A note from PJ Landers...(reprinted from his Facebook with his permission)
If you were planning on going to the walk and set your alarm at 630am like most of us, then you woke up to crazy rain and wind. It was one of those lazy rainy Sunday’s you wanted to just lay in bed all day. I was that close to hitting snooze button. I was planning on bringing my two teenage boys, they helped us plan the walk. As I looked at them in their beds I figured it’s going to be raining all day, let them sleep.
When the organizers say rain or shine they really mean it. Thousands of workers and volunteers were working through the night getting things ready. On Saturday I met hundreds of people that had been working for months to make this day happen. It was incredible to see so many different groups of people come together for the AIDS Walk. They say there were about 45,000 people that walked on Sunday raising over 6 million dollars, 20 or so of those people had come to walk in Memory of Mike DeStefano. Others who couldn’t make it donated to the Mike DeStefano Comic Team, the Team raised close to 6k.
Mike DeStefano wasn't only a great stand-up comedian, but a richly compelling storyteller who had a helluva life worth talking about.
Four years ago this month, DeStefano told a story about his late wife, Franny, as part of The Moth's storytelling showcase at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen.
Mike DeStefano always kept it real. He will be missed.
Too soon. This is just too soon. Comedian Mike DeStefano died last night from a heart attack.
DeStefano's quick bio on his website revealed his wit and his hardships:
I am a stand up comic.
I was a drug counselor.
I was a drug addict.
I was 12!
But he was such a good guy and a great comedian. Many people only got to know the Bronx native a year ago when he competed in and almost won the seventh season of NBC's Last Comic Standing, and learned a lot more about him over the past several months as he went on a nationwide tour with the other finalists. DeStefano was working on a new one-man show, A Cherry Tree In The Bronx, and was set to unveil it Wednesday at the Barrow Street Theatre in New York City.
DeStefano had kicked heroin and lived for many years with HIV. He also had put together an all-star comedy special last year, Comics Anonymous, and was planning a tour for comics in recovery. At the end of that special, which aired on Comedy Central, the final end credit paid tribute to Greg Giraldo.
The last time I saw DeStefano was at the recent tribute fund-raiser for Giraldo at the Beacon Theatre. DeStefano busted my balls, but always with a smile. And he wanted me to see his new show. I'm devastated that I didn't ever get the chance. And even more so that everyone else didn't get a chance to see this man truly shine onstage.
UPDATED: Funeral arrangements and services are scheduled for friends and family, with wakes on Wednesday and Thursday, and the funeral on Friday. All services taking place in DeStefano's home neighborhood in the Bronx. If you're a friend of Mike's and need specifics, please contact me and I'll pass them along. UPDATED FURTHER: They've changed his web page to this graphic, with the funeral information.
The DeStefano family thanks everyone for their kind words and support, and asks that in lieu of flowers, you make a donation in Mike's name to the American Heart Association.
You can read my 2010 interview with Mike DeStefano, and also hear DeStefano tell so much of his story to Marc Maron on his WTF podcast. I also sat down with Mike outside the Comedy Cellar days after the finale of Last Comic Standing.
The photo above was taken by Mindy Tucker on March 2, 2011, at the Bowery Poetry Club.
So here: Read my interview with DeStefano from last year, in which he talks about his life and career on the eve of his half-hour Comedy Central Presents and the madness of LCS. If you've got some more time and want to hear him get really down and gritty on his youth and more, listen to DeStefano on WTF with Marc Maron.
That should prepare you for this: Mike DeStefano is about to launch a full one-man Off-Broadway show, "Drugs, Disease and Death: A Comedy." It debuts with a preview week of shows on Feb. 7 at the Producer's Club Theater in New York City. As he does in The Moth or in the WTF interview, DeStefano has talked before about battling a heroin addiction, losing his wife to AIDS and accepting his own HIV diagnosis. But now, as DeStefano told The Comic's Comic earlier this week, he's going to be funnier about it. His show is being produced by Cringe Humor.
From what I know of Mike DeStefano and his abilities as a comedian and as a storyteller, you'll have no reason to fear or cringe when you go see his show. So go to www.dddacomedy.com or call (212) 352-3101 to get yourselves tickets.
