Earlier this week, Nashville-based stand-up comedian Jesse Case proved he could make the Mormons laugh by winning the 2008 Rocky Mountain Laugh Off in Utah. Among comedy contests, the Laugh Off probably doesn't rank near the top, but consider this: Last year's winner, Marcus, took the momentum from that win into the following month's Seattle comedy contest, won that, and then took that momentum into his audition for Last Comic Standing, which eventually earned him second place and a nationwide tour. For his part, Case writes on his MySpace blog that he felt many of his fellow competitors deserve just as much attention as he does. Even in winning, Case notes that having stand-up comedy judged, scored and ranked is an "impossible" notion, and even more so in the Laugh Off, where the judges were randomly plucked from the audience?! Case writes:
"This is where the judging breaks down though. All of these guys should have done better. They should have placed better than they did. The fact that Andrew Sleighter, Dan Smith, and Tony Moschetto didn't tie for first every night tells you that there are flaws in the system. Those guys are GREAT comics, and destined for great things. Andrew just moved to Boston and will eventually, like most Boston comics, transition into New York, where he'll thrive. You can't just give 4 random people score-cards and expect fair results."
That said, we still congratulate Case on his win.
The Las Vegas Sun reports today that Iliza Shlesinger will claim part of her Last Comic Standing prize next week, joining the cast of Donn Arden's Jubilee! at Bally's Las Vegas from Aug. 24-27. And no, she won't be topless, you perverts. She'll be the stand-up comedian among the showgirls. Why such a short stint? Because she's joining the other four finalists on a nationwide tour starting Aug. 29, that's why.
I caught up with Shlesinger this afternoon to find out what she has been up to, and this was her reply via email:
I've been going up twice a night every night since the last show, sort of polishing any jokes that needed work. Las Vegas will be relaxing and a ton of fun. Quite frankly, I wish I could come back home and do more spots in the Original Room at the Comedy Store -- that place is a fantastic training ground.
Everyone keeps making an issue out of the fact that Shlesinger is the first female comedian to win LCS. Louis Ramey took issue with the show in an interview he did last week, saying his fans were more likely to DVR and TiVo the show, rather than watching it live. On the show, cameras captured Ramey trying to get his fellow male comedians to keep Shlesinger off camera. He told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune: "It's the show's sixth year and they never had a woman win," Ramey said. "Through the whole life of the show, they kept saying 'A woman has never won. Could it be Iliza?' That's when I went, 'That sounds too planned; we have to get rid of Iliza.' So I pulled the other guys aside (during the second elimination round) and said, 'We've got to stop voting for Iliza.'" In the Desert News, meanwhile, reporter Scott D. Pierce said Marcus was the real winner, and only lost because he split the male vote. Shlesinger defended herself in a recent conference call with reporters, saying “I think to a lot of people it means a lot of different things,” she said during a conference call with reporters. “But for me, I’m just Iliza and I won. I’m a comedian that won. The female thing I can’t comment on because I just don’t feel that in my heart.”
I asked her about this, too, and her response to the whole debate? "Who cares, really?" She continued:
I'm a comedian and I happen to be a women. While I realized that it's not so cut and dry for most people- I can't do anything but be honest. I didn't win this show for any other reason than I worked the hardest and earned it. I performed every week and never ran out of material and consistently delivered good stuff. Funny is funny and America got that.
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.
That's right. Iliza Shlesinger is your sixth winner of Last Comic Standing. Congrats, Iliza. You get a pile of cash, a development deal, and a new car, right? Wow. Here is a clip! Marcus finished runner-up.
Did you have TV/DVR issues last night? If you were in the New York City and Cleveland areas, at least, then you most certainly did, because preseason NFL action pre-empted the finale of NBC's Last Comic Standing, and some reports from the field say the show, if it aired at all last night, aired at 3 a.m.!? Other folks had TVs telling them LCS would air at 10 p.m., only to find America's Got Talent on their recordings. Nice work, Peacock Network. Nice work.
Anyhow, Shlesinger's MySpace page already is newly tricked out to celebrate her victory. She becomes the first woman to win this stand-up competition. I'd say I'm surprised, but I'm not. As I noted earlier, NBC showcased Shlesinger more than the other finalists, and with her being the only one in the final five to get primetime airtime twice in elimination challenges, plus being the only female in a five-way call-in vote, she had a decided advantage in getting support. She also was the final finalist to perform last week, so viewers had her more on their brains when the voting lines opened. That's not to detract from her victory. But I'm still a bit weirded out by NBC's decision to make this finale a five-way vote, as well as the decisions to pre-tape both the final and last week's final competition show, instead of going live. Perhaps that says something about how the network feels about LCS after all of these years.
You will get to see Shlesinger and a few of the other finalists live on a nationwide tour that begins later this month.
