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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Episode 194ish - Ryan Beil

Here's a modern day classic episode. When Ryan Beil visited our studio on June 13, 2010, he was but a struggling actor with four Jessie Richardson Award nominees to his credit (and one extremely successful and funny series of TV commercials for A&W). Today, a short two-and-a-half weeks later, he is an accomplished award-winning thespian (and comedian), having taken home the Jessie Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role for the eponymous character in Billy Bishop Goes to War. That's the kind of pull What's So Funny? has. But apart from all the pomp, this was just a super fun (and funny) episode I think you'll all enjoy. Listen today and say you heard him when he would still do shows like this. You can click on the gizmo below or go download the thing onto your iPod machine over at iTunes.


Dane Cook vis a vis Marc Maron (UPDATE added)

Marc Maron had Dane Cook on his most recent WTF (episode 85). Like all WTF episodes, it's a must-listen. Marc isn't afraid to ask the big questions although he has a tendency to distance himself from them a little bit. Kind of a, "I don't think this, but..." hedge. But still, his podcast is the best thing out there. And by 'there' I mean internet, radio, TV, you name it. I haven't missed a second of any of the 85.

I was looking forward to the interview because I remember a long and spirited discussion he had about Cook with Janeane Garofalo on my show, What's So Funny? back in 2006. My memory of it was that he had no respect whatsoever for Cook, but it's been four years so my memory might have been off. But when Maron said to Cook on WTF, "The only thing negative I ever said about you – ever – when anyone brings you up is that, I'd say, 'That guy doesn't really bother me. I don't know why everyone is angry at him. He doesn't really bother me. He's an empty vessel full of fuel.' That's what I'd say," I decided to go back and re-listen to his appearance on WSF?

He did use the "empty vessel full of fuel" line back in '06, but he also had some other choice words, like "he stands for nothing, he stands against nothing. He does not speak of any dark places in his heart or mind; he does not speak about the hypocrisy in the culture that we live in, and he does not speak of himself. So what he is, I have no idea, I have no idea. He's a cipher. He's a big ball of confidence that is meaningless." And "He is all about extending his narcissism into dollars and making these people feel like they are part of something bigger. And I think he feeds on that. I think he's no different than Anthony Robbins in what he's putting out in the world: that confidence should be rewarded over talent or insight or thinking."

When Janeane called him a hack, Marc disagreed, saying, "No, he's just bad." He went on to call him "mediocre" and "a high-energy boring person".

It's interesting that on Marc's show, Dane told him he was basically a big ball of insecurities. When I suggested that to Marc back in 2006, he didn't see it as a possibility. Here's the transcript of the part of the show where we talked about Dane Cook. Again, this was back in 2006 and maybe Maron's opinions have softened since then:

Guy MacPherson: The new whipping boy in comedy seems to be Dane Cook. Andy Kindler did several sets trashing him. Is it somebody like him you’re talking about?

Janeane Garofalo: No. When people are critical of the type of comedy Dane Cook does, they’re not trashing Dane Cook; they’re trashing the type of path he’s chosen. And, actually more than that, the audience that thinks it’s hilarious. So it’s not Dane Cook, the man, somebody’s going after.

Marc Maron: It’s what he represents culturally.

JG: Yeah, it’s a representation of--

GM: But it’s his act, too.

JG: Right, but I think since you don’t know Dane Cook, the man, it’s hard to go after him, and that’s probably not what Andy’s intention was. What he’s commenting on is there’s thousands of young people going insane over what seems to be... ‘mediocre’ isn’t even the word. I don’t even know what to say about that material.

MM: An empty vessel full of fuel.

JG: That was in some article.

MM: That’s mine.

JG: Oh, that’s yours?

MM: Yeah.

JG: Oh, I thought that when people were reading that quote they were reading some writer.

MM: No, no. No, I thought that up.

JG: Oh, I didn’t know that was yours.

MM: Yeah.

GM: Well done.

MM: Thank you.

JG: You know what I mean? But he as a person might be a fine person. I have no idea. It’s like Gallagher. Not that he’s like Gallagher but it’s that same type of... When you see Gallagher’s audience on those videos of Gallagher smashing a melon, people going insane.

MM: But at least he [Gallagher] comes from a tradition of street performing. He’s just a busker.

JG: Yeah.

MM: And the thing about Dane Cook is that this guy is representing to the youth of this country, if there’s a disconnect between the legacy of comedy that I am part of, that who I see as my grandfathers and fathers in this business of the history of comedy, is that he stands for nothing, he stands against nothing. He does not speak of any dark places in his heart of mind; he does not speak about the hypocrisy in the culture that we live in, and he does not speak of himself. So what he is, I have no idea. He’s a cipher. He’s a big ball of confidence that is meaningless.

JG: And he’s a hard-worker. I’ll give him that. That boy has built from the ground up, brick by brick, the Dane Cook Corporation.

MM: But I’m tired of hearing that.

JG: No, no, no, I’m not saying it has anything to do with comedy.

MM: But people say that about everybody, like, “Yeah, he sucks, but man, he’s a great self-promoter. If only you could do that.” You know what? But that shouldn’t be part of my damn job. How much time does anyone have in a day? How many times are you gonna update your MySpace page or respond to every idiot that writes you an e-mail?

JG: No, I know. That’s what he does, though. And you, yourself, I think, said it. People think that they’ve connected with him as a friend. He answers all the e-mails, or he has a staff that answers the e-mails, and these college kids for years who’ve been following his career, they think they know him and they’re friends with him.

MM: But I answer my e-mails and I didn’t mean to say idiots. Because every time I get an e-mail from a comic or somebody who has a question about comedy and through the radio show I developed a great following of great people who were interested, curious people and I will respond to all of their e-mails. But I think that that is different. Fortunately my fan base is small enough that I know most of my fans and we have that kind of relationship. But I will say this, that I think it is a lie. I think what Dane Cook does is he is all about business. He is all about extending his narcissism into dollars and making these people feel like they are part of something bigger. And I think he feeds on that. I think he’s no different than Anthony Robbins in what he’s putting out in the world: that confidence should be rewarded over talent or insight or thinking. And I think--

JG: Well, he certainly isn’t the only one doing that then. But what I’m saying is--

MM: Scientologizing is what it is.

JG: He, I’m sure, would tell you he was very funny. Guys like him tend to think they’re very funny. They’re very confident.

GM: But maybe he’s just masking his insecurity.

JG: It could be but I don’t think so.

MM: I’m not going to give him that, either.

JG: There’s a lot of comics like him who are real... A lot of hard work and a lot of bravado and a lot of confidence that serves him very well. And they tend to think of themselves as very funny. And then the truly very funny comics, like a young Albert Brooks, for example, when he was doing that genius work.

GM: I love him.

JG: And he would be interviewed and he would be like, “I didn’t like that...” You know what I mean, he would do nothing but second-guess himself.

