Several years ago at the Just For Laughs festival I saw Christopher Titus do a new routine at a club. It was all family material. I forget the joke but the gist of one of the bits had to do with his child being born and falling out of his wife swinging by the umbilical cord. He referenced "Cirque de Soleil" and it got barely a laugh in the birthplace of the thing.
Did you catch the subtle error there? He said ‘de’ and pronounced it like the fourth letter of the alphabet. Probably it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference in the States, but I sensed the reason he didn’t get a bigger laugh was because of that minor error. Most people in the audience would probably speak French, and those that didn’t probably took enough French in school to know the difference between ‘du’ and ‘de’.
Or maybe the joke wasn’t that good. Who knows?
But a couple days later I found myself backstage at one of the big televised galas. Titus was on the bill. I had played in the artist vs industry basketball game previous to this and had spoken to him a bit there. So I felt comfortable offering my bit of lay advice to him and his wife in the greenroom. When his name was called by host Carl Reiner, off he went and proceeded to do that chunk of material. When he got to Cirque du Soleil reference, he nailed it. Huge laughs, applause break.
It’s the little things.
He and his wife made a beeline for me after his set and they were really appreciative. I felt like I had a hand in that applause break.
Oh, one other Cirque du Soleil note before I fire up the PVR. I was reading a review of last night’s spectacle and found out that the funny little impish clown was a guy I went to school with: Colin Heath. I was impressed. And no, I didn't go to clown college. This was junior and senior high.
Okay, here we go. Awesome, it’s only an hour this week. Just to recap, last week the general public was going to vote three of the final ten off the island. I thought it was a no-brainer. Three, in my eyes, were significantly weaker than the others: Felipe Esparza, Jonathan Thymius and Rachel Feinstein. I also realize the public is a ass [sic] so I suspect one or more of these three will stick around for another week. Let’s see.
Funny intro this week. The announcer says, “And now, the man who puts the obinson in Robinson: Craig Robinson!” Gotta love it.
The judges are back this week. I wonder why? I guess we’ll find out. But first, the results are in. They’re going with this unnecessary grouping thing again. Why not just read the seven names?
The first grouping is Roy Woods, Jr., Mike DeStefano, James Adomian, Myq Kaplan. Geez, I had all these guys advancing. Who knows how many they’ll choose, but if I were putting these guys in order, it would be: Adomian, Kaplan, Woods, DeStefano.
Mike DeStefano advances. No numbers are given, which just makes things suspicious, if you ask me. Who’s to say the producers didn’t just decide who to advance?
Roy Woods, Jr. also advances.
Myq Kaplan is still in the running.
That means James Adomian, who I thought had one of the best sets last week, is going home. Interesting that they go to a little highlight package and Adomian is doing the voice-over, talking about losing. So obviously they were told ahead of time. Unless everyone had to record a win speech and a lose speech.
And now those three get to perform. Starting with the Italian dude, Mike DeStefano. Someone’s been reading my blog! His inkwork is all covered up this week. He bought some expensive soap, but it doesn’t wash away shame. He had a rough childhood so he can’t express emotions beyond hunger. Nothing particularly good so far. But then he started talking about couples therapy and I thought it got a lot better. Here’s where his bravado works for his persona. He’s showing us he’s a sexist pig but in a way that puts himself down, so we can laugh at his character and laugh at his frustrations. One line I really liked that got absolutely no response from the crowd was when he was telling us what his ex-girlfriend was telling the counselor: “’I want us to be connected’... and then it sounded like a siren after that. That’s all I could hear.” Good line played to crickets. Overall: Decent.
Andy Kindler summed it up well. He said DeStefano is both frightening and loveable at the same time, like he has a heart of gold wrapped in a fist. He especially liked the “Does it clean shame?” line. I didn’t. But I could totally see Kindler doing a line like that and it working way better. Natasha Leggero did her siren impression before saying he was very funny and the set was excellent. Greg Giraldo’s beard is thicker. That’s all I noticed from him. He’s allergic to razors.
Roy Wood, Jr. is next up to perform. He’s talking about the World Cup soccer tourney and I’m thinking, ‘Has he done this before?’ But no, I don’t think he has. As a guy with no time for soccer, I was with him. I liked his line about how pissed we’d be if the Lakers lost to Al Qaeda. That’s how these soccer countries must feel when they lose to the American team. ... He claims he’s 31. I wonder how long he’s been saying that? He’s gotta be the oldest looking 31-year-old I’ve ever seen. But it’s a student loan chunk so maybe he has been doing the joke for a while. I liked his line: “I shouldn’t have to pay you for stuff I don’t remember.” ... Also had a great take on the civil rights fights. Funny and had a strong point. Overall: Good.
Natasha says he’s so likeable. Greg he was very funny. Andy loves his voice.
Next: Myq Kaplan makes fun of the “right” crowd, those annoying people who tag an approval-seeking question after each sentence, right? Yeah, like that. ... Ooh, he just hurt himself possibly during an applause break when he sarcastically said, “Thank you everybody... Thank you for wasting my time.” ... He likes to trumpet his own intelligence a little too much, which makes me think he’s less intellectual and more pseudo-intellectually pedantic. He was called gay by the jocks in high school because he spoke in complete sentences. But he got on a bit of a roll there and ended well. Overall: Pretty good.
