More than a few stand-up comedians have been on the late-night TV in the past couple of weeks, and lest I fail to fulfill my duties to give you comprehensive coverage, I should get us all caught up with some of these new/additional TV credits.
Last week on Lopez Tonight, Chris D'Elia joked about his own voice, comparing it to an old Japanese man, and then wished he could talk and laugh more like gangsters and rappers.
Last week on Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Al Madrigal may have missed his mark on the stage floor, but he makes some valid points about his neighbors in Los Angeles.
The week before that, Wendy Liebman appeared on Ferguson's program. Wait for her classic joke about her age.
In late November, Mike E. Winfield made his network TV debut on Late Show with David Letterman. It may look like he's always smiling, but that's not how he feels based on how his wife treats him. And don't ask him about his afro. He's heard your silly questions before. Roll it.
Around the same time, Neal Brennan went on Lopez Tonight and made a pitch for a sketch he would have done had Dave Chappelle not left him and Chappelle's Show behind. Brennan warns the audience: "Now, don't be babies," before making his pitch, as if the audience is going to get up and walk out to Africa or something. Too soon?
Sometimes, the main difference between stand-up comedy on HBO and stand-up comedy on Showtime seems to be that HBO lets you know it's coming. Their promotional efforts are everywhere. Showtime, you blink, you may miss it. Which is my way of saying a new comedy showcase began last week on Showtime called Comics Without Borders, hosted by Russell Peters. With Peters attached, the first instinct is to think this will feature an array of comics from other lands to get their proper introduction to American audiences. But the show takes the other interpretation, that here, the comedy can and will go anywhere. No borders.
On last week's debut (available On Demand), Peters told the audience at El Portal in Hollywood that his show will put a spotlight on comedians who need to be on TV more, regardless of their past experience. Unlike other half-hour comedy showcases, Comics Without Borders actually gives each stand-up enough time for audiences (both live and at home) to get to know them, preceded by a minute or two backstage introduction in which the comic just talks. In other words, two comics per half-hour instead of three, four or sometimes even five. In the debut: Justin Worsham from Modesto, Calif., and Dean Edwards from Brooklyn, NY. For Worsham, this was his TV debut, and he joked about babies, what parents do to their toddlers, and how he and his wife interact and sleep. Edwards had a short stint on SNL. In his return to television, he didn't mind dishing on the differences between Eddie Murphy and his brother, Charlie, poking fun at Charlie's need to share "true Hollywood stories," as well as impersonations of Jay-Z and Denzel Washington. Almost to remind you that SNL could've used him better when they had him (or take him back if they'd like).
Comics Without Borders airs at 10 p.m. Thursdays on Showtime.
Last year, NBC's Last Comic Standing showcased their "best of the worst" auditions during the finale. This time around, they couldn't even wait for the audition phase to end before giving us their so-called most outrageous tryouts. That couldn't be a good sign, could it? They're even teasing the "most shocking audition" from the top of the program with a countdown clock.
Our judges at Cobb's Comedy Club in San Francisco are some guy from Chuck whose name I do not know but whose scary goatee will stay with me for hours to come, and French Stewart in his highest-profile gig since 3rd Rock From the Sun, unless you count that movie from eons ago that replays over and over on Showtime and -- not-so-fun fact -- has Stewart's best friend played by none other than LCS host Bill Bellamy! Jason Downs jokes about how easy it really is to find Anne Frank in Amsterdam, but we keep another eye on the tick-tock clock, and what we get is Shashi Bhatia from North Hollywood. OK. Shock me, Shashi. Wait. Really? That was it? That was the "most shocking audition" ever? We'll have to agree to disagree, and by we, I mean pretty much everyone who exists in the universe.
There's a guy in a fly mask, who reminds me of the guy in the alien outfit, and the Internet tells us that both are real comedians who perform like that. Alrighty then.
The Meehan Brothers (previously seen on video on this blog via Hulu) get by with a little help from each other, and you can debate whether they're stand-ups or street performers all you want, but I'm not sure how duos or trios or groups are supposed to compete in the house challenges this show promises later on in the competition? It seems better suited for a different show, really. And here, now, we present Iliza Shlesinger, who showed up briefly in many of the promo ads and tells us she's only been in comedy for three years. Which means she could be this year's Amy Schumer or April Macie. Either way, she's charming, has good stage presence and wears shirts with cleavage to remind us that she's a lady, and even the guy from Chuck thinks Stewart is asking her out on a date. Jesse Case came here from Nashville and is clever enough. Drennon Davis plays to seals? Children's songs that go dark? Who's heard that before? An industry in-joke gets a pass. The two A-Holes are next...er, um, I mean Sky and Nancy Collins from Orange County. They have sweaters (and you saw them previously on this blog). Joe Klocek needs exposure? Done. A montage of good comedy follows, with Candy Churilla, Jonathan Thymius, a skinny guy, Jeff Dye and Mike E. Winfield all making it to the live audience showcase round.
