People who paid up to several hundred dollars per ticket to see Charlie Sheen's live tour had no idea what to expect last night in Detroit. And that was just part of the problem. Unless you were comedian Kirk Fox. And then it was the problem.
Because the audience in Detroit wasn't expecting to see Fox (despite the coincidental fact that they were in the Fox Theatre) or anyone else they didn't already know not named Charlie Sheen.
Many stand-up comedians have horror stories from "hell gigs" of performing as surprise opening acts for bands in concert. Sheen wasn't a band. Nor did he even put on much of a concert as the headliner. Though he did emerge during Fox's set to try to calm down the hostile crowd, handing him a Snickers bar and urging them to give Fox a chance "to help." But the audience wasn't having it. And Sheen needs to help himself.
Roll the clip.
Afterward, Fox joked it off a bit on Twitter overnight:
I can see how someone (even a critic) who doesn't know any better (and doesn't have an official program for a proper show) could mishear Kirk as Kurt. But I kinda like thinking that Kurt Fox is getting part of the blame for this. And I hope that the other crowds who turn out for Sheen's circus sideshow, having heard, seen and read the reviews from Detroit, now will know that Fox is coming out onstage first and not become boo-birds so early.
At least Fox has that supporting role on Parks and Recreation as Joe from the Sewage Department, as well as a full chance to show off his stand-up comedy later this month when he's featured on John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show on Comedy Central.
Someone decided it was hot enough in here to buy some ice cream treats, stay home, and get giggly with it tonight. OK. Fine. It was so hot in NYC today that my brain obviously isn't working, so maybe the mush of the TV will make everything right in the world again. Either that, or Craig Robinson and a kitty cat will tell me it's time for the first part of the semifinals of season seven of NBC's Last Comic Standing. Finally we're getting somewhere. UPDATED: Now with video clips!
Are you ready for your first semifinalist, Myq Kaplan? I put the comma in the wrong place there, because he is more than ready, he is already done because this was a taped performance. Don't call in with your votes just yet. Kaplan is feeling bookish this evening, telling us about books, movies, and movies about books. Kaplan also is the first, at least if we're presuming they haven't edited the placement here, to have to deal with the hyped-up live audience at the Alex Theater in Glendale, Calif. Judges Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Andy Kindler all have nice things to say about Myq Kaplan. Kindler says Kaplan "absolutely killed" which means he lost the pool? "I can't think of a funnier line in comedy than Brad Pitt is in this book." And we're getting judges notes, as if it really is going to be the American Idol version of LCS. Then again, we did hear judges give notes to comedians during the semis in previous seasons, so maybe it's just time for a commercial break. Any predictions? I have one!
Jamie Lee is up next, and she admits backstage that she is terrified about being seen by millions on the TV. Too late! You're on TV! Lee gets whoops from audience members when she says she's originally from Texas, but wants to joke about her model roommate in NYC. Lee also mentions dating a comedian, and knowing it's bad when even their inside jokes were bombing. (Note: Lee already has told me that her jokes about her comedian ex are not really about her comedian ex, for those of you who were thinking about someone specific just then). Leggero says Lee has "huge potential," while Giraldo says it wasn't her best set. Based on these notes, you could swap them out with Idol, couldn't you? You could. You could.
Mike DeStefano wants to be so good, the audience sets the place on fire. I'm not sure that would actually be a good thing, but it makes for a soundbite. DeStefano jokes about how everyone in his neighborhood was Italian, including the old Chinese guy and the young black kid. Did you know that Italians shrink and get mean when they get old? This audience is so hot, they're hooting and handing out applause breaks for everything. DeStefano keeps saying "thank you, thank you" like a politician trying to get back to his stump speech. Because he wants you to know how he deals with pretty ladies. Kindler finds him "hilarious" and could not criticize any portion of his set. "And you have screamers," Leggero added. She asks about his Jesus tattoo, and DeStefano corrects her: "It's Jim Caviezel."
And so it begins again. Two years since we last left NBC's Last Comic Standing with an abrupt five-person finale, the show has returned to us, reborn with a new host (Craig Robinson), new judges (Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo) and a new promise to focus firmly and seriously on the business of comedy. Do they mean it this time?
For one thing, it's more than entirely possible that we already have seen this year's winner on TV before. By we, I mean the collective we and not just the you and me we, although that's also true -- Oui! Oui! -- because by taking comedy seriously, the producers already have made it clear that even though all of our contestants could be called up-and-coming and even aspiring, they are by no means rookies. When LCS first hit network TV in 2002 as comedy's version of American Idol meets Survivor, the bounty of a televised stand-up comedy special and development deal meant so much more for the field of participants. In 2010, so many more half-hour specials, late-night slots and cable showcases have given stand-ups a chance to grab a TV credit or two or more. So much so that as we, in real-time, already have our 10 finalists, we know that many of them are in this game for a lot more than a half-hour TV special. They're here for primetime network TV exposure on a regular weekly basis, the national theater tour that's sure to follow for the final five, and fame, fortune.