The Last Comic Standing 7 tour rolled through a rainy New York City last week, and the fellas were kind enough to invite me over to hang out with them backstage at the Best Buy Theater (formerly Nokia) in Times Square.
For Jonathan Thymius, it was his first chance to join the tour, as he was subbing for Myq Kaplan, who had a NACA gig previously scheduled for that night. For the other finalists from this season on NBC, the tour already has sent them around America for several weekends. Sometimes by plane. Sometimes by bus. It's an interesting time for Mike DeStefano, Roy Wood Jr., Tommy Johnagin and Felipe Esparza, as this tour serves as a bridge for their careers. But to where? They won't know for certain until the tour is over. Or if there is another season of Last Comic Standing to replace them in audiences' memories. For now, though, it's time to hit the road. Meet new fans. See the sights. Sell some merch. It's a living.
I shot some brief footage, stitched it together, and presto, click-o, it's a montage. Roll the clip!
Up late at night on Oct. 9, 2010, and need a fix? Comedy Central will be your TV sponsor at 1 a.m., setting a time and date for the premiere of "Comics Anonymous."
Here's the network description: "The support groups may be anonymous, but their problems certainly aren’t. Tune in to “Comics Anonymous” for Jim Norton’s analysis of cheating and the dangers of S&M, Rich Vos’s desire for people to rank their favorite children, Robert Kelly’s food addiction and “fat worry” and Mike DeStefano’s convictions about transmitting AIDS by doorknob."
The special taped back in February, and DeStefano told me then that he was hoping to put together a tour this fall. Of course, that was before he went all the way to the final five on Last Comic Standing, and with it, a separate North American theater tour. So you may have to wait until 2011 for a Comics Anonymous tour. Don't worry, though. It'll be worth the wait.
If you want to go deeper into Mike DeStefano's dark worldview, which actually makes more sense if you give it a listen, then you can read my previous interview with him, then hear more than an hour of his NSFW stand-up comedy on his new CD, OK Karma.
In the meantime, here is his official "Exit Interview" with The Comic's Comic, which we recorded overnight on the steps outside the Comedy Cellar in NYC. Roll it.
Here were are, ladies and germs. The finals of the seventh season of Last Comic Standing. All five finalists are lowered on uncomfortable swings, and all five men -- Mike DeStefano, Felipe Esparza, Myq Kaplan, Roy Wood Jr. and Tommy Johnagin -- are wearing black suits. Host Craig Robinson is going with a tux for the occasion, while our judges -- Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo -- are in business casual, semi-formal and casual Friday, respectively.
Anyone care to guess who won without watching the finale but having read between the lines of my blog this season? If you have, then you win a special bonus prize.
Our first elimination?
And now, finally The Final 5 cylons, er, comedians in this seventh season of Last Comic Standing will be revealed and perform for your votes and $250,000 in cash and prizes from NBC. Oh, and almost just as importantly, as host Craig Robinson says up front, there's also the "Last Comic" theater tour.
Oh, we're going to find out right away. Jonathan Thymius is your and our sixth-place finisher.
Which means our Final 5 are Mike DeStefano, Myq Kaplan, Felipe Esparza, Tommy Johnigan and Roy Wood, Jr.
They get to be on tour together "for the next 297 days," Robinson says. Wow. Just wow. Congrats, fellas! And by the way, for anyone who asked me before the season started (including at least one of the finalists),I pretty much nailed it on the head. Enough about me. It's about these five guys. Now time to go for the big prize...
First up is Roy Wood Jr., who gets a full refresher video for us to see glimpses of his journey from the first audition to the finals. Fun fact: He was arrested at 19, and discovered comedy as a coping mechanism. That was 1998. This is tonight. And tonight, Wood also opens up about how excited his drunk uncle is, even though he keeps plugging the wrong NBC show. He says Mississippi residents think everyone hates black people, which, well, Obama? Hey, look, Ryan Hamilton is in the audience smiling and clapping. Not because he likes or dislikes black people, but because he likes this black person, or because the director told the feed to switch to that camera operator. Most likely that last one. Meanwhile, Wood jokes about how he is not going to remember his married friend's dumb lie about hanging out in Puaberto Rico two years ago. And he closes with a bit about women trying to catch their men in the act. Judges? Andy Kindler says Wood keeps getting better and better, and tags his punchline about wristbands. Natasha Leggero tells him to stay single so he can wind up with a hot chick when he wins. Greg Giraldo also congratulates Wood. Looking good for Mr. Wood. But there are still four more comics to compete for your attention and affection.