Also, I heard some buzz that Barry Katz, one of the LCS executive producers and Dane Cook's manager, is looking to manage not only Shlesinger but also two of the other finalists. You should not need more than two guesses to figure out who those other stand-up comedians would be.
Stay tuned for more info about the tour and everything else.
This is shaping up to be the screwiest finale in Last Comic Standing since the whodunit that ended season three's "all-star" challenge round. For one thing, will anyone in the New York City area find out who won?
NBC says the finale airs tonight from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., but the NYC affiliate is airing the New York Giants preseason (preseason!) football game then, and telling viewers that LCS will air afterward, and only from 10 to 11 p.m. Where will the other half-hour go, pray tell? Seriously. What gives? And that's beside the fact that your season six winner essentially gets crowned by a toss-up call-in vote (or producer finagling, for you conspiracy theorists with a touch of reality TV cynicism) among five people. You could win a five-way vote with only 21 percent, you know. Twenty-one percent. That's telling America you're their favorite, isn't it?!
So...who will win? Let's assess.
Marcus probably is the betting favorite. He won last year's Seattle comedy competition. He does voices. Lots of voices. And people like impersonations. Even the hacky ones. You know why? Because hack works. That's why it's hack in the first place -- hack comedy is stuff that is so popular and consistently successful that other comedians say it's unworthy for achieving real laughs. But getting real laughs out of three Playboy Playmates got Marcus a free pass into this finale. And all of his voices, even Christopher Walken, make audiences smile and laugh...and vote.
Louis Ramey is a veteran road comic. NBC loved using him over and over again in promo ads to tease this season. He made a broad appeal to viewers with his pandering patriotism set in the finale. Could that work? Perhaps. Aside from Marcus, Ramey is the only American in this finale field with enough material to headline clubs and the oncoming LCS tour. He could win. Producers wouldn't mind in the slightest if he won, either.
Jim Tavare. He's British. He has a proven track record in the UK. And his shtick has survived two decades of performing. Is that enough? Guessing not.
Iliza Shlesinger. The only female in this bunch. Works a Dane Cook stage persona so effectively that even the show's producers (one of whom is Barry Katz, aka Cook's manager) have noticed the similarities. And everyone has noticed her cleavage, for better or for worse. Shlesinger obviously hopes all of those Google oogle oglers cast millions of votes for her to win. She's the only one of the five to take part in the live audience challenges this season. Odd, but true. That means viewers have seen and heard more from her than the others. She's so fresh in the stand-up game, though, and I don't think she's ready just yet to headline. Making her the winner might be too much. But no female has won LCS before.
Jeff Dye. Like Shlesinger, he is young and attractive and has a lot of fans because of it. People Google phrases such as "is Jeff Dye nice?" and "is Jeff Dye single?" Seriously. They do. And yes, he is nice. Not married. I expect many women voted for him because of this. Also an odd choice for a winner because, while he is funny and nice and has a good stage presence, he's not a headliner yet. But if NBC is looking to be a star-maker, they could be looking at Dye as a younger, fresher Dane Cook. His odds are as good as Shlesinger's.
But it's a five-person race. So, really, anyone could win. Does that make any sense, though? We'll find out tonight.
Looky looky! It's Bill Bellamy and Brit Lady (Cotton Fearne!), back together for the audience finale vote on Last Comic Standing! This doesn't look taped at all, except I know it's taped because finalist Jeff Dye is in Chattanooga, Tenn., right now performing at a comedy club...all I know for sure at this moment is that Marcus will be around for the finale next week, and that all of the top 12 will be there for one reason or another...
What's this? The Dan Band? These audience cutaways seem as if they do not fit. Or the audience has gotten more than plenty of a serving of happy juice! All of the finalists are coming up with one-liners for why they'll be the last comic standing...ooh! "I'm Ron G and I'll be the last comic standing because I make this microphone look sexy!" "I'm Adam Hunter, and I'm going to be the last comic standing because I want to prove that blondes have more fun!" "I'm Jeff Dye, I'm going to be the last comic standing because I can do 17 push-ups in an hour...believe it!" "I am Jim Tavare, and I am going to be the last comic standing because I am the new Miley Cyrus of comedy!" "I'm Marcus, and I'll be the last comic standing, because just like Jack Black, I keep things rocking! Let's go!" "I'm Iliza Shlesinger, and I'll be the last comic standing, because out of all of these guys, I'm the most experienced...winning!" "I'm Louis Ramey, and I'll be the last comic standing, because I'm huggable. Come to daddy, America!" "I'm Sean Cullen, and I'll be the last comic standing, because I've dreamed about it...since I was a little girl!" OK. This was taped. But Brit Lady is here, so I have no need to fear. Right?