But first. We open Craig Robinson playing the keyboard and singing about the show's return, to reveal the Hollywood Improv and contestants behind him, as we saw in one of last week's teaser videos. Then we get the first montage of our judges as well as many quick looks at comedians, including a sneak peek at a naked Andy Ofiesh. Andy Ofiesh! Each of the judges gets an introduction, which is nice and also weird since they are peers or idols of the contestants. Giraldo gets a clip from his 2009 DVD special, while Leggero gets meta with a clip mocking reality TV competitions from Leno, and Kindler is even more meta as Robinson specifically credits Kindler for "The Hack's Handbook."
Our first contestant featured at the Hollywood Improv is Maronzio Vance. He says he auditioned way back in season two, and his first joke is about the woes of living in a studio apartment. Kindler gives him props for playing to the production crew, and they go at it. "We will see you tonight!" Kindler says. We will see him again, yes indeed. Our second featured contestant is Felipe Esparza, who shows us his apartment and friends in Los Angeles before we see him telling jokes. "What do you guys think? More? Less?" Giraldo says he knows how funny Esparza is, but thinks his audition set didn't showcase him fully, and he makes it to the night showcase despite getting a no from Leggero. "These guys pushed you through," she says. How far will they push him through, you may be asking?
And then there's a guy with a guitar and a red devil outfit. He wants to call himself my professional clown name, so even before the judges say no, I say NO! A KISS something or other. Other nuts. A guy who opened by saying, "No joke." Interviews with the longshots standing on the sidewalk for hours, with Robinson telling them eternal truths such as NBC giving the prize to Jay Leno.
And we're back to actual comedians, with Kirk Fox. We saw him in a teaser video, too, although here we see him surrendering during his routine. No surrender, though! He makes it through to the night showcase.
Our next featured contestant is Laurie Kilmartin, whom I think of as a NYC comedian but is listed here as a Walnut Creek, Calif., resident, showing us her new home with her son, talking about being a single mom and stand-up comedian. Now here she is onstage joking. And the judges like what they see. Hmmm. We are less than 20 minutes into the show, and already this much good news? They are trying to win us over early, it appears.
In the first running non-sequitur bit of the series, Giraldo sets up Kindler by giving him more time to come up with wardrobe suggestions for Kilmartin (whom, fun fact, seemed to wear the same outfit in her backstage and onstage appearances; and even funner factor, has been someone I knew about from when I first started in comedy in Seattle in the 1990s because her headshot stood out from the others along the wall of the Comedy Underground), and then we see him testing the confidences of several other comedians, starting with Renee Gauthier (in an unbilled cameo) and going through several others. "I want you to wear your hair up AND down," he tells one woman.
We're one week away from the reboot of NBC's Last Comic Standing for season seven, with new host Craig Robinson, new judges Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo, and new contestants. So how about a few new online-only preview clips? Sounds great!
Stuckey and Murray kick off this first clip, which also features appearances and/or performances from the host and judges talking about how it's legit now, plus Tommy Johnagin and Felipe Esparza. Roll it!
Here's a clip of Craig Robinson hosting in what could be the intro to next week's premiere...followed by performances by Maronzio Vance, Kirk Fox, Tiffany Haddish, among others. Roll that clip.
And here is Andy Kindler talking up the season, with a clip of Jonathan Thymius. Taking it to the next level! Roll the clippy clip!
That saying about things happening in threes has gotten a bit of an X-rated revamp over the weekend, as a threesome of images popped up on my Internets involving porn star actresses in mainstream comedies. To be sure, a few of the men and women who have had sex in pornographic films (or even simulated intercourse in softcore Skinemax flicks) already have managed to graduate and upgrade their careers to network, basic cable and Hollywood big studio movies. Traci Lords and Ron Jeremy come to mind first, so to speak. HBO's Entourage has cast a bevy of porn beauties in previous seasons. Boogie Nights was about the porn world of the late 1970s, and as such, included some adult stars, but that played it heavy (despite some comical scenes).