Tommy Johnagin tells us he knew he wanted to be a comedian since he was a kid, and that his father has been supportive of him along the way. He's going back to the deep blue shirt with tie combo, we see, and lets us know he had a redneck uncle who stole a porta-potty. The dumbest thing he did, however, was visit a gynecologist for a sports physical, and he tells us all about that, which went on much longer than you would think something like that might happen in real life. There's also the time he hit a deer, and the woman sitting in his car yelled "Deer!" Solid stuff. Ixnay on the sweaty pits. Leggero says nice things about him finding jokes inside the jokes, and there goes your theory about her hating him. Giraldo calls him "a great comedian." Kindler says he cannot vote because he has a thermal fax machine, so instead, he'll make T-shirts for Johnagin to sell as merch?
Oh, hello adorable woman in the Lowe's commercial who looks even more adorable in the UCB Theatre basement all this past weekend during the Del Close Marathon. Wait. What?
And suddenly, our nationally televised stand-up comedy competition has become a comedy pageant, because right off the top, our seven remaining comedians step up to the mic and tell us their names and "hometowns." But it's going to be too late for one of these seven to win our hearts and our votes, because those votes already have been cast and sealed away.
It has been brought to my attention that perhaps the one mistake Last Comic Standing has made this year that didn't seem like a mistake until now, is that they should not have gotten rid of the house. Some of the challenges of seasons past didn't really do justice to the art and life of a comedian, but the very fact that we got plenty of time to see the finalists offstage meant that we also got to find out whether we liked them, and that might have helped some of this year's contestants much more than an edited or scaled-down set of only two to three minutes. If anything, this season has given the most stage time to its three judges, which is great news for Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo -- and especially for Kindler, who has (if anyone wants to crunch the numbers and challenge me on this, you'll be wrong) generated the most quips, zingers and audible laughs out of anyone appearing on the show this season. So it's kind of weird that only now, with tonight's episode, that we're getting a little more of a look at our finalists. Note: Some semi-finalists and finalists did get introduced to us from the start with behind-the-scenes human-interest pieces, but of those, only a few remain in the running.
Host Craig Robinson calls our judges "incredibly powerful people," which is, well, obvs, since in Robinson's world, he's "the black Justin Bieber." He asks all seven comedians to step forward, and gives Jonathan Thymius the first proclamation of safety -- which, on this show, means buckle up and get ready to do a set. In our backstory for Thymius, we learn that his other business is something called Comedy O' Gram, and with his stand-up so far, we never know when he's setting us up for a fake-out. I mean, look at the sheet of paper as he scribbles out "aniversari" (sic) and replaces it with "anivercrye"! But, well, it appears to be a real thing he's plugging on his site to render Comedy O'Gram services. And here is a short he did that appeared on Funny or Die back in April:
So there's that. What about his actual set for the NBC audience, though? He opens by asking if it's Groundhog Day. Thymius is a weird one, that's for sure. It's almost as if he's not trying to win. I mean, I know from reading his Facebook and seeing his friends help get out the vote that he wants to win and others want him to, too. But still. His slow, absurd style, on a show like this, feels more like anti-comedy. Kindler loves his "lack of energy" and the idea that he would write down "birds" as a joke. Leggero says she thought his cowboy joke was dirty, and says nobody else could get away with doing his material. Giraldo loves that he stays in character all through the set, but feels like he is running out of his A-material. What do you think, America? It's too late to call, but never too late to think.