MM: But kids don’t want to hear that anymore.

JG: No, I know. What I’m saying is, there is a big difference in the personality types of these type of comedians, of a young Albert Brooks and a young Dane Cook, right? And a huge different audience completely.

MM: But the whole culture is different. In the seventies, comedy was dictated – was dictated – by Jews and analysis. And it was dictated by insecure Jews. The entire culture was more sophisticated, was more intelligent--

JG: That is not true. That is absolutely not true. You can go back to the archives, Marc, and you can see some hacks on Carson in the seventies.

MM: Of course. Okay, fine, fine.

JG: And on the road. And when I started doing stand-up in 1985, there was no shortage of road hacks who had been doing it for years.

MM: But I’m saying intelligent comedy. I’m saying that in my recollection, even people like Albert Brooks... Okay, let me give you the line that I wrote about that in terms of... If you are a talented person and you are not successful, there’s probably something inside of you stopping you from being successful and sadly it might be your talent.

JG: Huh?

MM: I just think that talented people, that truly gifted people, people like Albert Brooks, that bare the brunt of being sensitive enough to use their talent to explore the darker element of personality--

JG: And we’re not talking about Mel Brooks, by the way, as much as we love him. We’re not talking about Mel Brooks; we’re talking about Albert Brooks.

GM: Albert Einstein Brooks.

JG: Albert Einstein Brooks, that’s right.

MM: The amount of self-doubt that comes from being a good cultural critic can be paralysing. That’s all I’m saying.

GM: What about the fact that he’s just out there entertaining people?

MM: Screw that. What are you talking about, Guy? That’s not part of it! (laughs)

JG: That’s what I was sort of saying.

GM: And there’s a wide range of comedic styles and hey, let him have it.

MM: I believe that.

GM: It’s a shame that that’s what is really popular but it’s a shame that Republicans are really popular, too.

JG: I actually don’t have a big problem. I was just trying to answer your question. What I was saying is it is perplexing to me. I don’t understand what they’re laughing at and I don’t understand what drew him to comedy.

MM: But he’s part of the same momentum.

JG: But the thing is, there’s tons of male and female comics since the dawn of comedy time who have been like that.

MM: They were funnier. They were funnier.

JG: No. Stop it. There has always been hacks. There has always been talent.

MM: He’s not a hack.

JG: He’s not a hack?

MM: No, he’s just bad. He’s almost like, if you’re going to compare him to somebody--

JG: So what’s a hack to you?

MM: A hack is somebody that does mundane material that you can’t even attribute to an author.

JG: Why are we even spending this much time talking about him?

MM: No, I think there’s something to be said. I think in terms of what he said about Republicans... Dane Cook claims to be entertaining people away from the pain of their world, that that is the nature of his entertainment. And I think he is so mediocre and such a high-energy boring person that he’s just really entertaining people away from other entertainment options, that there is a culture of kids out there that do not want to challenge themselves, that are not curious about things, that do not want to see darkness in anything, that believe that if they’re just proactive in their lives and positive thinkers that their life is going to be good. It’s selfish and I think the whole idea of self-promotion as being something that is rewarded is completely selfish and careerist in a way that frightens me.

JG: You’re so vehement about this, Marc, you’re giving him...I think we gotta stop talking about this because we’re giving it way too much heft. You know what I mean? Like, I don’t think he’s in any way thinking the way you’re thinking--

MM: I have the same problem with American Idol. I have the same problem.

JG: Of course. But I think Dane Cook would tell you he’s very funny. I’m sure he believes that. I’m sure he thinks it’s not just entertainment--

...

JG: Gosh, that went by so fast. And we spent an enormous amount of it on Dane Cook.

MM: But I think it was a window into some other things.

JG: Yeah, the audience’s window into your vehemence against that guy.

MM: I have nothing against him!

JG: You sounded as if you were particularly upset with him.

MM: I have no personal problem with him. I have a problem with the culture of self-promotion and being rewarded for being okay. I have a problem with that.

JG: Yes, of coure, but that is the majority of mainstream pop music and the majority of mainstream actors, the majority of mainstream politics--

MM: That sounds like a lot to be vehement and angry about.

JG: Yes. So that should have been clear. It sounded like you were really directing it at him.

MM: No, I don’t care about that guy.
You can listen to the whole episode on iTunes. It's episode 163. Or listen here.

UPDATE: The good folks at Canadian Content read this post and then linked it to a forum thread at aspecialthing.com about Maron's interview with Cook. And Marc replied to it. Here's what he wrote:
I will stand behind everything I said in the What's So Funny interview. I actually wish I would have had it during the Dane session. Because I couldn't really put my finger on why I was so stand off-ish and snotty and all the reasons are right there in that interview with Guy and Janeane. I spend a lot of time in relationship to my guest now. I am engaged in the conversation with them. I don't always have what I am thinking at my minds fingertips because I am listening.

It is all right there though. Thanks for posting Canadian Content. It was great to refresh my memory AND I really don't have anything against Dane personally. I do despise what he represents.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

June 27: Irwin Barker

The late, great stand-up comic/writer Irwin Barker passed away last Monday and the country is still in mourning. I have no idea why flags are at half-mast around the city the last little while but I choose to believe they're for Irwin.

Barker was a guest twice on our little program, once in 2005 when we were six months in, and again in 2008, when he was one year into his diagnosis of terminal cancer. Tonight on What's So Funny? we're going to play clips from those two interviews with the man as well as some clips of his comedy.

The photo, courtesy of Kevin Statham, shows Irwin second from the right, at a benefit for cancer at the River Rock Show Theatre. From left to right, there's Brent Butt, Mark Critch, Tim Steeves, Tim Rykert, Barker, and Graham Clark.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

VHS Vault: Ian Bagg

Remember when Ian Bagg was Canadian? He's been Stateside for more than 15 years now. But he did start his career in Vancouver, so we will always claim him. Hell, we still claim Cheech & Chong because they met and formed here even though they never did more than one show in town.

I had Bagg on What's So Funny? back in February. Last weekend he played The Comedy Mix so I got the chance to review him in the Georgia Straight, and you can read it here.

So it's kind of a coincidence that I dredged up this old video of a young Bagg at the Just For Laughs festival. It's from... oh, let's say 2000. So I guess he was already living in the U.S. But he just seems so much more Canadian.

video

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Episode 193ish - Graham Clark

Greetings, SPY-heads. Words from your leader, Graham Clark, appear here in podcast form. You're used to hearing him on his top-rated comedy podcast, Stop Podcasting Yourself, which has taken the internets by storm. But do you really know him? Sure, you get to know him each week on his show, but here you really get to know him. One hour of almost uninterrupted conversation. And one thing we learn is that Graham is nothing if not loyal. Try as I might, I couldn't get him to say a bad word about his co-host, Dave Shumka. Listen here or over at iTunes. Wherever. Just listen.