This is different. Starting with 2007's Superbad, and continuing with last year's Zack and Miri Make a Porno, we're seeing more broad comedies with roles for porn actresses. And now there's news of another new big-budget comedy movie about porn, this time starring Christina Ricci. It's called "Born to be a Star," with Adam Sandler as a co-writer, and Nick Swardson as a co-producer, about a small-town nerd from the Midwest who discovers his parents were 1970s porn stars and decides to go to Hollywood to get into the family business. But who will play the nerd? Swardson? Perhaps Ricci's fiance, and Swardson's buddy, Owen Benjamin?!?
I guess I should not be too surprised, considering how the pornography world often has turned to stand-up comedians to host their annual awards show in Vegas, and how often I saw the porn stars of Scottsdale (Jenna Jameson and her girls) enjoying live stand-up comedy at the Tempe Improv when I lived in Arizona.
But back to my trilogy of porn comedy news items. Jenna Haze, who had a cameo in Superbad, filmed a documentary DVD featurette with Aziz Ansari about his "Randy" character for the upcoming Judd Apatow film, Funny People. So there's that to look forward to.
The HBO/Funny or Die miniseries with Rob Riggle and Paul Scheer, Designated Driver, apparently includes a role for Angelina Armani.
And here is the first official movie trailer for How to Make Love to a Woman, which stars Krysten Ritter, Josh Meyers (MADtv, brother of SNL's Seth) and Ian Somerhalder, but also features comedians Kirk Fox, MADtv's Ike Barinholtz and Apatowite Ken Jeong, as well as porn queen Jenna Jameson.
CBS has debuted its online series, Heckle U, as the first night of March Madness opens. The series stars stand-ups Owen Benjamin and Kirk Fox as the kings of heckling. Benjamin's character, Chance, acknowledges that he "was raised by a dive bar." He met Darrell (Fox) in basketball tryouts in the seventh grade. Purple Nurples! Follow this documentary look at the fellas throughout the tournament.
We always frown upon heckling in live comedy, but when it comes to college basketball? Just keep it clean. And also, know your target -- you don't want to give the opposition the inspiration it needs (not that we have learned that from personal trash-talking experience, mind you, ahem). CBS is your TV home for the NCAA March Madness college basketball tournaments, and this year, in addition to wall-to-wall coverage on TV and online (and naturally, a big ol' Facebook bracket contest), they also have turned to stand-up comedians Owen Benjamin and Kirk Fox for a Web series called Heckle U. Benjamin stars as Chance, a professional heckler. Fox is his sidekick. Chris Wylde and Bil Dwyer also appear in this teaser, which also asks you to enter a contest to win a trip to Vegas or a 42" LCD TV.
The first full episodes should debut in concert with the tourney itself on Thursday, March 19.
Kirk Fox told me he felt more than a little weird about the taping of his Comedy Central Presents half-hour, which debuts tonight on Comedy Central. After all, his mother had just died before his taping in August. And he mentioned it onstage, too. One secret you didn't know about Fox's taping: He also was suffering from a concussion. No worries, though: Kirk Fox's comedy likely will make your head hurt, too. But in a good way. Such as this clip, in which there's nothing creepy about seeing beautiful people make love, is there?
Five more clips after the jump!
Or a recap of other shows and stuff from Friday and Saturday at the 2007 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival
Colbert received his Person of the Year award from CNN's Jeff Greenfield, as they sat in front of a giant poster/mock magazine cover of Colbert as the Person of the Year with the subtitle: "Not you. Me." A good dig at Time. Also fitting for the Colbert character. He said this was his third time at the festival, but "this is the first time I've looked out at the front row and not seen everybody asleep!" I barely got in, and barely made it to the post-show press opp (my bad on both counts). Very funny and friendly guy. For those of you playing the home game, the Colbert Report writers come up with most of the “Word”s on Fridays, because it can take a while to write the backstory and explanation for each word. Some insightful comments on Bill O’Reilly and Barney Frank. Video tributes from his friends and colleagues. More to come on this in other forums that pay me. But the show was so packed, Colbert made time to give props to people stuck in the lobby.
Fat City Lounge
The title of this year’s late-night show at Aspen, where anyone and everyone can drop in for a few minutes of stage time. Friday night’s hosts Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter joked about the show’s musical theme and riffed on the Irish (hey!?). Charlyne Yi, who played an NBC page on a recent episode of 30 Rock, stepped up first with her guitar and rocked out to a song called "God knows I finished my whiskey." Hmmm. Sketch group Olde English followed with a sketch about the Fernberger family whose condo the troupers were staying at in Aspen, showing off the family's framed photos, posters, paintings, living room chair, track lighting and drapes. Apparently, the HBO folks weren't so happy about the sketch ending with the troupers simulating sex with said items. Either way, what made me enjoy it was not knowing whether the guys really did take these items from the condo or not. TastiSkank brought the funny with songs about "I heart dirty boys," "Hydrocodone," "Please manscape the area," "Oops, I f--ked you again" and "You're the worst sex I've ever had." Showalter had to take off to his other scheduled show, so Ian Black introduced a special guest, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas (as played by UCB's Seth Morris) who read his open letter to Hollywood. Tim Minchin closed the show. In the first 30 seconds, I wasn't sure what to make of this Aussie as he air-drummed, air-guitared and lip-synched. But as soon as he sat down to the piano, everything changed. He can play. He can sing. And he can tell some wickedly perverse jokes. Anyone who can write a peace anthem for the Middle East is good in my book, even if I'm going to keep on eating pigs. So glad I decided to catch this show.
