George Lopez said last night on his show that Michelle Buteau was a part of the Lopez Tonight family, which I think means that she works there, and not that he had adopted her as a daughter, although it really could mean both. Who said it? Yeah, I said it!
Buteau made her debut stand-up performance on the show, and joked about not seeing any black people in Utah, as well as how she recently married a European man. Go, girl! Roll that clip.
If you're not a regular watcher of the TLC cable channel, then you probably have a healthy and sensible life and think it stands for...oh, the heck with this intro. Even if you don't watch the TLC program, 19 Kids & Counting -- the only series on the TV that has to change its title every season because its cast keeps making babies -- seriously, Duggar family, you can stop now. Or maybe you can just tune into the Internet and see how Front Page Films shows all of the things you don't see on TLC about the Duggars. Or, well, let's call them Bill and Jean Engvall, as played by Pete Holmes and Katina Corrao, with help from J.P. (Matt McCarthy), cousin Jamie (Jamie Lee), eldest son Bill Jr., or B.J. (Nate Fernald) and his girlfriend (Heidi Niedermeyer). It's "Kid Farm!"
Fun facts: Holmes and Lee, who co-created and co-wrote "Kid Farm!", were once a couple themselves. Also: Lee is on this season of NBC's Last Comic Standing. And Holmes, who just left NYC for L.A. to be a writer on NBC's Outsourced, is appearing as a father with a baby strapped to him in a currently running Lowe's TV ad for Father's Day, which is Sunday. Fun facts! OK, roll the trailer:
Oh, that was Michelle Buteau as the grocery store cashier who cannot believe what mama Jean is doing, and says so in very NSFW terms. See more of her and everyone else in these deleted scenes and outtakes:
Labor Day weekend in Seattle means the biggest music and arts fest of the year there, aka Bumbershoot. A decade ago, the weekend attracted names both big and small in music to come together in celebration of culture and all things good and fun, with one show or maybe two devoted on the side to comedy. Well, one look at the 2008 Bumbershoot comedy schedule shows how far we've come, with three full days and nights of funny in multiple venues this weekend. Human Giant will be there. So, too, will Janeane Garofalo, Marc Maron, Tom Rhodes, Doug Benson, Hannibal Buress, Jessi Klein, TJ Miller, Nick Thune, Michelle Buteau, the People's Republic of Komedy, Vince Averill, Tig Notaro, Greg Behrendt, The Sound of Young America Live!, UCB-LA's MySpace show, and many more.
It's also a time for sad and glad news. Sad? Final weekend for the Mainstage Comedy crew on Queen Anne (as reported by the Seattle Comedy Blog). Waiting for the full story on that development. On the other hand: Glad?
The Comedy Underground finally gets to reopen in its new location a couple of blocks over in Pioneer Square at 109 S. Washington St., with a grand reopening debut UPDATED: The Comedy Underground's people report they're moving the Sept. 9 for the Mitch Hedberg CD release/tribute show over to Laughs in Kirkland because it's possible the new Underground won't be ready in time and they don't want to miss the chance to celebrate the CD release in "Mitch's comedy home."
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.!
Word has it that BET is working on a documentary special for this summer on black comedy. A crew interviewed the members of the Brooklyn Comedy Company (Baron Vaughn, Elon James White, Jordan Carlos and Michelle Buteau) last month and will be recording footage Saturday night at a special edition of their "Shades of Black" show, which also features a set from Chicago's Hannibal Buress (not pictured!). Tickets are free. But space at The Tank theater in Tribeca is not exactly large. Further info in my upcoming NYC shows calendar. White said he and his comedian cohorts talked about the concept of "black alt" comedy. BET reportedly interviewed Bill Cosby earlier, as well as Cedric the Entertainer and Dick Gregory. "I'm happy they approached us about it," White told me. Go to the taping Saturday night and learn more!
This just in. YouTube user kdlmd243, who previously has uploaded NBC promotional content for our mutual enjoyment, now provides us with five "unaired" and "uncensored" looks at the upcoming season of Last Comic Standing 6 (a tip of the hat to my friend Todd at Dead-Frog for finding this). It's definitely real footage. It all comes complete with raw time codes.
Curiously, though, each of the five videos is a mashup of initial auditions and live audience callback performance footage from the various clubs. So these are calculated leaks. Very interesting. Here's how NBC has grouped them: Go blue or go home! Or perhaps, what they're saying is go "blue" and you'll go home. These comedians know they're trying to get on primetime national network television, right? Here is one of the videos that features my friend (and rumored finalist) Esther Ku near the end, talking about how a guy tries to impress her by saying he likes Korean food.
After the jump, links to all five videos and their NSFW topics.