Last Comic Standing: Week 3

Don’t you just love these after-the-fact play-by-plays? What’s the point, I ask myself reflexively. There isn’t one, I answer myself. It just gives me something to do while watching and a reason to make myself watch each week. And if I write some of the names down as I go along, it helps me remember them down the road. Plus it keeps me from asking questions to myself.

So on with the show. Thank God for the PVR, aka the greatest invention known to mankind. I see it’s only an hour this week. Don’t they know the industry standard for reality shows these days is two hours? Maybe they’re cutting back because the show is tanking. Maybe it’ll be cancelled before they get to the end, like it was a few season ago.

At least this week they tell us how many will earn a ticket to the semi-finals: Nine. (Maybe they told us in past weeks, but I’m easily distracted.) This will help in my predictions. (By the way, I have read nothing online prior to watching this. No recaps, no spoilers. It obviously not something I absolutely must know about.)

They’re back in New York for the final auditions.

Hey, there’s Brian McKim! I know him... Well, I’ve met him, I should say. He’s the ugly half of sheckymagazine.com.

Oh... No... They just told us, (well, the American viewers, at least) to keep our eyeballs peeled because we (Americans) are the ones to decide who will win the quarter of a million American dollars. Shit. I’m not a big fan of democracy. (Don’t go jumping to conclusions; I’m not a communist.) But Andy Kindler said it best at the State of the Industry address at the Just For Laughs festival several years ago: “Any time an audience is involved in voting, the worst comic is going to win.” That’s actually a paraphrase, but the sentiment is dead-on.

To prove my point, here’s what Kindler – a judge on the show this season – told me in an interview in 2004 (and this is verbatum):
One line I said about Last Comic Standing at Montreal is, "Some people feel it's the worst TV show ever. And others say it might be the worst thing ever."
And this:
“I was watching Last Comic Standing, which to me is just the end of comedy, really. Comedy's already cheesy, and then you're going to make it even more hideous by having a contest involved in it.”
And this:
"Comedy's already cheesy, and then you're going to make it even more hideous by having a contest involved in it? If van Gogh or Picasso had people voting on every segment of his painting: 'Log on now! And tell us whether Matisse should do a still life or he should become an abstract...'. I wish I knew more art terms to flesh out this joke."
And I agree with him on the voting aspect. I mean, yes, somebody’s got to vote. But middle America? Are you serious? There’s a chance the best comic will win, but there’s also a really, really great chance one of the worst ones in the finals will win.

Jerry Rocha, a professional comic from Texas for the last eight years, talked about his creepy uncle, a racist, who doesn’t laugh at racist jokes; he just agrees with them in a thick southern accent. I’m guessing he’s an uncle through marriage because he goes on to tell us he comes from a poor Mexican family. I know there are racist Mexicans, too, but it’s an odd contrast since most people would naturally go to a white southern bigot. I think he should have set that up more clearly and reversed the bits. But that’s just me because he got through to the evening competition with a unanimous and enthusiastic thumbs up.

Calise Hawkins is a single mom with a big round afro. As opposed to the hexagonal ones. She talks about her 3-year-old daughter, who reminds Calise of a homeless guy on the subway. Kindler says no because the characterization of a homeless guy is disturbing in a way, even though he says she’s a really good performer. Greg Giraldo says yes. So it’s up to Natasha Leggero... She’s also a yes. Me? I’m with Andy. But not because I found it disturbing. I just didn’t think there was anything to it. We’ve all heard toddler-as-drunk-friend jokes. This was just a variation on that.

Mike Vecchione is a New Yawker who says he looks like a cop. Very dry. But he made me laugh so I’d put him through. And so do the judges. Natasha raves about him. Somebody’s got a crush!

Hey, it’s freak time! Mr. Zed is a fake robot stand-up comic. It’s funny already, isn’t it?! He gets laughs from the judges, but they don’t think he can sustain that character throughout the season so he’s a goner. Hell, he barely sustained it throughout his fifteen seconds of air time so they got this one right.

Here’s what I like about the freak show part: The judges have fun with them and can make fun of them in a light way. In years past, they’d sit there and do slow burns, like they were pissed off. These guys (and gal) will tell somebody they enjoyed their audition, but give them a no anyway. And when they are more forceful, they still make it funny. Gotta like that.

Back to the normal comics. Kyle Grooms says he’s been doing comedy for 15 years. They show him doing a Barak Obama impression, with the joke being that he’s part everything, including almost every species of animal. It didn’t do anything for me, but Giraldo, in putting him through, said the Obama bit isn’t even a big part of his act. So why did they show that part, I wonder? Hopefully he’ll be better in the evening.

***

Some poor Italian schmuck in line said, “If you want to be famous, you go on Last Comic Standing.” Where do people get their crazy ideas from?

The smiling Ryan Hamilton comes to the mic. Where have I seen him before? Has he been on a previous season? He’s pretty good. Talked about taking a Statue of Liberty boat tour that recreated all too well the immigrant experience. His huge smile is a bit disconcerting but I don’t disagree with the judges, who put him through.

Carmen Lynch also has a 3-year-old daughter. Let’s see where she goes with it... Ah, much better. Her “kid”, nicknamed Whatserface, is Bolivian. Nice misdirection.

Jordan Carlos was a preppy black guy, by his description. The fact he uses the word “leisure” tells you what kind of guy he is, he says. We don’t know if he got through but judging from the laughs from the judges, he probably did.

Nick Cobb thinks whispering is creepy. I wish he didn’t give away the punchline well before he got to it, but it was a funny idea with a funny delivery. Judges laughed.

Rob O’Reilly makes a lot of puns, he says. And then he makes a bad one. I’m not an anti-pun person, either, like so many are. I just thought this one was lame.

Ah, they all got through, as we see now in montage form.

Nikki Glaser... there’s a familiar name. Wish I knew from where. Oh. Four years ago she made it to the semis while she was still in college. I remember her. She was pretty good, if I recall. She said she didn’t deserve to make it past the semis then but has been working her ass off ever since and really wants it this time. Her audition is so-so, though. But she’s got a great presence and I agree with Giraldo: her last joke was great. She said she believes in love at first sight so much that she doesn’t even look homeless guys in the eyes anymore because she doesn’t want to risk it. Kindler likes her audition so much, he says yes in German. He didn’t even say he was disturbed by the subject of homelessness this time.

Next up is a sketch team, the Reverend Bill & Betty Holland. She’s wearing a purple dress with hair to match, while he’s got a yellow suit and hair of an undetermined colour. They’re playing cheesy southern televangelists. The judges stop them at the Jew bashing. Which leads to a montage of Jew bashing, and that irks Kindler. But I’m guessing the biggest insult to Andy was their lack of comedic ability. Because I know some of his alt-comic cronies can pull the same type of joke off. It’s all in the telling.