After watching the pilot for this new FOX sitcom that debuted Sunday night (twas funny in an outrageous way, although upon watching it and the second episode Sunday, I've decided that it's entirely due to Rob Corddry and Lenny Clarke), Spike Feresten moderated a panel discussion with creator Ricky Blitt, star Corddry and Seth MacFarlane. "It's sort of a Wonder Years starting at 32," Blitt said. MacFarlane joked about drinking so early in the day: "I drink because I'm comfortable being the only white person in this town." Corddry downplayed all of the roles that are coming his way in movies. "Those nine films, they're all like don't-blink roles," he said.
Best of the Fest Awards ceremony
Hosted by Jamie Kennedy, with presentations also made by Judith Light and William Baldwin. Deciding to sit with Shane Mauss and a guy from SuperDeluxe front row center turned out to be a wise decision, especially when Mauss won an award as the best stand-up of the fest (along with Kirk Fox, who got off one of the funniest ad-libs by saying, "William Baldwin's complaining he didn't win an award? He already won an award. He's not Daniel."). For his part, Baldwin kept cracking jokes, perhaps to let us know that he, like older brother Alec, is ready and willing to do sitcom work! At one point, though, Baldwin stopped to look out into the crowd and saw the fro of Eric Andre. Paraphrasing here, Baldwin shouted to Andre: "You were on fire last night. Do you remember? You crashed the party, holding a sled over your head as you shouted, 'Let's rub boners!'" Um. Yeah. I was there. I remember. But most people in the audience were merely weirded out. Afterward, the guys from Super Deluxe took Mauss, myself and Ben Kronberg out to dinner at La Cantina. Fun, quick Mexican meal, and then Mauss and I raced back to the Belly Up for his final showcase.
Group B: Andy Borowitz hosted this standing-room only stand-up showcase. Erik Charles Nielsen went first, and seemed less intense than the first night I'd seen him, mixing up his material a bit. But the audience wasn't quite ready for him, and his decision to back into an unlit corner of the stage during his closer didn't help, either. Alexandra McHale has some funny nutritional advice, but I had to make a note in my notepad to alert Gary Gulman that someone else is coming for his cookie jokes! Na'im Lynn must really have a problem around the holidays, though he seems nice enough. TJ Miller has so many characters in his act, I feel like I'm watching an audition for SNL. To which Dan Boulger asked, "What's wrong with that?" John Ramsey has so many sharp, solid, clever jokes that he must be introduced to Myq Kaplan to see if they'll either become fast friends or mortal enemies. A poop joke as Russian history? Seriously? Seriously funny. Shane Mauss, fresh off his festival win, got to close the show and was funnier than I'd ever seen him. He threw in some old jokes and some rare jokes. And he had the audience at his bidding.
The parties: The Sierra Mist Lounge in the St. Regis provided a fun and comfortable environment to kick back after the shows each night during the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, although it seemed better on its slower nights (Wednesday and Saturday) than on Thursday and Friday, when it got so packed you could barely move. Met some nice comics (Nick Swardson) and even some nice lawyers (Jeff B. Cohen, aka lawyer to the comics, aka Chunk!). A ping pong table and foosball. Dan Boulger thought he had a brush with Cheryl Hines. Only problem was that the parties ended too early, as the lights came up at about 1:45 each morning. Which invariably led to the afterparties.
The UCB "house" was where it was at each night. Seth Morris and the rest of the guys couldn't have been nicer. The basement hopped. Anyone and everyone would show up (see my earlier post about William Baldwin's party reference during the awards ceremony). And our small band of comedians and merrymakers bonded throughout the week, making for a four-day party. Only problem was that we'd have to shepherd each other back up the icy mountain to the condo.
The so-called "mansion," on the other hand, ugh. Took a lot of effort to get there, by car and by foot. And once there, it really was too large and anonymous to have any fun there. As we remarked to each other afterward, we could've had much more fun at the UCB place. Or even at our place.