After the break, Robinson lets us know who is next to perform, and therefore safe for another week. It's Roy Wood Jr. There's something about seeing the looks on their faces, in which they go through a variety of emotions -- from shock that they made it, to relief that they made it, to shock that they have to deliver their set in about a minute or so. It's a complete reverse from American Idol results shows. There, the people who are safe can just sit and smile, while it's the person who is eliminated who is expected to shut down all human emotion and perform in that moment. So it's not the greatest psychological situation for a stand-up, but it certainly tests their mettle and fortitude. Meanwhile, in Wood's profile video, we see his mom saying the family had wished he would have gotten "a real job," followed by him saying it took him a couple of years but now his mom is his biggest fan. Just not enough of a fan to fake an injury to win him sympathy votes. As for his material onstage, he is immediately into the act, at a "certain fast-food restaurant" where another man tries to pull him into his drama for only getting four out of his five chicken nuggets. I'm going to put my vote on Wendy's for this one. Am I right, Roy? What do I win? Giraldo is seen smiling as Wood says he's not going to join the "Nugget Coalition." The crowd is on his side, as well. Wood also feels like he needs to have a bunch of kids at once, because then strangers will give him free stuff, because that is the hustle out there. As we see the audience clap and laugh, we also get a glimpse of a countdown clock. Is that better or worse than getting the light? I'd think some comics would see it and perhaps talk too quickly and/or skip a punchline or tag. Wood is OK, though, and the judges think he is more than OK.
After another break -- looks like we're getting one comedian per segment now -- Robinson asks for applause for "the biggest letters in primetime," as the giant C-O-M-I-C backdrop remains in place from weeks past. Myq Kaplan breathes a big ol' sigh of relief as his name is called, and in his video, he gives us a music video. It's wordy, it's quirky, it's Myq. Onstage, he does what he does in tagging Wood's bit on chicken nuggets, and he sets up his own bit on TV, and then other bits in which the audience laughs and applauds, quick hitters, until he gets to his closing bit about Final Destination. The judges all love him, and Leggero says he would definitely win Last Comedy Writer Standing. That's not what this show is, but you knew that, because you can read the title of this post.
Previously, we watched this seventh season of NBC's Last Comic Standing through the magic (and sometimes witchcraft) of several-weeks tape delay. The comedians themselves could have forgotten how their performances had gone, only to see them slightly changed in the editing room. But not now. Now the final 10 have flown and/or driven to Glendale, Calif., for same-day competition, with morning tapings set for broadcast that same evening. They would know, and we would know, how it all shakes down today.
Oh, and our judges -- Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo -- all have returned to the arena of comedy battles, all of them also fresh off of their own performances at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival. Host Craig Robinson opened with a LeBron James joke before re-introducing us to the LCS 7 Top 10. Would the results of last week's voting be drawn out for the full hour, a la American Idol? Nope. Not too long at all for four comedians, as Roy Wood Jr., Mike DeStefano, James Adomian and Myq Kaplan are asked to step forward (all others, Robinson says, should shuffle offstage). Robinson gives the OK to DeStefano, then Wood. It's down to Kaplan and Adomian, who exchange creepy smiles at each other awaiting their fate, as only one of them will continue onward. It's Kaplan! Who in his close-up, breathes a very realistic sigh of relief. Adomian, meanwhile, is still smiling and also now clapping. I talked to Adomian in Montreal, and based on what he told me, I don't think he was surprised at all. The producers play an "In Memorium" for him, which also includes his pre-taped farewell, in which he declares: "America, next time, don't look a gift horse in the mouth." He holds his head high and off he goes.
First performer of the evening is Mike DeStefano. He says thanks for keeping him on, and tells us he bought some soap that cost $75. "Does it clean shame?" he asks. He also doesn't know how to express his feelings to a woman on a dinner date, because all he feels is hungry. "Deep down inside, I'm really hungry." He gets an applause break when he's asked why he is at couples therapy (presumably asked by the therapist), and says it's because the woman is broken and needs to be fixed. Blaming people for his problems? "That's my mother's fault. Sorry, mom." He continues with the idea that he's not good with therapy. Nor is he good with a woman on a first date who thinks they've been together for much longer than that. Last week, no judges around to influence the audience. But they're back. Kindler calls DeStefano "frightening and lovable" and makes up his own scoring: 5 HAs! Leggero has kind words for him, even if he doesn't have kind words to say about women. Giraldo wasn't listening to Leggero (tag!) but also liked him.
Robinson teases the first commercial break by saying we'd get to hear from "Internet sensation Mel Gibson."
After the break, he gets in a dig on "The Bachelorette" airing in competition with them on ABC, saying that show is even sadder than knowing three comics will have to go home. "There's a reason why she's single," Robinson said.