No. Fear. Fear! Strange but true, this year's competition is coming down to a five-way vote. Which means this year's Last Comic Standing will win based on at least 21 percent of America's phone and online voting tendencies...congratulations, comedy!
Marcus, guaranteed a spot in the final five, goes first. He reveals that he worked at a radio station for two years for no pay (!) and that the local club in Utah, Wiseguys, eventually asked him to come down and perform after hearing all of his impersonations and whatnots. His "live" set focuses on the things you can and cannot bring on a plane (you can bring a wrench!), the lyrical stylings of Eddie Vedder, Aaron Neville's multiple syllables, Motown nostalgia, and versus new songs, such as "lady humps." It's very engaging for the crowd in Las Vegas, with broad appeal to whomever may be watching at home. Do you like music? Any kind of music? This set is for you. He gets a standing ovation. Will everyone this night?
Next up, Ron G, who goes home again. Onstage, he has a vest and a tie, so you know he's serious about this night. How are you supposed to be a thug with a retainer in your mouth? Um, I don't know. Church isn't the same with a Bluetooth in Hollywood. Love the graphics reminding me not to change the channel and stick around to vote. He has a series of jokes about the various commercials you may see on late-night television. But Ron G has been eliminated from the competition. Dunzo! He tells Brit Lady he appreciates the chance and the fans.
Last Comic Driving? Remember that? You don't? Oh, here was a very very very quick reminder. Hope you didn't fast forward through it.
Brit Lady gets more hosting duties, yay! Here comes Jim Tavare, with double references for you audience members (The Hills Are Alive, or Uncle Fester, you pick). He calls for a rescue dog. One-liners aplenty. What's wrong with his Hendrix impersonation? But can he play the bass? Brit Lady delivers the news...and...he's in the top five! Hooray for the U.K., Brit Lady!
Oh, Brit Lady is hosting so we can have Bill Bellamy do stand-up...he jokes about visiting Idaho and being in the outdoors...cut to white people having fun...phew. That's over.
But now we get an extended preview of an upcoming NBC competition...America's Toughest Jobs. It's not supposed to be comedy, so stop laughing.
Louis Ramey gets the childhood photo treatment next, and Ramey does a pretend version of running around on the New York City club circuit for the cameras makey nicey. The Amish pay in cheese? His jacket looks like it fits better this week. He jokes about Amish gangs. Also about Houma, Louisiana. And a twist on a terrorist alert joke. A big redneck twist. And he's still in it to win it!
Adam Hunter wrestled in high school. This news does not surprise me. He attacks the stage and looks like a scrapper. No, that's a good thing. Right? Jokes about San Francisco, cocaine, pot, rappers, George Bush Speak N Spell, Obama is black, McCain is old, more drugs, sex, strip clubs. All over the place. He is a New York guy doing Los Angeles comedy. Does that make sense to anyone? He has been eliminated. The crowd boos.
Jeff Dye. They show lots of clips from Seattle, so that gets my vote. Gives a shout-out to his parents, then proceeds to joke about them. Before and afterward, he delivers the set he gave earlier this month at Montreal New Faces. Pan out to show the audience clapping enthusiastically. We're thinking he goes through...and...he did!
Cullen goes back to Toronto, where they love him already. Wow. Did you see some of those flashback stage shots. Did he have long curly hair at one point? We believe he did. He threatens to spin into the crowd with his pinwheels and fists of death. Jokes about Sean Connery and his amazing ability with accents. Why Australia can never have a James Bond villain. Why Neil Young and REM won't do Bond theme songs, which lets him sing some more.
Shlesinger, too, goes home again. She jokes about her Olympic experience being limited to Beer Pong. She wears a tight red shirt, which explains the pervy Google searches already heading this way (calm down, people). Why did you send that 40-page blank fax, again? Jokes about former co-workers. Iliza isn't as energetic as usual in this performance, slowing things down just a bit. A poised, confident five minutes.
And the final spot goes to...Iliza Shlesinger! Which means your final five for season six are: Marcus, Jim Tavare, Louis Ramey, Jeff Dye and Iliza Shlesinger. Would it have turned out this way with additional weeks of challenges? We'll never find out. Nor will we get to see the final five whittle down, one by one. Instead, come back next week and find out who won.
We're down to the final 8 comedians on season six of Last Comic Standing, and already, we're being promised a conclusion that lets us vote -- plus hints that the vote moves people into "the final" -- so will we speed up to the finish in time for the Summer Olympics? Perhaps.
Everyone still in the house is talking about Iliza Shlesinger, who has taken out four other comedians already, and wondering if they should not challenge her ever. Nice strategy, fellas.