***

Here’s another guy I’ve heard of: Myq Kaplan. I saw him once on The Tonight Show, have read his comments on sheckymagazine.com, and have heard him interviewed on Marc Maron’s What the Fuck? podcast (where Maron could barely contain his contempt for Kaplan’s non-personal style of smart-guy humour). As he’s telling us he’s an extroverted, less-outcast nerd, his partner gives him a kiss at the cab door and says, “Don’t sleep with anybody.” I love it when women are so in love they don’t realize their men are complete dorks.

I like wordplay, but his audition did nothing for me. The judges didn’t seem to love him, but they liked him well enough to advance him to the evening competition. Probably got through on name recognition or agent's pull.

And here’s Brian McKim back. He tells us he’s been doing comedy since 1981 (read: he’s old). He does wordplay, too, in a very deadpan manner. There seemed to be crickets during his audition (metaphorically speaking), but I liked his set. The judges seemed iffy until he got them with an off-the-cuff rejoinder about mixing his good jokes in with crap. So he’s advancing.

Jordan Rock tells us it’s hard being Chris Rock’s brother because we assume he’s getting on stage just because he’s Chris Rock’s brother. You know what? He’s right. And I bet that’s exactly why he’s getting on stage. Kindler says he has good delivery but his material wasn’t good enough for the show. I thought he sounded rehearsed and unnatural and his delivery was the worst part of his audition. The nurturing Natasha thought he showed potential and voted yes, but Kindler and Giraldo passed.

Man, Rock is only 19. That’s quite the age gap between him and Chris. At least he was wise enough to realize his audition sucked. That shows maturity.

Adrienne Iapalucci inexplicably gets three yeses. She was okay but her premise was better than the realization of it. She talked about doing inadvertant racist things like crossing the street when she sees a black guy approaching, who turns out to be her boyfriend. But she had a good, droll delivery.

Jason Weems talks about being ambushed at a fake karate lesson. Kindler thought he was “very, very funny” which goes to show one of two things: the editors cut out the good stuff or Kindler has lost his mind.

Mark Normand had a good line about Christian rock... Traci Skene, the good looking half of sheckymagazine.com and McKim's wife, did a line about beefy hair care products... They both advance.

Next up is some one-eyed mute thing. It’s a costume, relax. It’s kind of a shame it was just a plug for some new lame movie, but at least the judges had fun with it. But still, it really makes me not want to have anything to do with that movie. And I will not be a party to their shameless plugs so you won't read the name of it here.

***

Okay, it’s showcase time. About time.

Kyle Grooms gets things started with a, “Sup, y’all? Aiiight.” Slays me every time. Then he goes into a bit about the non-threatening name of Kyle. I didn’t dig it, but he’s really good on stage. And his glasses bit I thought was funny... Nikki Glaser did a joke I swear she did four years ago about a guy dating a woman in a wheelchair. Funny bit but I thought she’s been working on her act the last four years?... Jerry Rocha got mugged by four Latinos, who turned out to be his buddies. I liked it, but not so much the follow-up about him dating a 20-year-old Mexican. Mostly because I didn’t believe a guy that looked like that could date a 20-year-old...

Before hitting the stage, Traci Skene admitted to being out of her comfort zone so she’s not going to even acknowledge the crowd. But she seemed comfortable. As she should because she’s a wily vet. She did material on being married for 21 years and the lack of romance in such a relationship... Big-mouthed Ryan Hamilton had a really good set. Maybe that face actually does work because he just seems funny. Maybe even funnier than he really is. But I think his material and writing is good, too... Calise Hawkins went on about her daughter again. But her set-up wasn’t logical. She was happy to be out so she could drink. But in the next sentence she said you can’t drink around a toddler and you can’t even be hungover. So I guess that means she won’t be drinking then? And her big joke really went nowhere...

Myq (pronounced Mike, because that’s what it was before he changed the spelling) Kaplan played up his nerd status. But I liked his quick-pace wordplay in this set, which started out by saying ‘lie detector’ was too negative a name; why not call it a ‘truth detector’? and went on from there, ending up at ‘boobies’...

***

Brian McKim told us how the flu shot has changed his life. I laughed. I’m a sucker for deadpan... Carmen Lynch made me laugh, too. “That’s all I wanna do now,” was a great line made greater by her whiny deadpan delivery. Original stuff... Here’s the cop look-alike guy Natasha liked so much. Mike Vecchione wants to see cocaine and fishing together. Another great delivery. Kinda aggressive but not too much... Rob O’Reilly addresses his looks off the top, which I’m really getting sick of. I know, a comic is supposed to do that kinda thing if something’s really distracting otherwise, but this guy doesn’t really look like either a pedophile or someone he’d molest. But his joke about apples and oranges was good... Jason Weems wondered who let Magic Johnson speak at Michael Jackson’s funeral. And even though he was making fun of my all-time favourite basketball player, he made it funny... Adrienne Iapalucci used to be a nanny even though she hates kids. Didn’t really work for me... Nick Cobb did a similar bit to his audition, when he talked about how whispering something is creepier than saying it. In the showcase he showed how being on two knees is always worse than being on one. Shouldn’t have gone with the Viet Cong reference. Way more disturbing than homeless guy. I wonder if all his jokes are juxtaposing two similar things and showing how different they really are...

***

Now we find out who the nine are who will be going to the semis. Allow me to make my predictions. I’d say Ryan Hamilton, Myq Kaplan, Brian McKim, Carmen Lynch, Mike Vecchione, Rob O’Reilly, Jason Weems, Kyle Grooms and Nikki Glaser. But some are definitely on the bubble. Let’s see who they pick:
  1. Jerry Rocha. Not a horrible pick. I didn’t pick him just because every joke was about him being Mexican. But he’s decent. I’m 0-for-1.
  2. Carmen Lynch. 1-for-2.
  3. Kyle Grooms. 2-for-3.
  4. Mike Vecchione. 3-for-4.
  5. Jason Weems. 4-for-5.
  6. Ryan Hamilton. 5-for-6.
  7. Nick Cobb. Again, not a horrible pick. He seems funny enough. 5-for-7.
  8. Adrienne Iapalucci. I’m fine with it even though I didn’t pick her. 5-for-8.
  9. Myq Kaplan. 6-for-9.
There you have it. Of my picks, McKim, O’Reilly and Glaser didn’t advance. That’s gotta be a big blow for Glaser, who advanced four years ago. But she probably should have done a different joke.

Wait a second! Stop the presses! I’ve paused the PVR. Craig Robinson just said, “There are only two tickets left.” I’m going to rewind this in a second. I could have sworn they said there’d be nine advancing. Oh well, let’s see who the other two are:
  • 10. Nikki Glaser. There she is! 7-for-10.
  • 11. Brian McKim. Bingo! 8-for-11.
Meaning only O’Reilly of my picks didn’t advance. And that’s okay. He was iffy at best.