Roy Wood Jr. opens by saying: "Good to see you guys. I just did a show in South Dakota. Because I like performing where there's no people." Looks like we're getting more of his "sports bar" chunk, and notes that America is still exciting even if we did not win the World's Cup. And he thinks the world is better for that, because some countries hate us for political reasons, and he compares it to having the Lakers lose to Al Qaeda. "That would suck," he said. I'm not sure about this, because it would mean we'd know where they were and could trap them all, so let's hope those terrorists get off of the jungle gyms and start learning how to shoot hoops! But back to Wood. He realizes that at age 31, he will not be paying off his student loans. Note to Wood: If you win the $250,000, the college loan people probably will notice. Look at me, shooting all sorts of truth holes into his fictional premises. Moving to L.A. from Alabama, he has noticed there are more Latinos in this country than black people, to which audience members hoot and holler. "You're winning, shut up," he retorts quickly. Wood doesn't understand why black people are mad about Mexicans and other people wanting civil rights, since, he notes, wasn't that the point? More of a statement than a joke, that last one, but he comes off well in his set. Leggero gives him advice on his college loans, but calls him likeable. Giraldo jokes that he didn't like Wood's "pro-Mexican" material, and Kindler agrees, but says he cannot get away with saying "blacks and Mexicans." On a more substantial note, he also said that he loved Wood's voice and would listen to anything he had to say.
Strap in, comedy fans. We're about to see 10 comedians perform stand-up on primetime network TV in front of giant letters lit up in light bulbs to spell out "COMIC." But nobody is king (nor queen) just yet, so none of these 10 can rightfully wear a robe and crown like Ricky Gervais did for his stand-up special. Nope. Not yet. This...is...Last Comic Standing. Season Seven. The final 10. Here we go! Host Craig Robinson is excited. The judges are not excited, since they are not televised this evening.
Laurie Kilmartin said she has thought about quitting the comedy game before, so she just "wants to have fun while I'm here," whether she finishes first or tenth. Kilmartin opens with a premise that her ex-boyfriend wants to get back with her -- cue the ooohs and boos from the live studio audience, and as if they were cued, they ooh and boo. Good job, live studio audience! Wait. We're supposed to be listening to those expertly-crafted jokes that the judges kept telling us that Kilmartin was writing. She mocks her ex's mistress for her misspellings. And she jokes that her son can only be good if he's gay. And yet, he also makes her want to give up, while on the toilet, or even when reading "The Little Engine That Could" for the sixth time in one evening.
Felipe Esparza is up next, and this is the biggest thing for his career -- c'mon, now, this is obviously the biggest thing for the careers of all 10 of these comedians, otherwise they wouldn't be here, but that's just one of the things that people on a reality TV contest have to say. That, and this is nerve-wracking. And eventually someone will have to say that he or she is not here to make friends. Esparza comes off, though, as the kind of guy who would be anybody's friend. He jokes about his frequent ride-alongs with the police, and Fortune Feimster is forced to watch from the audience as he jokes about getting his college degree. He says Mexico would help America with the war in Iraq, if only they could hitch a ride. And one smiling white (albeit blue-lit) woman gets every visual cue to smile when Esparza says a punchline about immigration, and she is even shown giving him a standing ovation.
Roy Wood Jr. tells us he auditioned in 2002 and 2007 for the show, and his goal is the same this year, except he is much closer to reaching that goal, as Tom Shillue can see from that background shot of a previous episode that did not acknowledge his presence. Third time the charm for Wood? He has a sharp opening line about getting punched in the face at a sports bar, and about a fan who takes it a little too far. He also thinks there is a way to make swimming more popular, and swimmers will not like it one bit. And why would you kick him out for giving kids realism in their Career Day. We all need chicken nuggets and lap dances! That may be the wrong message for first graders, but Americans are on board. Unless they are vegan and feminists. That might be redundant. I don't know.
NBC's seventh season of Last Comic Standing begins tonight with the first of several episodes in which America gets to decide who moves on and survives past the final 10. Unless, of course, you believe in conspiracy theories and want to figure out who executive producer Barry Katz is managing (but even then, you probably would not "guess" the winner, based on past seasons).
So, since we have left our cynicism behind in the previous paragraph, let us now tell you how LCS 7 will play out.