The Black Comedy Experiment worked (!). Who knew? Crowds packed The Tank for the final night of shows on Saturday. If there's any one show that defines the "experiment," it'd have to be Shades of Black, because that stand-up showcase exists to prove that there's no singular definition for a black comedian. Michelle Buteau hosted and had the crowd rolling with her issues -- "Who said it? Yeah, I said it!" -- while Baron Vaughn killed with bits about his girlfriend's voice mails and the silliness of the KKK Website. Donald Glover deftly told the crowd to lower its expectations before telling funny stories and delivering impersonations of Barack Obama, Tracy Morgan on a PTA visit (whom he writes for on 30 Rock) and Chris Rock in a reinterpreted bit called "Black People vs. Vampires." BCE creator/producer Elon James White followed and challenged the audience by saying he was afraid of "retard babies" and didn't think his girlfriend was hot like a Pussycat Doll (White told me later that he'd killed with 15-20 minutes earlier that night at Laughing Liberally, so he wanted to switch things up). Victor Varnado closed the show with solid energy, and noted his albino status right up front, asking Shades of Black: "How far are they going to take it?" Varnado has a great new(?) bit about playing a practical joke on his white girlfriend.
Earlier: My interview with Elon James White.
If there's such a thing as alt-comedy, then can there also be such a thing as alt-black comedy? Elon James White thinks so. White and fellow New York comedian Baron Vaughn have been trying to educate audiences on the notion that there are many different types of black stand-up comedy, through their Shades of Black shows, their online site, The Black Comedy Project, and this weekend, their first full-on comedy fest, The Black Comedy Experiment. The "Experiment" debuts tonight and runs through Saturday night, with all shows at the two venues in The Tank.
Tonight's mainstage shows are Souled Out (featuring Walli Collins, Rick Younger, Leighann Lord, Dean Edwards, Mike Yard and Marc Theobold) and Desiree Burch's 52-Man Pickup. Other one-person shows include "The Oreo Kid" by Jordan Carlos (who auditioned last week for Saturday Night Live as a potential Barack Obama), "30 Years in Africa" by Michelle Buteau, Robin Cloud's "Bag O' Bitches," "Mystery Up at Negro Creek," by Baron Vaughn, and "2-Faced" by Erica Watson. There'll be special editions of Chicks and Giggles, Laughing Liberally and Shades of Black. And that's not all.
That SNL just got a lot of buzz over their search for a cast member to play Barack Obama only brought more attention to the plight of black comedians in getting the industry to notice them. "We couldn't ask for better timing, literally," White told me last night. That SNL didn't cast a black comedian for Obama didn't surprise White. That Jordan Carlos and Donald Glover got face time with Lorne Michaels pleased him, though. "I was happy that two of the three Obamas were on our festival. There's our buzz!"
In White's view, the fact remains that most audiences and Hollywood industry types think of only one type of comedian when they think of booking a black stand-up. They think of Def Jam, he said. "Everybody feels I'm harping on it," he said. It's not that Def Jam is evil or bad, he said, but rather that the great success of Def Jam created a model that everyone else has tried to duplicate without thinking or considering other forms or styles of comedy. That's been the pattern, White says, going back to Bill Cosby. When Richard Pryor emerged, "he kicked the door down," but then other comics tried to be Pryor, then tried to be Eddie Murphy, then tried to be the Wayans Brothers, and more recently, Def Jam. "It was just bravado. In your face," White said. "But it pigeonholed us for years." The opportunities simply aren't there, from SNL to HBO. "Dwayne Perkins might get to do Conan. But where's his HBO special?" White's online essay in October, "Did Def Jam Ruin Black Comedy?" sparked a furious back-and-forth debate with comedian Todd Lynn. "Todd Lynn says there ain't no thing as an 'Intelligent N----r' show. The fact is, though, he thinks there's one way of doing it, but in my opinion, there are many ways of climbing the ladder," White said.
He acknowledges that "the chitlin' circuit is strong in Harlem and the Bronx," and that New York City has lots of black comedians and black rooms, but wonders where the mainstream breakthroughs are for them. And White also knows that even though he's a Bed-Stuy Brooklyn native, he sounds like he's British and doesn't always fit in either an urban Def Jam scene or a white scene. "There are jokes I have that I can't tell in front of a white audience. It's because they just don't get it, nine times out of 10. They don't have the same life experience I have." So there has to be another way. "It was the same when the alt-comedy scene started. That's why I believe in alt-black," he said. "Some people argue I'm just putting another label on them and I understand that."
Like the comedians who formed an alternative to the club scene so they could work and build their own fan bases, White hopes to do the same for the many "shades of black" comedy. He's not against "urban or Def Jam" comedians who are good, saying Patrice Oneal is great and killed on that show. He's against black comedians who are hack about their blackness, such as the woman who threw her weave into the audience to get a standing ovation.
White still doesn't know if he and Vaughn and the experiment will succeed. "If we make enough ruckus, at least we'll be a footnote," White said.
I may have boycotted the open-call line last Thursday for the New York City auditions for season six of NBC's Last Comic Standing, but that didn't mean I'd miss the boat completely on this opportunity to report from the belly of the beast. Especially when I learned on Friday that several comedians I know were getting called back for TV duty. No lines. Just a few dozen stand-up comedians, sitting around, biding their time for the cameras and special judges Richard Belzer and Steve Schirripa and host Bill Bellamy and everyone else to get ready to roll. Even Barry Katz was in the house, and shook my hand upon hearing me call out his name.