Okay, I’m watching the beginning again and... It sounds to me like Robinson says, “Nine dark and lovely comics earn tickets to the semi-finals.” Vindication!

Well, that’s it for this week. See you next week... when I get around to watching.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Episode 192ish: The Foxx and the Greyhound

Getting a bit behind on the podcasts so I'm going to post two in quick succession. Today I offer you Kevin Foxx and Damonde Tschritter, who were in our studios to plug their new comedy room at the Cabin Eatery every Thursday night. And plug they did, every chance they got. They also regaled us with tales of debauchery from days gone by. (Tomorrow we'll post the Graham Clark episode, but of course everything's already available over at iTunes anyway so if you're really jonesing for some Clark, go there.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Irwin Barker, RIP


Do you believe in the subconscious? I think deep down we all do.
The funniest guy in the world named Irwin has passed away.

Irwin Barker succumbed to cancer three years after doctors gave him one year to live back in 2007. It's a sad day for comedy. Irwin was not only one of the best – if not the best – joke writers in the country, he was a class act, as well. We were spoiled in Vancouver for years when he lived here. I can't count the number of times I saw him over the years and it was always a joy – especially if I was bringing someone new to live and local comedy to the show. And as funny as he was on stage, he was as kind and polite off-stage.

He was an enigma, too. Here was a middle-aged stand-up comedian with virtually no charisma, no schtick, no energy... and he destroyed everywhere. I'm not exaggerating here. Obviously an older guy in a suit with some good jokes and a brain is going to do well on the CBC or in theatres. But I used to sit in fear at the back of Urban Well on a night the crowd was particularly drunk, young, trendy, and rambunctious, after they've spit up younger, hipper comics. I'd fear for Irwin, a gentle soul if there ever was one. And there was never a reason to. He'd get up there, hem and haw about feeling like a dad coming down to the rec room and miraculously everyone would sit up and take notice. And he'd get them. Every time.

In one ill-advised booking, the Trailer Park Boys were doing their first show in Vancouver, at the Vogue Theatre as part of the comedy festival. Organizers put them on as hosts bringing out an array of comedians of varying styles. But the people were there to see the Trailer Park Boys and had no patience for anyone else. They were the rowdiest crowd I've ever seen. The great Andy Kindler was literally booed off the stage. I sat through both shows. When it was Irwin's time, I again got that feeling in my stomach. How could he possibly tame this beast of a crowd? But he did. Out of all the ten or 15 comics on the bill (and there were some really good ones), he did by far the best, just doing his thing.

My neighbour had a coming-out-of-the-closet party. It was fun. It was just the two of us, though, which was awkward.
Once a friend's younger brother, who was a bit of a partyer and boozer, e-mailed me after he and some buddies went to Yuk Yuk's one night. This kid didn't routinely go out to live comedy, but he knew I did so made a point of writing me. He wrote, "I saw some guy named Irwin last night. Funniest guy I've ever seen in my life." It was then that I realized that the strength of Irwin's material, and his dry delivery and lack of pretense, was enough to win over any crowd, anywhere.

I got into a big argument with a friend of mine over the meaning of semantics.
Irwin was a guest on What's So Funny? twice, the first time in 2005 and the second after he had been diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma. Both chats were low-key but illuminating. He had such insight and knowledge of comedy and the process. I found it fascinating to learn how he writes. He could do seven minutes on raisins and it was killer. He said he just researched a topic – any topic – and started writing an essay. A non-funny high school-type essay. Then, when he was done, he'd go back, punch it up and edit it down. Maybe that's too labour intensive for some, but the proof is in his act. This Sunday (June 27th) on the show, we will play clips from his two appearances on the show and we'll hear some of Irwin's act, as well.
My aunt is a perfect combination of fatalist and optimist. She fell down and broke her leg, and just laid there going, "Am I ever glad that's over with."
Irwin also taught me, indirectly, that there's no such thing as a hack premise – only hack jokes or comics. He could take the hackiest premise, such as airport security or pilots or Costco, and bring a fresh and original take to them. And hilarious. That always helps.

A couple months after his diagnosis, Irwin returned to Vancouver to perform at Balthazar's. He was as bald as a cueball from chemo so needless to say his health was the proverbial elephant in the room. He diffused the tension with some barbs at his condition. "One year. That's what the doctor says. He says I have twelve months," he started as we sat there not knowing how to react. "But my lawyer thinks he can get it down to eight months." But he quickly got down to his regular act. And again, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. As things were rolling along near the end of his set, he finally feigned some bitterness over his condition: "Why couldn't this have happened to a hack? They're going to take my jokes as soon as I'm gone, I know it."
My cousin has a serious gambling problem so much so that his wife left him. He called me up and he’s trying to win her back.
They better not. I think it was because of his medical best-before date that he decided to go out swinging. He kept his job as a staff writer for the CBC (who mercifully transferred him from This Hour Has 22 Minutes, which taped in Halifax, to The Rick Mercer Report, which taped in Toronto, so he could get the treatment he needed) and continued doing standup. When he played Yuk Yuk's in 2008, as tired as he was, he made no mention of his illness. He said he didn't want to make it awkward for people who just came to the club for a laugh. I surreptitiously recorded his set on my iPod just for my own enjoyment, knowing he wouldn't be around forever. It was soon after that he recorded and released a DVD so the world now has a record of his brilliance. And no hacks can steal his words.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 20: Dave Shumka

On this Father's Day and last day of spring, we welcome non-father and man of all seasons, Dave Shumka. A couple weeks ago, we had Dave's Stop Podcasting Yourself partner Graham Clark on and I tried to get Clark to admit he was the real star of SPY. Clark wouldn't bite. But it was all a joke. Clearly. Because it's obvious that Shumka is the one driving the amazingly popular podcast. He's wearing the neatly-trimmed beard in that relationship. And he's the one who wowed the crowd in Los Angeles through eight hours of an on-line fund drive. His big name American cohorts called him The Sniper because of his perfectly-timed zingers.

I don't remember much about the first time Shumka guested on What's So Funny? but I do remember having a great time. I didn't know him then as well as I do now, but he was a funny and engaging guest. And with his new-found fame and popularity, no doubt he's got way more stories to regale us with.

All the info on the show is over in the right-hand panel, but I'll save you the trouble: 11 pm to midnight PST, CFRO 102.7 FM in Vancouver, live-streamed at coopradio.org and in a week (or so) it'll be available as a podcast on iTunes. There you go.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Last Comic Standing: Week 2

It’s Wednesday. Maybe I should check out what happened in week 2 of Last Comic Standing on Monday. Care to join me? Good. Let’s get to it.

