If you knew nothing about comedy and turned on NBC tonight, the first few minutes of Last Comic Standing would not help you discern whether Americans actually have a sense of humor. And the celebrity judges from The Office, Kate Flannery and Brian Baumgartner are not helping matters.
First up at the Acme Comedy Company is Pete Lee, who's listed as from New York City. Ah, nothing like traveling to another city to audition for a TV show. Kate's acting as if she knows what she's talking about. The next guy we see in Minneapolis is Alex Thomas, who hails from...Van Nuys, Calif. Hey! Aren't there any Midwestern comics representing here? (Psst...there are, but we haven't seen them yet)
Jared Logan is from Chicago, and does his lesbian joke that I believe I just saw on Live at Gotham on the Comedy Central and those people laughed at it, but Kate and Brian do not feel the same love for Mr. Logan. Sorry about that. He gets lumped in with a loser montage. And then there's the Amazing Arthur, from Omaha, Nebraska. Um. OK. Whenever you need to put a superlative in your name, we know you have issues. He does juggling and yo-yo tricks, and no actual jokes. So, there's that. It does fill time?
"Who can follow that?" Kate asks. Dan Cummins. That's who. He investigates his Norwegian heritage for a funny offstage taped bit. "Please take your hand away from my ass!" sounds so much funnier in Norwegian. Just FYI. His actual jokes hit, too. We'll see more of him.
Stan Chen! I competed with him 10 years ago in the Seattle comedy competition, and he since has moved to Indiana, and oh, poor Stan. Two problems with this audition. First, Stan calls out celebrity judge Brian, which in very specific circumstances, can work to a comedian's advantage, but in this case, as they say, not...so...much. Second, you only get two minutes for your first audition, and his routine takes too long to get to laugh lines. In a quick, closed-room audition like this, you really need to make a quick, good impression, then build from there. You can't try to slow-roll your way to a laugh at the end, because they won't be waiting with you that long. Sorry, Stan.
Doug Mellard. He'll work hard for your laughs. He is from Austin, Texas, which is nowhere near Minneapolis. So he makes it to the nighttime showcase.
Tim Harmston actually is listed as from Minneapolis, so hooray for that! They like his "train of thought," whatever that means. Karla Smith takes a phone call onstage. "No, I thought that was comedy I was doing." Alrighty then. Darlene Westgore, from nearby Burnsville (yeah, I know my geography! and also shared a house with three guys from St. Olaf's once!) is a single mother and brings the requisite cynicism which works with Kate but not Brian...but she is billed as America's Funniest Mom (hey Nick at Nite!). John Evans from Sherman Oaks, Calif., makes it, too. Tracey Ashley's big forehead is enough for a callback. Carl Lee, all the way from Medford, Ore., is billed as a guy who has worked the road for seven years and is ready for this...but is he ready? We'll find out tonight. Er, I mean, later in the show. He apparently has done a Tribble Run. So he gets a point in my book for that, at least.
Showcase time! Harmston gets our first look, Whoopsie, the inappropriate touch clown? He gets in a bee beard world record joke (which touches me personally, from hearing two bee beard jokes during the 50-hour marathon show). Dave Landau from Michigan is getting good editing. Ashley jokes about her mentally ill mom. Thomas jokes about big city people? Cummins wants a squirrelador, which is half-squirrel, half-labrador. In case you were wondering.
And now, Last Comic Driving presents...Eddie Pence. He jokes about pet birds and a woman who has been subjected to passenger seat duty for all of this so far is seen and heard saying, "That's true." Yes, ma'am. It's funny because it's true.
Lee is up next. Jokes about getting out of Fargo. Westgore hates parent-teacher conferences. Mellard's neighbors need to wipe their paws. Evans jokes about watching porn with his wife. Lee is not violent, but willing to drop pennies on Iraq.
Tickets to the semis go to...Pete Lee?! John Evans! And Dan Cummins!
And now we move on to Nashville with Norm and Cliff...
The eighth and final preliminary competition in the Boston Comedy Festival stand-up contest, and for once, all is right with the world. And by that, I mean it’s not going to be difficult to predict who advances to the semifinals. And by that, I mean read the recap.
Prelim 8 (in order of appearance):
1) Roz Browne: No, not that Roz. Comes up to a cold crowd, leaves it cold. Bites the proverbial opening-comic bullet. Sorry. Better luck next time.
2) Al Jackson: Another teacher? What’s with all of the stand-ups who previously worked as teachers? Could it be the students? Must be. But Jackson has funny teacher jokes I’ve never heard before. I won’t repeat them here. Guessing you might have another chance to hear them later this week.
3) Amanda Beals: I’m calling her Little Miss Fancypants. Her pants are fancy and full of flowing fabric. She even sounds fancy. Dahling, let me tell you a funny little story.
4) Stan Chen: The audience is not loving his Lance Armstrong bit. So he moves on to Sarah Jessica Parker, calling her sexy but ugly, which provoke laughter. Also argues for Asians in real sports. Is hot dog eating a real sport? I don’t find out in this set. He came off a bit loud tonight for my taste, the kind of loud that gets in the way of the material loud.
5) Myq Kaplan: Strongest set of the night. Opens with Snakes on a Plane inspiring other movie titles. Absolutely love his bit about losing a cell phone. But I feel like his material in the past year has gotten so strong, it’s actually stronger than his closer, which is a weird thing to say, I know, but I didn’t say it. I typed it. Myq should appreciate that.
6) Jy Harris: Another high-energy boost, immediately goes to crowd work. Lies down for a bit, which can work sometimes, but not this time. Makes a funny case for why you shouldn’t immediately suspect vegetarians are gay.
7) David Landau: Opens with an Ashlee Simpson joke, which backfired yet worked for Kjell the other night. Landau moves on to observations about gas prices, smoking warnings. Good. But not as good as other comics before him this night.
8) Nick Hoff: Acts out what happened when he saw a spider right before going to sleep. This happened to me with a moth the other night, which makes the hunt trickier, because the moth can fly away. Hoff also is afraid of surfing. I can see why. Good. But not as good as other comics before him this night. Can you sense a trend?
9) Ali Rizvi: Talks about his Muslim family. His mom is a ninja. Loves to dance alone in elevators. Want to see and hear how that might go down? Rizvi will show you. Can the breakdancing Muslim win? Depends upon the contest.
10) Mike Prior: No festival bio or mug shot. Maybe it’s because he told us he’s broke. Wonders why schools don’t let the last-place student give graduation speeches. Says: “I’m having way more fun than you people are.” Correct, sir. You win a prize. Just not the prize you seek.
11) Jay Hewlett: Hack opening line. Talks about getting drunk, sex, work. Has “anal glaucoma.” What’s that? “I can’t see my ass coming to work today.” Fair enough.
12) Tom Kizirian: He’s a recent Northeastern U. grad, and it appears as though he thought this was a bringer contest, or maybe he just has a lot of loving, supporting friends and family. Let’s not be so cynical. It’s the latter. Are you really so tired of writing prelim recaps that you have to go that route? Sorry. Sidetracked. Kizirian says Rollerblading is so gay, even gay guys don’t do it. Now what am I supposed to do with my Rollerblades? Thanks a lot.
The time-killer for this show is Jesse Joyce (for the previous show, Jeff Caldwell). They’re both funny fellas, but at this point, I just want the prelims to be over. Wish granted.
Advancing to the semis, your prelim 8 winners: Myq Kaplan and Al Jackson.