, may need to watch their steps. Ron G seems a little unsure of himself, too. Jeff Dye, of course, is the kid. What I'm saying is Ramey and Marcus seem like tough competition, Tavare is a wildcard, and Hunter and Cullen could go either way. And If the producers want to give me a hint, that'd be cool, too.
Oh, and speaking of which, the producers picked season 5 winner Jon Reep as having the best joke ever on LCS with a punchline about the redneck version of red, white and blue.
Well, what do you know? I know John Heffron, the winner of NBC's second edition of Last Comic Standing. John is a fine fellow and great comic who has been in my car, and whom I've driven to the hotel (and other sordid places in which money gets spent and dignity gets lost) after some crazy times (see previous parenthetical thought) in Arizona. If he's in or near your town, go see him perform.