Let’s fire up the tubes and see what’s in store for us this week, see which unremarkable comic the producers put through this week and which original one loses. Or is it an audience vote this week? Either way, it spells doom. But maybe I shouldn’t be so damn cynical and just turn on the TV.
But first... I interviewed Doug Stanhope last week and asked him about the show. You’d expect him to hate it, right? Turns out he doesn’t. Not only that, but he feels responsible for the show even being on the air. Read on:
Guy MacPherson: You watching Last Comic Standing?There you go. Now on with the show.
Doug Stanhope: Yes, I watch that religiously. I’ve seen a lot of guys I laugh at. I wonder if I’m getting soft because I’m laughing at a lot of these comics. I know a lot of them.
GM: They seem to be a little better this year.
DS: Yeah. Well, I mean, when you get Andy Kindler and Greg Giraldo... They had to do that consciously. There’s a lot of people I love. It’s a calculated move to get people that comics like involved in this. Not have Ant... When all of comedy is against Last Comic Standing, it’s going to hurt their credibility. So bringing in Andy Kindler had to be a calculated but brilliant business decision on their part.
GM: You watched last week, right?
DS: Yeah, yeah, I’ve been watching this season, yeah.
GM: I’m surprised with some of the final picks. It made me think that the judges are there to talk a little bit after each act, but nowhere does it say that they’re making the decision.
DS: No, that’s obvious. And it is calculated. No one that waits in line gets on the show or has a chance. That’s the shit that pisses you off. When they do the opening rounds and show people: “I’ve been here for four days waiting in line.” You don’t get on. People that are getting on... I did the presentation pilot for Last Comic Standing. I’m the fucking Himmler behind that whole stupid show.
DS: 2500 bucks to live in a house for three days. A presentation pilot is a pilot that the production company makes to show the network, “This is what it’ll look like.” And the network decides whether to buy the show based on that. So, yeah, it was me and John Heffron and Jodie Maruska... There were five comics. It was just like a microcosm of what the show would be. So I feel somewhat responsible for it even being out there.
GM: Did it come close to you actually being on the show?
DS: They invited me on the show later on. I wanted to do it, the same reason I wanted to do Girls Gone Wild because it was some stupid thing I could go fuck with and not care, but it’s all gonna end up in how you look in editing. If I went and tried to just trash the thing, like it was some fucking bad bar mitzvah I was hired to perform at, they could edit you to look like the biggest asshole in the world. But everyone that gets on there, like Laurie Kilmartin this season, you know if there was odds on some offshore betting site, I could have made money telling you who’s going to go through on these rounds. Laurie Kilmartin did not wait in fucking line. She has more tenure than the judges on this fucking show. They’re all friends. It’s like if you knew that Randy Jackson and fucking Simon Cowell were life-long friends with the American Idol performer auditioning next, but they make it seem like they waited in line. No, she didn’t wait in line. She was invited, had a timeslot, came in, they knew ahead of time, they’re all friends. Yes, she’ll be moving forward.
GM: But I don’t think any of the ones who are there now waited in line, either.
DS: Not unless it was a goofball. They find the goofballs out in line, I’m sure. A guy walks in in a fucking bee suit with his fucking assless chaps or something, yeah, that guy waited in line! But the people that actually move forward, I’m sure 100 percent of them were invited.
Wow, Craig Robinson gets a standing O to start the show. Is that just fake TV nonsense or have these people really been watching and enjoying his hosting as I have?
There are ten finalists, four of whom I’ve liked so far. Of course, I’m just going by what they show us and any one of them could surprise me tonight.
First up is one that I like: Laurie Kilmartin. And not just because Stanhope is putting his money on her. I really liked her first time up, then last week she didn’t have as good a set, I didn’t think. But I’ve heard her on Marc Maron’s podcast and she was really funny so I’m biased. Oh, and look, she’s talking about what she talked about on Maron’s show: her breakup and how she found out her boyfriend was cheating on her. What really galled her was that, in reading the other woman’s e-mails to Kilmartin’s boyfriend, this other woman was a horrible speller. I’m surprised the censors let her punchline get through. She wrote back to this woman in language she could understand: “Feck off you miserable batch.” I’ve mentioned before the similarities in content between her and Louis CK. And here’s another one: She talks about having no privacy on the toilet with her 3-year-old kid constantly around her. But I guess there’s only so much material to mine off toddlers.