This week they’re in New York City. I’m liking this host, Craig Robinson, and his unique hosting skill set. He opens this week with a kind of song (not sure exactly how to describe it) walking down the street wearing a strap-on keyboard. I’d like it even more if judges Greg Giraldo and Andy Kindler weren’t following behind, along with dozens of others. Go small or go home, I say. No need for the overkill. And as ironic as it is, Kindler and Giraldo can’t be enjoying themselves.

But thankfully they get right into the auditions.

Alycia Cooper, a 10-year vet from Maryland, says, “The economy is so bad, my cousin texted his wedding invitations.” Got a laugh from Giraldo and Kindler but let’s please hope they were laughing at how bad it is. “So I texted back a picture of a gift.” That ain’t gonna cut it... What?! Giraldo was really laughing. Kindler has some constructive criticism but still calls her "hilarious." Natasha Leggero is the only one with good sense and says no.

Mike DeStefano, a 10-year-vet from the Bronx. We see him sitting around with his buddies, shades of The Godfather and The Sopranos. You see, he’s Italian, so therefore he must be affiliated with the mob. Not a good sign. But his audition was better than I expected. Not surprisingly, he gets to come back for the evening showcase.

Kindler tells us the calibre of comics is really high. It certainly seems higher than in past seasons. Or at least they’re not showing as many train wrecks. And good for them. People want to see good comics. And, yes, I speak on behalf of people.

Great line from Kevin Bozeman: “I’m pro life, except for, like, two times.”

Jamie Lissow also had a great line about trying to do the New York Times crossword. Sometimes, he says, he knows he’s not going to get it without even reading the whole clue: “’What Portuguese--?’ I dunno.”

Claudia Cogan, who looks like the furthest thing from an exotic dancer, says she wants to be a nasty stripper with a spray tan, a coke nosebleed and a 5-year-old. There didn’t seem to be a joke there, but Giraldo liked bloody coke nose so on she goes.

Oh, here are the train wrecks. Nuff said.

Kurt Metzger, an 11-year-vet, has a funny delivery. I wasn’t sure where he was going with the gold bit, but it got better and better and the result was pure gold.

***

“Welcome back to New York where millions of people have been waiting in line for years for their chance to be the Last Comic Standing.” See? What’s not to love about this host?

Tommy Johnagin had a good audition talking about keeping track of the number of times he had sex in a month with his girlfriend.

Okay, enough with the riff-raff in the crowds.

Todd Catalano was the maybe best of the New Yawk aggro-comic montage, which is why they gave him the most screen time even though the judges didn’t put him through. Thankfully none of them got through.

Jamie Lee quit her very stable job to do stand-up. Listening to her audition, I’m thinking that wasn’t the most prudent of moves. I thought for sure she’d be sent packing, but all three judges liked her. She had the delivery. She sounded like a comic. But her material did nothing for me. Doesn’t really matter at this point. This just gets her to the evening competition.

***

More Robinson, speaking in a megaphone to the throngs: “When you go inside, do you know what to do? Try not to speak into the microphone. Talk [shit] about women and children. Humiliate them. Make fun of people’s religion. And be as racist as possible.” Again, doesn’t really matter because the people in line have no chance of advancing anyway. All the serious comics have scheduled audition times.

Roy Wood, Jr. was very polished. Talked about how it’s going to take time to get the troops out of Iraq because “it took me two years to get a crazy girl out of my apartment... You can’t just put them all on Southwest. It takes time to book these flights.” The judges loved him.

Ventriloquist time. Kenny Warren has a funny looking dummy. And that dummy had its own dummy. You just knew there was no way those particular judges were going to put through a ventriloquist. He shouldn’t be dismissed just because he uses puppets, though. Although I don’t mind ventriloquists (that is, I won’t discount them immediately without even hearing them), this guy did what they all do, which drives me nuts: he didn’t have a mic for his dummy. If we’re going to buy into the conceit that his little buddy can talk, put a dummy mic out there for him.

And then we had the ventriloquist montage. Okay, Kenny Warren definitely was the best of that bunch. And Giraldo made a great point: why can’t ventriloquists and their dummies ever get along? (Although the same could be said for comedy teams.)

Jared Logan has been doing stand-up for seven years. I wish we could have seen more of it instead of that stupid sketch about wine tasting from a box. He did a long set-up and I thought he was tanking but it actually paid off nicely. It started with advice he was given to ward off smoke bummers, and escalated to him carrying a fake cell phone, an iPod with only one song on it, and progressed from there. The judges aren’t thrilled with him, but Andy and Greg give him yeses and we’ll see him tonight (or whenever this was filmed).

Amanda Melson wants to see more ministers using air quote fingers and that was enough to get unanimously forwarded on. I didn’t see it, but we only saw a snippet of her.

Jesse Joyce sounded, at times, like Todd Barry and his joke never went anywhere. Or maybe it did but not anywhere funny. Still, we’ll see him tonight, too.

Flavia Masson got through on a joke about a Brazilian wax looking like Hitler’s moustache in your underwear. Seriously. That’s all it takes. Good Lord.

Jim David was next. Has he been on this show before? He’s been somewhere because I’ve seen him. Man, where was it? I don’t know, but that joke perpetuating the gay lifestyle, told with appropriately heavy irony, is really familiar. He goes through.

***

The first New York showcase is underway!

Jamie Lee starts things off. She was great. Talked about getting cat-calls. Look at that. I wasn’t impressed at her audition and she nailed the showcase. Maybe those judges know what they’re doing... Mike DeStefano strangely won me over even though he talked about putting a gun to the head of a young punk... Roy Wood, Jr. railed against Facebook and Twitter but in a pretty uninteresting way with very few jokes beyond they didn’t have it hundred years ago... Kurt Metzger did a great bit about our shallowness in thinking the death of Michael Jackson was the worst thing, only he approached it from the back end, actually agreeing that it was a shattering experience even eclipsing the death of his own father... Amanda Melson talked about yoga. Meh... Jim David wasn’t particularly original, getting frustrated over making plane reservations with automated agents. He got the good edit because we saw all three judges laughing and clapping, greasing the way for his advancement (even though I don’t think he should).

Out of this group, I’d advance Lee, DeStefano and Metzger only.

***

The showcase continues... Tommy Johnagin is recently single and scream cries. He had a good way about him. I’m not thrilled with his set but I wouldn’t mind if they advanced him... I didn’t think Alycia Cooper did well in the audition and I don’t think she did well in the showcase. She talked about airports. Yes, she did. I don’t like her material or her delivery. So what’s the mean? Oh, she’ll probably advance... Flavia Masson also didn’t do well in the audition, I thought. She did a bit better in the showcase with a ridiculous bit about her “maid”. Yes, her maid. While she was better, she shouldn’t advance... Jesse Joyce talked about Malaysian roadkill. I dunno about this guy. He seems like he should be better than he is. I don’t dislike him, and has good ideas, but I’m ambivilant. I’m saying no... Claudia Cogan hates LOL. Yeah, don’t we all? Am I right, people? She also probably doesn’t have HIV. I like her presence, that’s about it... Jared Logan says he is too fancy because he says “pardon me”. Seemed like a false premise, but he sold it.