Tonight: Unlike the previous six seasons, in which finalists cast votes against one another to a challenge in front of a studio audience ("I know I'm funnier than XXX"), all 10 finalists will perform their stand-up routines in this first round. They'll each get a phone number and info for viewers to call/text and cast their votes. So in these senses, it'll be more like American Idol. Your 10 finalists are, in alphabetical order: James Adomian, Mike DeStefano, Felipe Esparza, Rachel Feinstein, Tommy Johnigan, Myq Kaplan, Laurie Kilmartin, Jonathan Thymius, Maronzio Vance and Roy Wood, Jr. But know this: They taped this showcase showdown several weeks ago at the Alex Theater in Glendale, Calif. It's not live. Sets may have been edited or re-arranged. Also: If you really want to vote for your favorites, you better hop to it, because they're cutting two or three each week! Yes. That's right. The bottom three comics will get the boot after this first week.
Monday, July 19: All 10 finalists return to the stage, but only seven will advance and perform that morning for a live audience, for broadcast that evening. America votes after the broadcast.
Monday, July 26: Of the seven remaining, five will advance and perform that morning for a live audience, for broadcast that evening. America votes after the broadcast.
Monday, Aug. 2: The final five will be reduced to an as-yet unknown final group, who will perform that morning for a live audience, for broadcast that evening. America votes after the broadcast.
Monday, Aug. 9: NBC's season finale. A winner is revealed, with a $250,000 prize and a network holding deal. Expect guest sets from each of the judges (Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo) plus other stand-up guests.
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."
OK, comedy fans. We're back with the first (of how many? of how many???) episodes from the New York City auditions, and after some more glimpses of Tommy Johnagin and a naked Andy Ofiesh, here's Craig Robinson strolling down the sidewalk of West 23rd Street on his keytar with judges Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo, plus wannabes in tow. Who here wanna be?
Alycia Cooper from Maryland is our first billed auditioner. She made Giraldo laugh with her jokes about D.C.'s horrible sports teams, but she is adding tags that he and the other judges do not condone. She moves on to the night showcase nevertheless. Our first featured contestant of the evening, however, is Mike DeStefano who shows us his fellas in the Bronx to bust his chops and deliver some classic stereotypical Bronx gruff and stuff. "Hey Mikey, if you win, what's in it for us?" I've told you about DeStefano before. I will be telling you more about him in the future. His jokes about dealing with a potential agent show off his style and personality and the crew loves him as much, perhaps more, than the judges did.
Kevin Bozeman of Chicago said he is pro-life except for two times. Jamie Lissow jokes about not getting the NY Times crossword. New Yorker Claudia Cogan jokes about wanting to be a nasty stripper, while I wonder when she'll reply to my email from months ago. They are all part of a montage of yes votes for the showcases, and there is Elon James White brunching hard but not getting his name on camera. Andy Ofiesh, on the other hand, got almost all of himself on camera since he went onstage without any clothes on. Of course, readers here (or people who have been to a Naked Comedy Showcase show in Boston, NYC or Edinburgh in the past few years) knows Ofiesh is an avowed nudist and comedian. All we see and hear, however, is the judges not being happy seeing all of Ofiesh and he kicks off the night's first montage of horribleness.
Kurt Metzger says he has done comedy for 11 years and wonders about performing for three people, especially when at least one of them works with him regularly at the Comedy Cellar. No need to wonder, since Metzger is moving to the showcase.
And we're back. Robinson walks out to inspect the line of crazies. I also inspected this line outside Gotham Comedy Club the night beforehand. Want to see that?
Tommy Johnagin invites the cameras into his hotel room(?) to watch him write his jokes on toilet paper. Johnagin jokes about how women suck for asking him about keeping track of the one time he had sex. Kindler jokes that he feels threatened by Johnagin's humor.
Todd Catalano brought his mullet across the bridges and tunnels from New Jersey, and guess what, he is Italian. Guess what, Giraldo isn't sure if he was laughing with Catalano's insults about women, and this kicks off a montage of stereotypical Italian New Yorker shtickery.
Jamie Lee from Dallas says she quit her corporate job to pursue stand-up (and it was a job with Comedy Central where she had to deal with people like me!) and if you saw the ads of the past week, you already saw her running with joy after whatever the judges said. Giraldo said she felt "still pretty new" to him, which is absolutely correct, and all three of the judges would like to see her perform in front of an actual audience.