Giraldo liked the way he handled the applause break, so there you go. He called Kaplan (and you can be sure this is going in his press kit), “A lot of funny in a little package.” Kindler got his opinion about audience voting in and, as always, made it funny. He said he wishes there wasn’t voting. “I believe in a comedy dictatorship.” I don’t quite agree. I’d prefer a comedy oligarchy, but we’re at least in the same ballpark. Kindler thought Kaplan was fantastic. Leggero said he doesn’t sell his jokes with his personality, but just with the strength of his material.
The next group of four consists of Rachel Feinstein, Tommy Johnagin, Felipe Esparza, and Laurie Kilmartin. Remember, I had both Feinstein and Esparza and gone. But if only one can go, I’d say Esparza. Let’s see how it plays out:
Oh, they’re just going with the loser. Laurie Kilmartin. Wow. Well, America voted for George W. Bush twice so these kinds of things happen in a system like that. Too bad. Oh, I see how TV works now. She recorded her goodbye montage after the announcement on stage. Because it really seemed like she was hearing it for the first time.
Back to the comedy. Or “comedy”. Rachel Feinstein’s cast of characters hits the stage. She was in Vegas recently and a guy was walking towards her. “You know when you can actually smell a douche?” Are we talking about the guy again or is this a new bit? I guess either way the answer is yes. She goes into her continuing audition for Saturday Night Live with a great voice of an old-timey Hollywood actress. But as for the material? Uh, not so much. Overall: Passable.
Kindler said she was fantastic and he’s amazed by the voices. Again, he singles out a line that I thought fizzled: “Even my breasts are concerned.” It’s an okay line but it didn’t fit with the characterization she was doing. Leggero said she has the perfect mix of writing and performance. Giraldo said she’s so great, so great.
Robinson, in giving out the voting methods, tells us to keep in mind we can only vote ten times per method. Say what? I haven’t voted and have no idea if Canadians are permitted to vote, but what happened to one person-one vote? Ten votes by phone, ten more by internet? That explains Bush, though.
Tommy Johnagin enters dressed to the nines. Or at least eights. He looks sharp anyway. Except for the large sweat stains under his pits. But at least he draws attention to them first. Nothing worse than seeing unaddressed sweat stains. I see that’s his M.O. in life. He’s an open book. He tells us that if you do something crazy in a relationship, tell everyone because eventually someone will out-crazy you and you’ll feel better about yourself... I like his fast-paced delivery. Good jokes well told. (There’s a blurb for the guy.) I’m laughing at his bit about his dumb mechanic, who waited three days before finding out the problem was the starter. “I don’t know anything about cars. But if it doesn’t move and it has a part called the mover, check it on day one next time.” Overall: Very good.
Natasha said it wasn’t her favourite set but everyone loved him. So far on the night, it’s my favourite set. He responded, “That wasn’t my favourite comment.” Giraldo practically stole my blurb! He said, “Great jokes well delivered.” What are the odds?! Kindler loved that he showed the sweat.
Greg thought he had a killer set, but he was careful not to say anything too positive. Andy was more to the point: “The crowd loved you, which usually makes me want to go the other way.” He also says he can’t see how anyone wouldn’t love him. Natasha touched her breast and I’m out of my funk. And she had a great comment: “Your jokes are very easy but people loved them.”
The last group is between just two comdics: Jonathan Thymius and Moronzio Vance. This should be a no-brainer. Thymius has to be the one to go, don’t you think?
Holy shit! I don’t often swear in print, but I think it’s warranted. Vance had one of the best sets last week and Thymius wasted time and belched. But Vance is going home. That’s democracy for you. Thing is, I doubt Thymius has any more material.
Side note: Does Craig Robinson have some sort of Howie Mandel germ phobia? I don’t think he’s shaken anyone’s hand. Ever.
And now Thymius is back out to waste some more time. He’s on a roll, he says. He recently found out he’s not the devil. He read the tag on his underpants wrong. It said “satin”. He was home-schooled and went on a lot of field trips. Like to the liquor store. Hey, a good line! But the series of tags that followed weren’t up to its standards. He recently worked up the nerve to go to a massage parlour, but got a plausible, more realistic ending. He painted an ugly picture with his reference to getting older: he tea-bagged the toilet water. He ends with an impression and you just know it’s going to be anything but. He turns around, then turns back and says, “Were you in Brenda’s room?” The joke being that nobody knows who it is. He tells us it’s his friend Marty. But, to get too literal again, it doesn’t work unless his friend sounds exactly like him because he didn’t even alter his voice. But I submit it doesn’t work anyway. It’s just stupid. Overall: Mediocre.
Andy thought he was fantastic but doesn’t look like he means it. Natasha finds him silly, gross and weird. Greg thought he had a great set and his jokes couldn’t be delivered by anybody else. What I think he means is nobody would ever want to deliver those jokes.
Well, what will John and Jane Q. Public decide? Who knows? Robinson told us we’ll learn the results next week. I wish we’d see numbers instead of just the end result. I want to know just how badly out of step I am with the masses. Did they say how many would be voted off next week? I missed it and I’ve already deleted the episode.
I made my predictions last week and got all three wrong. I’ll put this week’s contestants in order of preference, from best to worst, based on their performances this week:
- Tommy Johnagin
- Roy Wood, Jr.
- Myq Kaplan
- Mike DeStefano
- Rachel Feinstein
- Jonathan Thymius
- Felipe Esparza