Another pointless sight gag challenge that has no consequences?! That's right. Our comedians go to a sushi house and have to perform jokes for four tables: Female bodybuilders, Deal or No Deal models, frat boys and little people. Adam Hunter's energy easily gets the Suitcase Sorority giggling, while Ron G is distracted by the ladies (theme alert!). Marcus resorts to his Christopher Walken, again. This is pointless. Let's get to the real challenge, already. The comics return to the house to find breast implant helpers (cutlets!) on their pillows. Whatever could it be? We know, because they've teased us with the Playboy Mansion! Lots of bouncy bouncy! Our comedians pick titles, then have to come up with bedtime stories for The Girls Next Door, aka Hef's girlfriends, aka the Hugh Hefner Playboy Playmates with a TV show on E!
First up: Ron G, with "Jack and the Bean Stalker." Ron cannot stop looking at Kendra, and this gets him off track multiple times, but he recovers by ad-libbing a rhyme about Hef and the Bunnies. When he leaves, we learn that they liked him. Not so much for Adam Hunter, who really tried to come up with a story for "I'm The Same Age as My New Mommy." Know your audience. "Hit that, Adam," joked Mr. Sean Cullen. Iliza Shlesinger, with "The Pirate, The T. Rex, and Grandma," may have had the toughest sales job as the only female stand-up left, but the Bunnies compliment her before she even begins. Her story has the three titular characters (that's not a play on words, people!) as competing Playmates. Could she win immunity?! Louis Ramey had to tell, "The Princess Who Had to Pee," which isn't quite how his fantasy started, and yet, the Bunnies are in suspense. They think it's an actual bedtime story. "Dragons Just Don't Understand," by Sean Cullen, is a fanciful tale with big words, and Bunnies just don't understand. "It might have been that I smelled of rotten squash," he quips afterward.
Last Comic Driving, still!?!? It's my only chance to see my dear Brit Lady Cotton Fearne, and Ben Morrison is getting in the way by telling jokes from the passenger seat involving text messaging.
Marcus has "All Dogs Go to Heaven, but Grandpa Didn't," and it's told via Morgan Freeman, Adam Sandler, Gilbert Gottfried, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, and of course, Christopher Walken. "I'm going to bring in the voices," he says. "It's going to be the thunder." Playmates don't know no hack, don't you know. Jim Tavare, with "Pretty People Always Get Their Way," takes the ladies back in time. He got them with his closing line, though. Jeff Dye gets to tell them "Daddy Loves Mommy, Mommy Loves Lattes," and gives Bridget several nicknames, which they like. Dye has his feet on the bed. They remember the Brizzle My Nizzle line, which I think they came up with themselves. And that's why the Playmates chose to award immunity to...Marcus! He brought the thunder.
"For the rest of you, it's just not that easy," host Bill Bellamy intones. Uh-oh. The other seven all will perform for America's votes. What does this mean, exactly? Everyone not named Marcus is anxious and nervous and other words that mean those emotions. So they prepare a Last Comic Standing Last Supper, and there's a montage of those left behind.
On the bus ride, Shlesinger says she's doing some brand-new jokes tonight, "which is always a bad idea," Ramey replies (off the bus). Hair and makeup, people! Producers try to build up the tension level with all sorts of little scenes and whatnots before we get to the actual show. Adam Hunter is up first, and he's so broke he is combining his foods. Hunter's stage presence is a bit frantic, but perhaps that's because he is trying to get so many premises across in a short set. Shlesinger remains committed to telling new jokes, and she goes after how women relate to each other, and does a few big act-outs. Next: Sean Cullen in a suit. Singing. To support the farmers? An appeal to the heartland voters out there? He's silly enough that it might work. Jim Tavare brings his tux and his double bass back to the stage. Wait. Bellamy just said "next week's final," so this means we're speeding to the finish, alrighty! Congrats to Marcus for getting a speed pass. But back to Tavare. Quick and clever one-liners. Tavare balances on his instrument, so to speak, to win you over. Did it work? Jeff Dye chose a bright orange shirt for the evening, so at least you'll remember him. He jokes about how childhood favorite movies might not hold up when you watch them again as adults, such as The Sound of Music? He acts out a homeless guy reciting his favorite things. Maybe Super Mario is homeless, too. Just ask Dye to tell you why. Ron G wishes Marcus was in this contest, but Ron G has to go onstage now instead, and he wants to know where the single people are at, and why they're not leaving MySpace comments or missed calls on the phone. He keeps mugging as Bellamy recites the voting details. One more performance, and it's Louis Ramey, who jokes about the book, "The Female Orgasm," (men don't need a book), and other sex tips, such as adding food to the proceedings. If a man wants to cover you in honey and lick it all? "That's a man that's never done it before." His set on sex is just edgy enough for primetime TV without being bleeped. So...how many people get to make it to the finals? Tell us! Tell us! Next week is the final performance show, so get to it, people.