Yup, it’s viewer-rated. God help us all. She’s got no chance now. It’s going to be some hyper emotive fast-talker whose act is like a shiny object to the dullards at home, you mark my words.
Next up is a guy that I haven’t liked at all so far, but I’m going to watch with an open mind. Felipe Esparza tells us before he gets up there, “Forget about Pedro, vote for Felipe.” I don’t know what that means. Who’s Pedro? Must be an American slogan we don’t get up here. Here’s his opening joke: “You ever go home after a night of partying and reflect on your life, lay there and think, ‘Damn, I haven’t done anything.’” And he gets laughs! What the hell?! Again, I have no idea what that even means. And the tag was just as bad. Something about his buddy and the buddy’s wife being in the top bunk. What it has to do with partying, I have no idea... Yeah, yeah, I get that he was reflecting on the fact he’s done nothing with his life, but why is that funny? And the payoff is that he at least isn’t married and sharing a room and bunk bed with someone. But really? That’s good enough for the finals? Good lord. And then a bit about sucking up to a cop on his first arrest that goes nowhere. This is really bad and reflects poorly on the show. And it doesn’t get better. There’s a lame joke about Mexico wanting to help out in Iraq but “they need a ride over there.” Gawdawful. But I did like his line about what he tells women when he takes off his shirt for the first time and she sees his stretch marks: “I was attacked by a mountain lion.” (By the way, I recently found out that a mountain lion is what they call a cougar in California. I always thought they were different animals.)
Felipe gets a one-person standing ovation.
Roy Wood, Jr. is here to go all the way. I thought he was rather pedestrian earlier in the show and was surprised he advanced. We’ll see. He talks about sports fans and getting punched in the face. One of his bits starts off with a false premise and I immediately turn off. He talks of somebody getting up in a sports bar saying that swimming is the number one sport in America. And I just refuse to believe anyone would say that. Not even Mark Spitz or Michael Phelps would say that. Now, it’s conceivable somebody really said that, but it sounds more just like an excuse for him to make some jokes about swimming. His bit about society needing failures (“somebody has to make the hamburgers”) is decent, even if I remember Brent Butt doing a similar bit years and years ago. But I only ever heard him doing it once so he might have been riffing. And Wood had a great line: “We need failures in America. They provide chicken nuggets and lap dances. Those are important services.” And an even better tag about where he gave this particular advice on career day.
Nice set by Wood. Not outstanding, but good.
Craig Robinson welcomes us back in a Santa outfit, saying he’s giving us the gift of laughter. I love this guy.
Maronzio Vance is next. I do not like the way he enters the stage. He’s lifting his hands trying to get the audience to be louder. Just be funny; that’ll do the trick. He asks the audience how they’re all doing, which brings me to a pet peeve. I can see a host asking that. But if you’re on a show with ten comics, and you hear the crowd response after someone before you asked the same question, remember it because they’re likely just as good as they were five minutes ago. Vance says he always wanted to be a super-hero but couldn’t afford it, listing off all the costs associated with fighting crime in a cape. So he needed to find a super-hero that’s economically friendly and decided he’d be Pay Attention Man. I really liked his set. Original material, cool delivery. He screwed up just a bit when he was spelling out a confirmation code, but it was negligible.
Rachel Feinstein was one I liked earlier. Her mom is aggressively white and getting sassy. She wants to be black. She does a lot of voices and does them well, but I’m not laughing. I think she should be on Saturday Night Live because she’s cute, got a big personality in her act and can do characters. And someone else can write her sketches.
Tommy Johnagin surprised me by getting through. He got a call from his mom today. Yes, I’m sure he did. But he made me laugh (yes, occasionally it happens) with his bit about his mom drumming up visitors for his grandmother. He also had a funny bit about an ugly stripper juxtaposed with the smoking ban. Not sure how much support he’ll get from women voters but it was a good set.
The funniest thing about Jonathan Thymius is his look. He takes his sweet time starting, and I suspect that’s because he doesn’t have all that much good material. His opening joke is about him confusing his life with Mike Brady’s. Stupid. He also paused because he thought he was getting a sign from God. Then he belched, saying, “I guess not.” That’s sure to win over America. He ends on a fake juggling routine that never happens. Let’s just pretend that set never happened.