As the showcase begins, we see Whitney Cummings! Spoiler alert? Actually, NBC spoiled it this time, because they already showed us Cummings last week in the separate "Last Comic Driving" contest, so we know she ain't getting a ticket here tonight. Or at least they won't show her advancing. We see Case perform first, and his jokes about playing a prank on Best Buy (hello, Improv Everywhere!) and tailgating to see the other vehicle's DVD player (clever, but I've heard others do that one, too) get a good audience response. The Collins, well, yeah. Thymius does foot ventriloquism? Odd. Cummings is up next, but like I said, we know what happens to her. Farting or no farting. Larry "Bubbles" Brown...Bubbles? Dye proves how bad-ass he is. "If they're not entertained, I will dance," he tells the British lady. Hey, that's my line!
By the way, this week's contestant on Last Comic Driving is...J. Chris Newberg. And he's got songs to sing. Yeah. I cannot think of a worse act to put in the passenger seat of a car than a guy with a guitar. No offense to Mr. Newberg. This simply isn't the right venue for that sort of thing. C'mon, NBC. You can do better than this.
The Meehans do an Irish Three Amigos thing. Downs describes the cheapest cruise ever. Andy Haynes has a thing against teeth, and does he look like he does meth? Klocek explains why you don't need a sign that says "how to order," and saw a guy punch a pigeon. Shlesinger eats like a guy, apparently. That skinny guy seen earlier now identified as Tony Dijamco, and he's too old for a pedophile. Winfield can't handle his wife's pregnancy scares. The Brit lady reminds Churilla to be nervous, and she says she prefers weed and alcohol to speed dating. Davis does another song, and it sounds just like the last one, only longer, and he ends with an Andy Kaufman thank you. Hmmm.
Tickets to the semis go to...Davis???? Shlesinger! The Meehans. Dye! As they show the winners backstage, it looks as though Winfield is holding an envelope, too, but not for long? Shlesinger talks to her mom on her cell phone and leans forward (ahem), but her mom isn't particularly congratulatory. "You're really sucking the joy out of this," Iliza says. You're telling me.
Onward to Toronto! Bellamy is in a Mounties outfit. Naturally. Someone wisely notes that American Idol lets its auditioners wait inside. At Yuk Yuk's, Dave Foley and Richard Kind might be my favorite judges so far with their honesty and their humor going through the motions here, although the comics as a whole here aren't extraordinary. Maybe it's a Canadian thing.
The New Faces of Comedy showcase is Montreal's version of the Best New Artist Grammy. Most of the 16 stand-ups selected for this week's showcases have several years of experience onstage, but they're new in the eyes of industry scouts, because this is the first step up the festival ladder. A few of the acts don't yet have agents or managers. Is that a good thing?
Maria Bamford (one of this year's Masters performers) and I talked briefly about this yesterday. I saw a comedian get an agent and manager -- which quickly resulted in a spot on Conan and headlining club dates -- out of the Aspen fest this winter. Worked out good for him. But Bamford, who once got two new representation offers out of a festival, said it can almost be like last call at a bar. "Who's the hottest one left here?" she said in one of her trademark voices. "And then the relationship has nowhere left to go." So there's that side of the coin, too.
The comics here aren't thinking like that, though. They're looking to be discovered.
How are they doing?
Last night, I caught half of the New Faces, and several members of the first group devoted most of their time trying to connect to the local Montreal audiences at Kola Note (which should be noted, is the most remote venue at the fest -- perhaps another reminder that the New Faces have a ways to go yet). Michael McIntyre (who sounded a bit like Stewie from Family Guy, but not, despite the fact that the FOX show and cast is also at the fest) joked about the local pedestrian signals with his own version of Monty Python's silly walks. Mike E. Winfield said "you guys have the most arrogant homeless people I have ever seen." Tom Segura said: "I was walking in your sex shop district...what do you call it? Oh, Montreal." A couple of the NYC comics in the showcase, Julian McCullough and James Patterson, brought the city with them -- McCullough talking about his Brooklyn neighborhood ("no, not that part") and contrasting the on-field performances of Barry Bonds and Darryl Strawberry ("He'd snort the first base line!"); Patterson on moving to the South Bronx "because my girlfriend wanted to study music -- she played the jazz rape whistle." Nikki Glaser managed to skewer the sponsoring MySpace and won the audience over with some off-color material. Pat Candaras exhibited a Lewis Black attitude if he were a frustrated grandmother. Mike E. Winfield had the look, if not the material. Sheng Wang was a hit with his wit and his closing bit tilting the phrase "you could do better" on its head. Matt Braunger brought this showcase to a close with a very strong personality and a funny bit about killer owls. But really, host Tom Papa had the best sets of the night in between acts, showing the New Faces how it's done.