UPDATED: Here is NBC's two-minute recap for you. If you cannot watch Hulu (I see you, Canadians!), then watch it here.
Too late to vote now, sorry!
You can vote up to 10 times per person on NBC.com, or call one of these limited-time-only numbers to support your favorite... Adam Hunter: 1-877-FUNNY-01 Iliza Shlesinger: 1-877-FUNNY-02 Sean Cullen: 1-877-FUNNY-03 Jim Tavare: 1-877-FUNNY-04 Jeff Dye: 1-877-FUNNY-05 Ron G: 1-877-FUNNY-06 Louis Ramey: 1-877-FUNNY-07
Getting in the mood for tonight's new episode of Last Comic Standing, let's relive the fun of last week's episode (especially since three of the final 10 comedians and myself were in Montreal at the time)...so, let the foolishness begin!
Iliza Shlesinger returns triumphant from her showdown with Ku and God's Pottery, and gets kudos from Marcus "she just owned that stage" and deserved to win, while Paul Foot and Papa CJ think she's vulnerable (foreshadowing a spoiler alert!!!). Oh, you crazy editors.
Comic Car Wash? I certainly hope this is as productive as the calendar shoot was...and can I hit the fast-forward button yet?...wait, what happened that put Jim Tavare on crutches? Now that would be interesting on camera...no? This is some morbid variation on that whole Last Comic Driving scam, because our comedians are telling jokes to the car wash participants for tips, or something, and whomever gets the biggest tips wins something or other? Cue the everyone gets wet montage. Is it wrong for me to be staring? Ad break!
Comedians get a barrel of carrots and overthink the challenge, because, yes, it's Carrot Top! They head to a Bed, Bath and Beyond and get "mad props" -- racing around the store to find props and whomever does them thar prop comedy the best wins immunity. "This is kind of funny that I'm teaching you!" Carrot Top tells the finalists. Well said, sir. Well said. So The Top Propster trots out some examples to share with the wannabes. George Bush's "decision master" is a tank on a map. Bobby Brown's new book is powdered. Get it? Got it? Good. Now run through the store. You figure it out. Ron G. suddenly has a mohawk...is that his prop? And it's showtime for our judge, Sir Top Carrot of Muscle Mania Man, and a live audience (and where from whence did they come?). "Where did they get these people," Sean Cullen asks. "Well, I guess they live here."
Up first, Louis Ramey. Sushi at night? Better luck with a light bulb affixed to the bottom of a pot thing, and with the shower curtain postcards. Then Marcus, who you'd think would do something, like when unicorns need braces? Lifetime's version of Iron Man? A Tommy Lee jokes gets a thumb's up and a smile from Carrot Muscles. Ron G., however, has jokes but not so much with the props. "This is not what I do," Ron G. acknowledges to the cameras. Papa CJ reimagines flashing headlights, so to speak, and does not know props, or how to make people laugh. Sean Cullen? Well, he tried, at least.
Last Comic Driving is still going?!?!? Ah, Brit lady. I miss you so. Tom Clark is in the hot seat. Wow, that was quick. Moving on...
Adam Hunter gets his chance, goes after Tom Cruise, Flavor Flav, O.J. Simpson, Paris Hilton. Um. OK. Jim Tavare opens with wordplay. Carrot Top said he was "clever." Iliza Shlesinger shows us Khloe Kardashian's foot corn pads, a mouse saddle she made, and, well, here's Paul Foot to dazzle us. Or not. I don't know what's going on here, and I don't think he did, either. Jeff Dye gets to close, it seemed, and goes for quick movie re-enactments which seem to work well with the live audience. And Big Red awards immunity to...Jeff Dye for his originality! Big Red knows enough to mock himself.
Back at the house, Ramey notices that the young comics are more insecure and therefore more likely to lash out at one another. Like, say, for instance, Foot throwing a nerf gun off of the balcony, perhaps? That won't win him any votes, unless he wants to get voted for elimination. Ramey predicts that the showdown will come down to Foot, CJ and Shlesinger, with Shlesinger prevailing again. Anyone want to bet against that? In the cemetery, host Bill Bellamy got outfitted in crazy again. Suddenly, Tavare is off crutches again. The votes are in...Ramey, CJ, Foot, Hunter, Tavare, Foot, Ramey, CJ, Foot, CJ...so Paul Foot and Papa CJ each get three votes, and they bring Shlesinger into the ring with them. Good luck with that, fellas.