When we return from commercial...
There's a lot going on in Mike DeStefano's comedy career this spring, and the debut of his half-hour Comedy Central Presents tonight is just one of those things. We talked about as much of it as we could earlier this week. But first, here's a clip from his special:
Have you seen your Comedy Central special yet to see how they edited it or bleeped it? "No, I haven't seen it. I cut out cursing. I think I might've gotten bleeped one or two times. Everybody is shocked that I can work without cursing. I curse because that's how I talk in real life. I didn't become a comedian because I want to change the way I speak or talk."
Speaking of becoming a comedian, your personal backstory has quite a lot of trauma to it, with not just drug addiction but also great personal loss. Did you do not do any stand-up comedy before that? "The first thirty years of my life was a nightmare. I shoulda been a serial killer and not a comedian."
What changed the path for you so you didn't become a serial killer instead? "I don't know really. I did it. I tried it out at an open mic. I was suicidal and I remember getting a laugh at an open mic." Was that here in New York or down in Florida? "That was down in Florida. West Palm Beach, Florida, was the first place I did open mics there. It was the Comedy Corner in West Palm, they would put me up for guest spots, and then a few months into it...wait. It was a few years. I only did it once a week. When I moved to New York is when I really tried to get up and start to try become a good comic." When was that? "Let's say 2000. Ten years ago."
Here, DeStefano talks a little bit more about what happened to him before he became a comedian, in this 2009 performance at storytelling series The Moth:
Did you have any influences comedically in the beginning or when you were younger? "No. I didn't have any influences. I was a heroin addict. Criminals were my role models, not entertainers." So how did you ever pick stand-up comedy? "I used to make my friends all laugh all the time. People told me all my life, even when I was a kid, that I should be a comedian."
What other jobs did you have before comedy? "I was a drug counselor. And I was a bouncer. I ran a nightclub in Florida for a while. I worked in delis, i worked in supermarkets. I did whatever I could to pay the bills."
I remember when I first saw you at the HBO Aspen festival three years ago, I made a note of how your attitude was so much different from all of the other new comics showcasing for the industry. You seemed like the only one who wasn't worried about how it went. Where did that security come from?
So, while in Montreal, I completely forgot to set my DVR to record last Friday's edition of Live at Gotham. Sorry! So I, like you, must make do with Internet videos. Here are two routines from Chelsea Peretti that she performed as part of the New Faces in Montreal at Just For Laughs. The other stand-ups from this episode (Bob Biggerstaff, Hari Kondabolu, Mike DeStefano, Hugh Moore and Ryan Sickler) get clips, too, after the jump. Enjoy!
Earlier in the hour, Mike DeStefano had no problems provoking the crowd with his thoughts on race and gender, saying he was here not for them but for himself to help set this world record. His closing bit even lasted a few minutes longer as he told audience members about his thoughts on using "the c-word" and "the n-word." Stephenson had been shaking his head earlier and eventually succumbed to laughter. "Willie's black, he's a professional comedian, if he thinks it's funny, that matters more than all of you," DeStefano told the audience. "You're not a bunch of comedy experts. Who are you? You're a bunch of losers who don't have a funny friend to hang out with." This comedy expert also laughed along, which is good because I need to laugh to stay awake.
In case you haven't been following the Internets, ABC News recently struck up a partnership with its Times Square neighbor, Carolines, for a weekly interview/performance segment called Carolines on GMA Now. Club owner Caroline Hirsch also takes part in the segments and often has her own questions for the comedians. It appears as part of the magically mysterious third hour of Good Morning America, which doesn't appear on the regular ABC television network, but rather on some digital cable systems, mobile phone networks and definitely online. ABC doesn't like to offer embedded video, so instead, we've got links to share.
The mix includes both headliners working the club that weekend (natural cross-promotion) as well as up-and-coming New York-based stand-ups. Sometimes there's a performance in the ABC studio with a small audience (that's a tough room!). Sometimes not. Last week's segment had a rather revealing interview with Mike DeStefano.
“We’re thrilled to be teaming up with ABC News' ‘Good Morning America NOW’ on this new program,” Hirsch said in the official press release earlier this spring. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase our lively and entertaining programming on ABC News NOW -- across all of its platforms -- broadband, cable and mobile.”