The only thing people love making more than year-end list are decade-end lists, and some of them seem as much about generating page-views as they are about subjectively ranking things that should not be ranked. That's rank! So where are my lists? I've got something else up my sleeves for this December, but in the meantime, I thought I'd share with you the iTunes list of their choices of the 20 best comedy discs from 2009, along with my thoughts on said list.
For one thing, it's really across the board. Any list that puts Brent Weinbach side-by-side with Katt Williams is looking to appeal to all sorts. I'm not exactly sure I agree with everything on here, but then again, I haven't quite listened to all of them just yet -- there are stacks of CDs and DVDs in my apartment, and I hope to get through them all by year's end and share my own thoughts on them with you. I have listened to and reviewed eight of the iTunes 20; most of the rest are waiting in my queue, and a few I don't even have my hands on just yet? My loss or yours? Also, iTunes missed some great ones from the past year. No John Mulaney? I haven't heard Paul F. Tompkins new disc yet, but would presume it's worthy. And no ladies on the list? Not even Maria Bamford? Harumph. Here, then, are the iTunes choices from the year in comedy -- I'm not sure if they have a ranking order from iTunes, so I'll list them alphabetically:
Jon Reep is a self-described "Metro Jethro." It's his term for a rural Southern boy who finds himself living in the big city. People know he's from Hickory, N.C., because he has said it more than once or a billion times before, during and after winning Last Comic Standing. His hometown buddies call him Hollywood because he lives in Los Angeles, but even after eight years in L.A., people there call him a redneck. As he describes in this new promo video, he's actually both. Hence, ergo, the title of his new comedy CD and DVD, Metro Jethro:
Within the first minute onstage in Charlotte for Metro Jethro, Reep is doing a sort-of Puppetry of the Paunch to show us his "bagel." Reep is no simple redneck, though, because, well, do rednecks work out at the gym? He does, or at least has been around a locker room or two enough to have developed some specific rules for acceptable male nudity. To him, it's not so much about your sexual orientation as it is "your sexual approximation -- to my face. Keep your deal out of my grill!"
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.
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.
Dying to know more about last year's Last Comic Standing winner, Jon Reep? Reep to the rescue! The comedian himself fills you in via this exclusive video discussing his real start in comedy. Just watch it, already.
Attempting to get you caught up on what everyone else is saying about comedy (you can catch up with them via the More On Comedy links on my page).
The Bastion interviews Kumail Nanjiani, who recently left Chicago for New York City.
The Coming is back in blogging business, apparently, and talks to Paul Rust about his comedy background and burgeoning movie career.
Punchline Magazine interviews the most recent winner of Last Comic Standing, Jon Reep.
The Apiary finds more examples of NYC-based comedians getting "commercial" success.
Shecky Magazine continues to get spies reporting in with results from the Last Comic Standing auditions, and by the way, the Male Half is auditioning for Montreal's Just For Laughs tonight at Helium in Philadelphia. Good luck, Brian!
Comic Vs. Audience caught Bill Cosby in action in New Jersey and filed this report.
SFstandup interviewed Al Madrigal, who appears in the new CBS midseason sitcom, Welcome to the Captain.