Shlesinger says she'll use her Los Angeles residency to her advantage, while the boys backstage think it's going to get messy. Foot goes first. Puts awkward foot forward, trying to explain how he doesn't like early to bed, early to rise people. Eventually gets applause. Nervous giggles. Man, he's making me nervous with the pacing and the stammering and the looking at his watch. Shlesinger goes second. Reminds the audience what it was like to play high school sports, joking about the coaches. More nostalgia: You guys remember the game Oregon Trail? Yay, audience says. Other things and movements. Gets applause from the boys in the back. CJ goes last. Seems unfazed about it, and his opening joke about "L.A. being the most beautiful part of Mexico" gets a good reaction. Doesn't like "random" selection for airport searches. Again with the deliberate pointing at a front-row guy for no reason whatsoever. Don't mess with Indians, he threatens. He fails miserably with an Iraqi joke. Tries recovering with that old Hindu reincarnation joke, plus going back to the guy in the audience who wasn't asking for it. Ugh. Even the boys know CJ did the same jokes he did in Vegas. And the audience votes for...Iliza Shlesinger, with 62 percent of the vote! Bye bye, Paul Foot and Papa CJ.
The rest of you kids, I'll see you back here tonight with a new LCS recap!
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.
After all of this, we have come to this...the second semifinal round in Las Vegas, where another 16 stand-ups will be cut down to five (make that seven) finalists for the sixth season of Last Comic Standing. Time to deadblog it now! Esther Ku tells the NBC cameras if she makes the final five, she will cry onstage...so get ready for that in about two hours. Oh, look, little people impersonations of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and Kiss. This should be a fun 118 minutes, right? Belzer and Schirripa are back as judges.
First up, Marcus. Adam Sandler and Al Pacino? More foreshadowing, people. Wait. What's this? A routine on the Willy Wonka movie being both great and scary. These are not celebrity voices, per se. Maybe this is how Marcus won the Seattle comedy contest last fall. Closes with a song suggesting the Oompa Loompas get sent for Britney Spears. Schirripa begs for impersonations. So we get: Christopher Walken. Out of all the ones to pick. Walken. Not that the audiences minds one bit as they're crazy for Marcus. Two standing ovations. One in. Who are the other four? Stay tuned. If you want to see 20 minutes of Marcus from the Seattle contest, then ta...da!
Dan Cummins is next, pre-show informing us how the power of primetime TV can turn his current fan base of about 40 per show into several hundred. He tells the audience he has "brought three minutes of great jokes." What tattoo would he get on his face? That's one of several premises that works.
Iliza Shlesinger is now billed as hailing from Dallas, which, considering she lives in L.A., is another sign that NBC (and perhaps Shlesinger) are marketing her for a wider audience. She says backstage she's here to win. Her MySpace profile says she is 25. That is young for stand-up comedy. Then again, I know at least one guy that young who already is brilliant. Just saying. Let's cut to a commercial.
Eddie Pepitone! Opens with a fairly ordinary yet relatable joke about being big enough that when he drops something, he now has to wonder whether it's worth trying to pick it up. He has two cats, and talks to them. He also gets heckled and wonders what it would be like if he got heckled by someone who really knew him. This bit I have seen him do and it is sublime. But is this enough? He'd certainly liven up the comedian house.
Papa CJ came all the way from New Delhi, India, to be here. He opens with an outsourcing joke. Take that, Americans! He directs one joke to a guy in the front row, getting into a crouch to deliver a comeback that wasn't prompted just so he can joke about Hindu reincarnation. Hmmm. OK. Backstage, he tells sparkly Brit lady that he had a lovely time. Lovely.
This week on Last Comic Driving, it's Erik Griffin! I believe I met him in Las Vegas last fall during The Comedy Festival. Not that you care. He's OK. It's not up to me. It's up to you kids and your secret online ballots.
Belzer and Schirripa loved Stone & Stone in the New York auditions. Will the love continue? There already is one duo in the house, and so I'm going to vote no. Even though the audience doesn't seem to mind the twins talking over each other all the time. But the cameras cut to a middle-aged guy with his arms crossed. Belzer reiterates his love for the fellas. So to speak.
This next person, Bellamy tells us, may be "the next great voice in comedy." It's Mary Mack. And no, fans of Maria Bamford, Mack and Bamford are not alike, just because their speaking voices sound that way. They are both great. But different. Bamford's voices help her tell her story. Mack is about off-kilter jokes. And musical instruments. "Rural is a word you can say both drunk and sober," Mack tells us. And she tells her mom: "If you didn't want me to be a comedian, you shouldn't have boozed it up in your fourth trimester!" Give it up for Mary Mack, everybody. Schirripa calls her "a great writer" but then says she makes him sleepy. Lasagna also has that effect on him.
Bob Biggerstaff is up next. He misses pagers. Who knew? He's not as much of a fan of the cummerbund. He's doing well, but the cameras aren't telling us that -- they're saying he's just doing OK, but not well enough for a slot in the house. "I killed it," Biggerstaff jokes as he walks offstage.