Hmm, who would I pick from this group? Nobody. So I’ll just see who the judges pick. I like that Robinson pronounces “semis” the right way, with a short i instead of a long one. That guy can do no wrong.

***

I wish they’d tell us ahead of time how many would advance. Not that it matters, I guess. We saw 12 comics. Here are the first round winners:
  1. Roy Wood, Jr. Not based on anything we saw, that’s for sure.
  2. Tommy Johnagin. I don’t mind that pick at all.
  3. Claudia Cogan. Okay. I don’t hate that pick.
  4. Kurt Metzger. Obviously.
  5. Alycia Cooper. As predicted (even though I disagree).
  6. Amanda Melson. Meh again.
  7. Jesse Joyce. Alright.
  8. Mike DeStafano. Yes.
  9. Jamie Lee. Yes.
So the three I felt the strongest about all advanced. You know what I'd love to see? The three judges deliberating and debating with each other on the selections. Mostly because they're really funny and I bet it would be a great segment. But maybe not. We'd just see producers telling them who needs to get through. Anyway, with nine advancing, that leaves out Jim David, Flavia Masson, and Jared Logan. They did not receive a rose and will be going home.

And I will now be going to bed. Good night.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Two articles of note

Got you reading. I don't think the articles are noteworthy. They're just written by me. And one isn't even an article; it's a review.

I saw Penn & Teller last weekend. Great show, but then I'm a sucker for magic. I even like cheesy magic if it's done well. All I want is someone to blow my mind; I don't care what style they do it in.

Some people cannot enjoy magic. I don't get it. They sit there with their head tilted and a sneer on their faces, almost angry at the magician for trying to trick them. I always want to scream at these people, "Yes, it's a trick! There's no such thing as magic. We all know that. Now move on and enjoy the ride."

I agree it's fun trying to figure out how they did it, but if I find out, that doesn't ruin the enjoyment for me. I then appreciate the process of performance. At the show, I bought a deck of Penn & Teller trick cards for five bucks. They teach you how to do three tricks and they're good tricks. So I showed a friend. But she kept trying to sabotage it. Like wanting to shuffle when I said to cut the deck, etc. In this case, I actually did say, "It's a trick! I'm not magic. Now let me finish." She had no idea how I did either trick I showed her, but didn't seem to enjoy them. I guess she just doesn't like to have her mind blown.

But back to Penn & Teller. These guys are masters. If you ever get the chance to see their live show, you should go. And they're really funny, to boot. You can read my review in the Straight right here.

The other article was on Tim Allen. He's coming to the Red Robinson theatre on Friday, June 18, doing his stand-up act. He's a guy who's a huge, huge star and probably the only thing I've seen him on is talk shows. I don't think I ever saw more than ten seconds of Home Improvement; I've never seen one of his movies; and, what's stranger, I don't recall ever seeing his stand-up act. He started in 1979 and obviously reached a level of success so that Disney took notice and built a sitcom around his act. How did I miss it?

So I can't speak with any level of authority about it. I look forward to seeing his act on Friday so I'll have an informed opinion. Too often, we dismiss people based on faulty information. The first time I realized this was years ago at Bumbershoot. I saw Elayne Boosler, a comic who I saw all the time on TV but never liked. Couldn't stand her, actually. But I saw her in Seattle and she was great. A real solid professional. I could totally see how she reached the level she attained.

Since then there have been a few other nice surprises live. Sinbad was another guy I couldn't tolerate. For the life of me I could never figure out how he got popular or why anyone would give him a job. Then I saw him at the River Rock and he was really, really funny. I get it now.

Even Brent Butt kinda falls in this category. I saw him a few times on TV before I ever saw him live and he was just okay. Nothing great, but not horrible. It wasn't until I saw him live that I came to believe he was the best. Ditto Paul F. Tompkins. For some reason, he doesn't translate all that well to the small screen, but live (or on podcasts) there's no one funnier in the world.

And of course it works the other way, too, where you may love a performer from what you've seen on TV and they can't deliver the goods over time in a live show. Interesting, that.

Anyway, I spoke to Tim Allen last Friday and he was really engaging, which is always nice for an interviewer. He talked about everything and was really open, talking about his insecurities with his current stand-up act. And, as I say in the article, we talked about quantum physics, a particular passion of his, and about his 2.5-year stint in the hoosegow. It comes out in print on Thursday but I see the Straight has put it on-line already so here it is for you.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

June 13: Ryan Beil

Tonight on the big show we've got a big guest. Not physically. But big in stature. Ryan Beil has had an amazing year. Eight days before the Jessie Awards, to be held at the Commodore on June 21, Beil is sitting pretty, if nominations are any indication. As the Georgia Straight reported, "Beil received two lead-actor nominations in the large-theatre category (for his work in Billy Bishop Goes to War and The Comedy of Errors), a lead-actor nomination in small theatre (American Buffalo), and an outstanding-performance nomination in the theatre for young audiences stream (The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood)."

And if there were awards for Canadian commercials (and there probably are), Beil would clean up there, too, with his Ryan the Trainee ads for A & W. I'm a guy who switches channels at the first sign of a commercial but I always watch Ryan's, not just because I kinda know him, but because they're funny and he's so good in them. He's made junk food and coronary disease cool again.

The kid is going places, needless to say. And the first place he's going to is our show tonight, 11 to midnight. Ryan will be joining us straight from his weekly improv show, The Sunday Service at the Hennessey on Broadway. Yes, he does improv, too. Actor, improv artist, and fast food employee. That's the trifecta right there.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Last Comic Standing, the dead blog

Last Comic Standing has risen from the ashes. The buzz is largely positive, despite the fact the ratings sucked. Maybe they shouldn’t put it up against the behemoth that is The Bachelorette. That’ll learn ‘em.

I haven’t yet watched it, but I’ve got it on PVR. I figure I’ve got a blog dedicated to comedy so why not do a fake-live blog as I watch? What a grand idea! Maybe in future weeks I’ll post it the same night it airs. Or maybe it’ll just fizzle out. But whatever. I’m firing up the PVR right now. Won’t you pretend to watch it with me?

Here we go:

“LAst Comic Standing is back. I bet you’re wondering how the hell did that happen?” sings the host, Craig Robinson, sitting at a keyboard wearing a smoking jacket and ascot. It’s already better!

I was just going to say I’ve never seen or heard of this guy before but he just told us he’s been on The Office and in Hot Tub Time Machine... Nope, still haven’t seen him. But that’s on me, not him.

I love the judges this season: Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo. Finally some judges who are funny. No knock on Ant or those two dudes from The Tonight Show, but... No wait, that was a knock on Ant and those two dudes from The Tonight Show. They were horrible. And Leggero’s cleavage in the upcoming highlights is exquisite.

