Congratulations to Lucas Molandes, who in his return to both Austin and stand-up comedy after a sabbatical lasting more than a year, won the 25th annual Funniest Person in Austin contest earlier this week at Cap City Comedy Club.
Molandes, 30, delivered a set that focused on reevaluating his own life, as well as the notions of midlife crises and old age. Here's the winning routine:
Coincidentally, the Austin American-Statesman profiled Molandes a few weeks ago before the start of the competition, and talked to him about how he moved to New York after performing at Montreal's "New Faces" and Live at Gotham, only to drop out of the comedy scene for more than a year, and also moving back in with his parents in Austin. I've already been a fan of Molandes, so I'm glad to see him back onstage.
When I saw Lucas Molandes last year in Montreal, he struck me as very smart and clever writer and teller of jokes. Seeing him on my TV on Comedy Central's Live at Gotham did not change my opinion of the young man. You wouldn't think of him as a guy who dropped out of school, would you? And yet, here is a clip:
You know Variety just named TJ Miller as one of its 10 comics to watch in 2008, and then I referenced a joke Miller has about ketchup bottles? Well, you are in luck, my fine readers, because Miller is featured on tonight's edition of Live at Gotham on Comedy Central. And here is the bit I'm talking about. Do you agree with me or with Miller? I won't be upset if you take his side. After all, "I live in a fanciful world where logic doesn't exist!" Also, this is a great time to remind you that I was at this very TV taping this spring and have exclusive behind-the-scenes video and info from this episode's comedians, including Matt McCarthy, Joe List, Na'im Lynn, Vince Averill and Lucas Molandes. More videos forthcoming later tonight. The show itself airs at 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific.
The 2008 season of Comedy Central's Live at Gotham debuts the Friday after Memorial Day. But why wait that long for some deep dish insider exclusive scuttlebutt? Especially when we got plenty of bits of tid to share just from swinging by the tapings on Saturday and Sunday at Gotham Comedy Club.
Let's get to it! First off, don't be surprised if many of the guys have a similar look. It's not a new fashion trend in stand-up comedy for the summer/fall runways -- it's a Comedy Central/Levity edict: No red, no patterns, no logos. Also, we learned that TV's standards and practices (read: the censors!) sometimes can actually make your jokes funnier. Matt McCarthy had to change one of his lines from "choke her to death" to "murder her to death" (see? funnier, right?) so it wouldn't sound as though he were endorsing domestic abuse. Baron Vaughn said he couldn't say "KKK.com" in a joke, but realized he didn't need to spell out the Web site for the joke to work. Vaughn noted that Patton Oswalt got a new six minutes out of one joke he had to change years ago for Comedy Central.
Vince Averill was more than just happy to be there. He only got the gig on Wednesday after another comedian couldn't fulfill his or her duties. From first alternate to TV credit. Congrats, Vince.
Lucas Molandes had a funny cover line when the audience didn't know how to react to his dreamcatcher joke: "Sorry I blew your minds with awesome!"
Joe List uses nervousness in his act, so even if he was nervous about his first TV taping, it wouldn't show, would it? Let's ask him, after he's done.
Sunday's final two show tapings had plenty of odd incidents, starting from the top when early show host D.L. Hughley walked offstage with the mic, leaving Paul Ogata wondering what to do. Fortunately, Ogata had a relevant bit at the ready and raring to go. Myq Kaplan blew plenty of minds with his awesomeness, earning multiple applause breaks and the attention of everyone downstairs in the lounge/green room. Very poised. Kaplan told me he had an even better set last week at a showcase for Eddie Brill -- if so, man, Kaplan is on his game. And he didn't let the cold/flu get in the way of delivering a shining performance that'll certainly get him industry attention. Hughley then got Liz Miele's name wrong even though they had the pronounciation in the teleprompter (they should clean that up later, right?) but she seemed unfazed. Shane Mauss, watching his fellow Bostonian Kaplan tear it up, announced he'd go up and get 12 applause breaks. He just might've done it, too. But what I remembered most about his set was seeing him have an "American Idol moment" when the camera panned across the stage and in close-up, Mauss gazed directly in the camera to deliver the set-up punch to his vegan coffee joke.
The biggest thing about the late show Sunday, other than Daniel Tosh and his strong hosting set, was the light show. As in, the lights failing multiple times, most notably during Matt Braunger's set. He was a trooper, though, even starting from the top a third time which must've been difficult considering he had a weary live TV audience to deal with (they can clean that up with his earlier takes, right?). The first time the lights went out on Braunger, without missing a beat, he broke into song: "When the lights...go down...in the city!" Tosh had to return to the stage. "The lights are overheating," he explained. "Which is really good for comedy." During one such break, he exclaimed: "Let's do jokes that won't air. Do you know who loves to get fisted? Sock puppets."