The next comic is desperate? That's what Bellamy says. It's Louis Ramey from Atlanta. The tallest man in Singapore. By the way, if you want to know who's still in the race for Last Comic Standing, a visit to their MySpace profile offers hints, such as, oh, they put Last Comic Standing in their titles and headlines. Now Ramey is doing the same jokes he did in his short routine in the New York City regionals. Which means he was right in the pre-show interview when he said he really, really wants to win. He will tell the jokes he feels he needs to get to the next level.
Sean Cullen also really wants to win. Well, don't they all, when it comes down to it? Cullen is Canada's last hope in this competition. He is not afraid to go after the "whatever happens in Vegas" slogan. And a song. About porn. Another comic who crouches down to play to the front row in a crowd of thousands. Interesting choice. But as I know and you know and now we know, Cullen played a big Vegas stage last fall for the Ellen Degeneres variety show that was part of The Comedy Festival.
John Evans from Minneapolis will prove to the kids that he really is a stand-up comedian. Even if someone thinks he looks like Count Chocula. He's married, so he doesn't really care what you think. Cut to cleavage! We'll be seeing him at breakfast, at least.
Heath Hyche describes his act as a one-man sketch energy show. He's got props, people. And voices. He told us he wants us to rethink what comedy is all about. Done. Belzer and Schirripa are not having any of it. We them shake their heads in shame. Don't they know Hyche appeared on the sketch TV version of Blue Collar TV? Belzer says he is "allergic to ethnic stereotyping in 2008." Wonder what he'll say after Ku's performance? Of course you do. You're spellbound at this point. But you'll have to wait through at least another commercial break, or two, or more.
Ku is next. Esther Ku to you. She opens by joking about how she can sleep in class and no one would know. Jokes about not being able to tell fellow Koreans apart. Hey, a joke about putting a "Made in Korea" sticker on her brother's butt isn't self-hating. A lot of guys want to buy her dinner. Would you? Schirripa would, although he deflects it to the crowd. Belzer reveals his crush. He says, if you make fun of your own ethnicity, it's cool by him. So that explains that. Wonder what he'd think of her black jokes?
Jackie Kashian cannot wait to use a big bag of money as a doorstop after she wins. She is not from Milwaukee, but from South Milwaukee. Make a note of it. She is mouthy because her parents were funny. As a kid, she wanted to be blind so she could get a dog. Want to know what her parents thought about that? You really should be watching the show. Her parents really do sound crazy. You'll have to wait to find out more about that, though.
Pete Lee moved away from the Midwest so he could go back to the Midwest and make it through to the semis in Las Vegas. I just heard Lee will get to do a half-hour Comedy Central Presents later this summer, so that's a consolation prize already (if he needs a consolation prize). Opens with jokes about his name as a car horn. Baseball. Sex in a car wash?
Lastly, Jim Tavare from the U.K., and he got decked out for this, in tails, with his big ol' bass. He can show you after, if you'd like. He was part of The Sketch Show, which means I probably even saw him back in 2002 in Aspen. But all of my memories of that are fuzzy. Belzer says "very, very good." Did you know Tavare had a TV show back in the day named for him that also featured Ricky Gervais? Now you know.
Which means one more break and we're ready to announce our final finalists, right? Right.
Moving on and moving into a house together in Hollywood...Marcus! Jim Tavare! Esther Ku! Papa CJ! Sean Cullen! There are two tickets left? Oh, OK then. Iliza Shlesinger! Louis Ramey! How very international, this group.
They join the other finalists: God's Pottery, Adam Hunter, Rob G, Paul Foot and Jeff Dye.
Coming soon: Yo Momma jokes in a boxing ring, silly outfits, Ku's laugh, challenges and more. Come back next Thursday!
So we begin the sixth season of NBC's Last Comic Standing, and already it's clear they're still playing from the American Idol of Comedy playbook, what with host Bill Bellamy delivering the introduction...wait for it...turn on the lights...to a large audience! Get it? This is big, people. Anyhow. We're going to endure plenty of people plucked from the lines for the sole purpose of mocking them because they're willing to be mocked to get on TV, plus hundreds more who now will be billed in comedy clubs as "as seen on Last Comic Standing," even though you never saw their names and perhaps never heard them deliver a funny joke on the program.