James Adomian, the man of a thousand voices, is next. Not sure I like his new look with the hat and tie, but whatever. I don’t think it suits him. But he gets me laughing right out of the gate. He’s all worked up about Aesop. What’s not to love about that?! The moral of the story for Aesop, according to Adomian, is, “The negative critic sitting under the tree misses the big picture.” So true. So even this bit had a moral. And was delivered with ridiculous conviction. Then he goes into a Paul Giamatti impression. (Quick aside time: Did you know Paul Giamatti is the son of former baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti? Look it up.) But it’s an impression with a purpose, rather than a hey-look-at-me-I-can-do-an-obscure-impression impression. Well, maybe that was part of it, but it had context and was funny. Of course, it kinda sounds like Jackie Gleason, too. Will middle America even get the impression?
Mike DeStefano’s bravado is tiresome. He says the next set he’s doing is going to be perfect and that people are going down. You can’t help but hope he gets knocked down now. DeStefano is old but he’s hanging on to his youth, which explains why he wears a dress shirt but needs to roll up the sleeves so we can all see how cool and hip he is with the ink all over his forearms. Somewhat ironically, he starts by saying, “Have you ever noticed that the wrong people have self-esteem?” Um, yeah, I think I just did notice that. He does a line that could very well have been uttered by Rodney Dangerfield. It wasn’t, but it has the same old-school rhythm. Talking about a friend who told him he has women banging the door down, DeStefano told him, “Yeah, from the inside!” Ba-da-boom! Then he points out some African-Americans in the crowd and says, “Look at the black dudes. They love me, the black men. I feel like a chubby white girl sometimes.” He ended with a bit from his experience as a drug counselor that rang false to me and ended with weak wordplay: “You need rehab; you don’t need to redecorate.” Not a perfect set by a long shot, but it wasn’t bad. It’s just that my back was up because of all his smack talking.
Myq Kaplan starts with the same line he used in a previous episode: “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s have another round of applause when I’m done.” We see where he gets his love of words from. He talked about his pedantic English teacher grandmother who took all the fun out of everything. Then he did a chunk on vegan douchebags, of which he is one. He tells us vegetarians live, statistically, seven years longer than non-vegetarians and vegans up to 15 years longer. Well, he lost me right there because I immediately had to Google it, not being either. The first item I found was from a German study that said vegetarians may have a significantly lower risk of mortality than people who eat lots of meat. Read down four paragraphs, though, and they say, “However, entirely abstaining from meat consumption does not appear to be the healthiest nutritional lifestyle. Comparison of the three categories suggests that those who occasionally consume meat have an even lower risk of mortality than the other groups.” And then this from another link: “Also, there is no evidence to suggest that vegans live longer than omnivores. In fact all of the evidence indicates that a middle road is the best. For human beings the healthiest diet includes both meat and vegetable tissue. The best solution to good health is neither vegan nor carnivore. Nor is it traditional vegetarian, since it is the dairy products that cause many of our dietary products.”
I know, I know, it has nothing to do with the joke, which was decent. And I’m sure there are studies out there that say any number of things. But I’m a bit of a stickler for misinformation or false premises. If something makes me stop and think because it’s wrong or seems wrong, the comedian has lost me. They have the mic and can, through joke telling, impart knowledge even if that’s not the intent. I don’t think the response “lighten up, they’re just jokes” is good enough. It’s like if you find something that is intrinsically wrong or false in a Superman movie and you point it out, and you’re met with, “But you’re okay with the guy flying around in a cape?” It’s apples and oranges. I buy that he can fly, and I buy that they’re just jokes, but there must be an underlying truth. If Kaplan had simply said, “I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I read somewhere that vegans live 15 years longer on average”, I'd have thought nothing of it and it wouldn’t cause me to get lost in thought. I’d go with it.
I liked his street musician joke. It got a groan, for some strange reason. It was good. Didn’t like his closer about pointing at people, though.
So here’s how it’s going to work. All this voting will only get rid of three performers. Then next week the final seven will go at it again. That’s as far as they said. At least we’ll get to see if these people have enough good material to last a few weeks.
I didn’t vote, but will right now. The three that should go seem pretty obvious to me: Felipe Esparza, Jonathan Thymius and Rachel Feinstein.
I think Tommy Johnagin had the best set, followed closely by Maronzio Vance and James Adomian. Then Roy Wood, Jr. And finally Laurie Kilmartin, Myq Kaplan and Mike DeStefano.
You’re welcome, America. Of course, I’m positive my votes won’t jibe with the phoned-in ones.