And here's what that scene looked and sounded like. Dan Naturman, whom LCS viewers and comedy fans remember as the guy who got robbed of a spot on the show four years ago when the producers overruled judges Drew Carey and Brett Butler, returned for another go at it. Naturman and Baron Vaughn here talk about joke wording as Michelle Buteau, Eric Andre, Jackie Monahan and others wait for their names to be called.
Moments later, I catch up with host Bill Bellamy, here seen talking with Boston stand-up Myq Kaplan about character-based comedy versus stand-up.
Bellamy and I talked briefly about how his HBO Young Comedians special has been reairing, and he tried to recall his "Tingle Man" bit for us. Then producers called him over to record four takes of teases to intro the NYC auditions. Bellamy really liked pronouncing Schirripa's Sopranos character name. Apparently, five or six comedians (Carla Rhodes and Carolyn Castiglia, among them) already had been waiting inside Gotham Comedy Club's mainstage this whole time (at least a half-hour, maybe much longer) for their two-minute televised audition. Not that everyone, even among these professional comedians with appointments made via their agents and managers, would get the full two minutes. Belzer and Schirripa would prove tough to please. And I could see how it'd be difficult not to take their rejection personally, despite the fact that this is above all else a "reality" TV show. Because you don't normally walk out of an audition, after hearing very critical things said about your performance, to find a camera crew on the other side of the door. As Mike Birbiglia said recently, comedians have to be delusional because an audience that doesn't like your comedy in effect doesn't like you. Some comedians fought back tears. Many muttered profanities about the judges. Eric Andre went into a tirade of riffs so hilarious that the camera crew could barely contain themselves, making me wonder if they might invite him to another audition because of it. That same afternoon, I heard a producer say he thought Belzer and Schirripa were perfect judges for LCS and wished he could have them on every stop. And they did say yes to more than a dozen acts, so they could be swayed. I tried to provide some moral support to Friday's auditioners. Reminding them this is a TV show. Reminding them that it's not about how much funny you have, but about making those two judges laugh in two minutes or less. Reminding them that the judges would already have an impression about you before you opened your mouth. That said, I'm not sure some of the comedians made the best choices to showcase themselves that day. And I definitely don't understand why some of the yahoos who showed up at the end of the afternoon even bothered. The end of the day was when producers had the "wacky" contestants make fools of themselves, all for the chance to be mocked on national TV. Way to go. When Belzer walked back toward his trailer, some of the lucky few were filling out paperwork before that night's showcase. Belzer stopped, pointed at God's Pottery and shouted, "Funny!" He also stopped to praise Stone & Stone once more. No wonder, then, that both duos survived that night's eliminations. But what are duos doing in a stand-up competition? Not sure. At least they'll get some positive press out of it and perhaps some better gigs, if not more.
UPDATED: Oh, I forgot to mention this earlier, but if you thought making a joke about babies was going to get you on TV, you're probably right. They also recorded Bellamy teasing a "dead-baby montage." Congrats?
Friday in Aspen: The 2007 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival
Stand Up D
Hosted by Hyla Matthews, who had a recurring bit pretending to go through all of the relationship steps with a guy in the front row. And now for your comedians.
Kyle Kinane. I met this guy the first night I got into Aspen and he wore a bizarre beret that he even said was not a beret. That’s the bizarre part. But when he grabbed the mic and said, “What’s happening, snowflakes and fingerprints?!” I knew to expect some comedy gold. And Kinane delivered, with a sharp self-deprecating style. He might have thought his volcano barbecue bit didn’t go so well, but he shouldn’t worry so much. Good job.
Hari Kondabolu came next, and (full disclosure: condo roommate) he impressed me with his social commentary on the diversity of white people, selling people to India, and immigration.
Then Dan Boulger came up. So rewarding to see him just slay an audience of complete strangers (and important industry types). The audience slowly rose to a boil, and as soon as Boulger’s Bush/Hitler joke landed, they were roaring til the end. Nicely played. Boulger told me the audience reacted similarly the previous time, and he wondered if he should move the Hitler bit up. I said no no. You’ve got it timed just right. Let ‘em warm up to you. By the way, I love Boulger, and I hate him, because he made me stay up way too late Thursday night (so if you were lacking for blog posts, now you know). And now for your next comedian.
Michelle Buteau. Heyhey! What? Hello! The Jamaican/Haitian lady says, “You know how I got so light? It’s called colonialism.” Heyyy!
Owen Benjamin. Opened with a joke about how silly it is that people couldn’t distinguish between Superman and Clark Kent. Followed that with a joke about how he’s tall, so people think he plays basketball. Um, yeah. He did rebound (ahem) with material about his gay and gayer parents. And a good diamond joke. And I found some funny videos of him. So that makes up for his opener.
Lavell Crawford delivered some spot-on jokes about Aspen. “Heated sidewalks?” he said. “I’m telling all the homeless people I know about this!” His closing bit about Subway dragged on a bit, though. Just saying.