The opening montage, already leaked to the Internets weeks ago, includes Eddie Pepitone, Michelle Buteau, Dwayne Perkins and a bunch of fools. Celebrity judges get billed as NBC talent, even if you'd never link them to NBC. Although Dave Foley delivers a funny line we'll hear again later this season, after Richard Kind says "Dreams, just crushed," retorting: "You know, then we can make dream juice, and that's refreshing in the morning." Yes, we will suffer, too, watching the parade of audition rejects before we can get to the actual professional comedians, and yes, just as with Idol, producers will select several acts merely for casting a TV show than for their talents as a comedian. Also, FYI: Jay Mohr still gets a consultant credit this year. Some British lady (Fearne Cotton) is out on the streets near Gotham Comedy Club talking about all of the people who showed up for the open call (as if they'll ever get picked for this). Cue the montage of people walking into the room. Split-second looks. Hey, that's a guy with an online comedy radio program. Hey, there's our judges for New York City, Richard Belzer and Steve Schirripa. Belzer's comedy career goes back decades, even though he's more known for being Detective Munch on TV for years. Schirripa, meanwhile, has run a comedy room in Vegas for years, even though he's known pretty much only for being Bobby on The Sopranos. So keep this in mind. Also, I was at the NYC callbacks and saw Belzer and Schrripa personally talk up a few of the acts, while plenty of others got kicked out prematurely for little or no good reason. Want to see what I saw behind the scenes? Click here.
Anyhow. First up is someone in a half-chicken suit, Buck B'Gak? Montage of awfulness. Louis Ramey, billed as Forest Hills!, does a black guy in Aspen bit and a Detroit is tough bit, and because producers set this up with special camera time, we know he'll go through. More faces. Baron Vaughn and Ophira Eisenberg get split-second shots, but no talky talk. There's a "what are you gonna do" montage. Adam Sank is a gay Jew who worked at Fox News, so he gets to come back, although Schrripa makes a bad gay joke in doing so. Esther Ku is 24? That is not something I knew before. Cameras follow her around the city as she talks to her mom on the cell phone. Ku took part in last year's NBC Stand-Up For Diversity program, so the network knew about her already. And she makes Belzer laugh out loud. Wins them over, anyhow. A montage of freakiness, paused for a few seconds to allow ventriloquist Carla Rhodes to bring out her Keith Richards dummy. God's Pottery gets some advance billing, performing on the streets and playgrounds of Brooklyn, before cutting to the club audition for their Christian folk duo routine. I saw these guys last year at the Montreal festival and they drew raves. The judges here clearly get it, saying as much. But even now, months afterward, I'm still confused how they're supposed to compete in a stand-up contest -- especially one with challenges and so forth. Speaking of which, after a commercial break, it's Stone and Stone, identical twin brothers who talk over each other. This is going to be annoying, hilarious, or both. You pick. There's another montage of folks in a confessional booth of some sort. Then we get the return of Dan Naturman, only the show hasn't set this up yet, and Naturman's delivery has the judges confused, but in a good way. Susannah Perlman gets to walk around the sidewalk in different costumes, and we're led to believe something will come of this, but instead, she's being set up for a big fall. Comics forgetting their punchlines. There's a bad baby montage -- which we saw coming, but Myq Kaplan didn't know this when he went onstage with a guitar, and got dismissed before playing said guitar. Gently weeping. Al Jackson gets the reality TV role of guy chasing dreams as his wife gives birth, and his Bush joke gets him a callback. Marc Theobald's teeth get a laugh. Dan Curry works in a sex joke around Kevin Bacon. Michelle Buteau gets Facebooked!
At the callback performance show...Sank opens with Project Runway jokes. God's Pottery has a song for Jews. Curry sends a text message to the wrong friend and big laughs. Ku is joking backstage with some comic that's never introduced to us. Her set's not the best, but she's cute and confident. Jackson's wife and newborn get camera time.
During a commercial break, we get...Last Comic Driving? That British lady's the one driving, though, so it's Last Comic Shotgun, as, one a time, presumably, we'll get a comedian trying to tell jokes to hostages in the back seat. That sounds like it's never going to work. But one comic will win $10,000 somehow??? Online voting. That's how. Oh. No. Anyhow. Andrew Norelli is up first. He tells jokes about plastic surgery, former models and people who aren't quite broke. Oh, wait. I get it. The comic who wins this also gets a new car, so he/she will be driving that. Moving on...
Naturman jokes about how no one predicted the Internet, not even Star Trek. Theobald jokes about candles. Ramey plays pranks at tanning salons. Angry Bob is, well, angry. Buteau filled out credit card applications for candy bars? Hello! Stone and Stone are still talking over each other. That's the act.
The called backs are assembled onstage, and we see Aparna and Costaki and Jon Fisch and that still-unidentified woman, even though we've never seen or heard from them on the show yet. Does that even count? Hmmm. Getting red envelopes, at least on camera, are Ramey, the Stone twins, Ku, God's Pottery and Naturman. Did some people get robbed? Yes. Of course they did. Aparna even vanished from the stage (she got a ticket, only something must have happened).
Next stop: Tempe, Ariz.!