Mary Mack was very nice and funny and you can join us in her writers club, as soon as I find it.
Raj Desai and Anjelah Johnson were both so fun to talk to during the afterparty that I wished I'd seen their Gotham sets earlier last week. James Smith told me he forgot one joke in his set, but I told him not to worry...he can tell it during his next TV apperance! The afterparty brought out most of the comedians who performed during the weekend, plus their friends and plenty of other New York comics. Good times. On a Sunday, even.
Related: Paul Ogata shares his Gotham experience with the folks at Shecky. The Live at Gotham site.
As they say in France, que sera sera, je ne sais quoi -- which translates into not one but two cliches. As for French Canada and Montreal, what better way to close out the 25th anniversary of Just For Laughs than with a gala hosted by native son William Shatner. What's that? You didn't know the Shatner came from Montreal? Neither did I, my dear readers. Neither did I. The fest's grand finale (though the festival continues with a couple of shows on Sunday, Saturday night represented the blow-out of blow-out spectacular shows across the board) had the city's streets teeming with comedy fans, and other people, too. Let me share a few salient points and thoughts from Saturday night...
Is there a stage past post-ironic to describe the public persona of William Shatner, especially when he "sings" Canada's rock hits? Or is that simply called ironic? Where is Alanis when you need her?
Zach Galifianakis doesn't need a piano to be funny, although it certainly adds a little something something (perhaps that je ne sais quoi?) to observations such as: "At what age do you tell a highway it was adopted?"
I now have very mixed feelings about Canadian stand-up Gerry Dee. Why? Dee rocked the televised gala audience with his set Saturday night, but I had the strange sense that I had seen and heard it all before -- mostly because I had seen and heard it all before, as his 6-7 minute set virtually echoed the televised sets he had performed this year for both Comedy Central's "Live at Gotham" and NBC's "Last Comic Standing." Most stand-ups understand that any set they've done on national TV gets "burned" (aka retired), so what does this say (or what should I take it to mean) about the rest of Dee's material? Like I wrote, mixed feelings.
Bill Burr deserves a development deal, or a big break. I saw him crush both at the Shatner gala and much much later, past 2 a.m. Sunday, as the final comic in the "state of the fest" showcase, devoted to (as the program says) "this year's breakout acts and must-see talent." He actually closed both shows, for good reason. He literally is sincerely funny and brutally honest onstage.
What are the odds that out of several hundred patrons, the most drunken and annoying one gets seated front and center? Most comedy club customers will say they may fear sitting there for fear of getting picked on by the comedian. But the same is true for the performers, as the New Faces 2 showcase demonstrated Saturday night at Kola Note, with a guy talking to (and sometimes blurting out and yelling at) each of the comedians, publicly apologizing each time until he got kicked out of the show. As host Tom Papa discovered, every square inch of that customer's table was occupied by empty beer bottles. "Two hundred beers and a sailor with low self-esteem equals chaos!" Papa said.
The name "LaQuisha" always seems to get a laugh (New Face comedian Geoff Keith proved that again). Must be the "qu" sound. At least that's what the comedy textbooks say.
New York stand-up Kurt Metzger politely informed the Canadians "why America is like, the best country": We own the moon. "Where is the weird Quebec separatist flag on the moon?" Eh? Metzger also made a somewhat compelling case for why God could be a woman. I shan't dare repeat it here and now.
As New York stand-up Matt McCarthy (no relation, well, not to me, anyhow) and I decided, Montreal is like the French Texas of Canada. Just a little bit different. Acts like it's its own country. And as the other McCarthy said during his New Face showcase, "I have never seen so many churches and strip clubs in my life. Make up your minds!"
Speaking of Texas, New Face stand-up Lucas Molandes showed yet again that Austin breeds very smart and clever comedians. His closing bit on the war in Iraq involved a sexual conundrum between a raccoon and a cat, but he apologized by saying, "Sorry folks, I just read 'Animal Farm.'" A couple of his other touchy observations: Native Americans made the dreamcatcher, "but the one dream they couldn't catch was the American Dream." And reading Anne Frank's diary "taught me you can't hide from your problems." Yikes! Still quite funny, though.
Also quite funny: Tommy Johnagin. His performance could be used as evidence that "Last Comic Standing" does indeed find and put promising comedians on TV.
Andy Kindler really is the comedian's comedian.
Joey Kola's and Bobby Kelly's impersonations of a female voice sound oddly similar to an impersonation of Joe Pesci. I don't mean that as a funny like a clown way, either. Just funny. And that's a wrap for now. Time to catch a plane back to JFK.