We see the usual assortment of crazies camping out for an audition. It’s not gonna happen, people. We all know the ones to advance have all been pre-selected. That is, they don’t have to wait in line to audition with the riff-raff. They’re given appointments. But whatever. It’s a show.

Giraldo says he looks for honesty and for people who’ve suffered a little. Then we see a clip of him joking about texting. You know, because it’s so true and honest. Who hasn’t suffered trying to decipher a text or clumsily write one with their thumbs?

Leggero is looking for material, point of view and performance. That’s more like it. Just like Kindler, who says he’s open to anything as long as it comes from them. Agree completely.

Funny seeing Kindler involved. I should dig up the quotes from an interview I did with him years ago where he completely trashed the show.

The first contestant is pretty good and the judges are generous, constructive and funny in their comments. Nice. Now let’s see how they react to a brutal comic.

The next guy isn’t horrible, but not good, either. Giraldo and Leggero laugh, but seem to be laughing at him, not with him. Kindler is stoic, rain or shine, comedically speaking. But the guys like him and push him through.

The next guy is dressed up in a red devil costume and has a guitar. It’s a unanimous no. But again, it’s a funny and generous no, as opposed to years past when they were just mean.

One guy, Kirk Fox, withdraws on stage and still gets pushed through. I’m liking the show so far. Mostly because of the judges, but that’s okay with me. Kindler’s killing it. No surprise there, but maybe it is. Do some think he’s trying to upstage the contestants? I don’t, but I wonder if some sensitive souls not familiar with his comedy might.

***

We get to know some of the contestants who make it through to the evening’s competition: Fortune Feimster is funnier than her material, but Leggero says she exhibited “great joke writing”... L’il Rel grew up with the craziest teachers in the world... Marc Ryan got funny as soon as he got into it with Natasha, calling her Nancy. Or maybe it was just the awkwardness of the situation that I found funny. I have no idea if he made it through, but I doubt it... Kevin Small was an older Texan who hadn’t been doing stand-up long. The judges were iffy but sent him through anyway. Kindler pointed out the one joke structure I hate, too. In Small’s case, it was him being teased mercilessly about his name and how it relates to the size of his penis. The punchline being that it was his dad that said it. I love a good misdirection joke, but not that structure. The funniest thing was this little kick he did that the judges laughed at, so he kept doing it. Can’t wait to see how many kicks he does that night... Cathy Ladman was there! She has been around forever and is really, really funny. Sometimes it’s weird who ends up on these shows. But that’s what happens when you open it up to pros and amateurs... Rob Delaney also moved on, as did Shane Mauss, David Feldman (he’s got a great podcast, by the way), and a tall, skinny, bespectacled drink of water named Jacob Sirof.

***

More contestants: Guy Torry was friends with the judges. But while they brought him back, they didn’t give ringing endorsements, which is encouraging to see. Natasha gives a no and both Kindler and Giraldo are iffy. They think he’s better than his material... A live female version of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, named Edith Piaf, is just odd. Not horrible, but just oddly amusing. Not enough to be invited back, though... Taylor Williamson is okay. He says he’s learned some things about New York, such as pretty girls on subways don’t talk to young extremely talented up-and-coming comedians... There were more but that’s all you need to know. Especially so much after the fact.

***

Showcase night 1.

We get to see a bit more of the comics and see how they do to a room full of people instead of just three judges. There was some good material. I’m not sure how many will advance, but I’ll make my picks.
  • Felipe Esparza sleeps with large women because he’s Mexican. Blah.
  • The large Fortune Feimster makes a Precious joke off the top. Not sure about her stand-up but I think she could be a break-out star. Sign her to SNL. She’s just funny and larger than life.
  • Rob Delaney. Judging from what we saw, meh.
  • L’il Rel does really good character work. Again, don’t know about his stand-up but sign him up for SNL.
  • Kevin Small died. Absolutely bit it. Thing is, for a guy who’s only been doing stand-up since November, his delivery was quite good. As for the material, that takes more work. A lot more.
  • Laurie Kilmartin had some good and sick baby material. We’re used to the male perspective of hating their own kids, thanks to Louis CK, but it’s even sicker when the nurturing mother does it. Sick in a good way. Funny stuff. People think Britney Spears is dumb. “No, she lost custody; she’s a genius.”
  • Jacob Sirof did Jewish material that was pretty good. Jews don’t feel they’re better than everyone else; “God does. And that’s in your book, too.”
So out of those brief clips, I’d put through Feimster, Rel, Kilmartin and Sirof, not knowing exactly how many can be put through.

***

Continuing with the showcase.
  • Kirk Fox. The guy who tried to sabotage his own advancement. He’s a funny guy with a funny moustache. I bet he’d make a good comedic actor if he can act. His voice sounds a bit like Larry David.
  • Taylor Williamson talked about his grandparents’ parents, who were first cousins. I can relate. Can you imagine the wedding? I think it would go a little something like... this (he didn’t set it up that way): Everyone sitting on one side of the aisle. Funny.
  • David Feldman got political. I love a comic who can make his point by taking the opposite point of view to show the ridiculousness of it all. He said Obama destroyed America. “Remember how perfect this place was before he was president?” Beautifully succinct.
  • Amy Claire. She looks familiar but I don’t know why. She’s dating doctor so she has a strong chance of accidentally getting pregnant. I like her persona.
  • Maronzio Vance buys his Rice Krispees at the 99 cent store. The judges are laughing more than I think they should.
  • Cathy Ladman. Hitler jokes! She’s hilarious. She imagines Eva Braun’s boyfriends before Hitler and what jerks they must have been. She marvels at their happy union when she and her husband are in therapy. “My husband’s a great guy, don’t get me wrong. But let me tell you something: he’s no Hitler.”
  • Guy Torry didn’t elevate his material like the judges asked him to, in my opinion.
  • Shane Mauss. Not bad but material is kinda generic. Meh.
The judges deliberate, but they still don’t say how many are moving on. From this group, I’d put forward Fox, Williamson, Feldman and Ladman.

So to recap, I’d advance Fortune Feimster, L’il Rel, Laurie Kilmartin, Jacob Sirof, Kirk Fox, Taylor Williamson, David Feldman and Cathy Ladman. That’s eight. If it’s fewer than that, then they probably don’t go with the older comics because I’m sure the producers have some say, meaning Feldman and/or Ladman would be goners.

***

The deliberations are over and the results are in:
  1. Felipe Esparza. Really? Jesus, I’m oh-for one.
  2. David Feldman. That’s a win for old guys with hairplugs everywhere. But he’s deserving. One-for-two. Fifty percent.
  3. Maronzio Vance. Seriously? I’m losing faith in Kindler, Leggero and Giraldo. One-for-three.
  4. Shane Mauss. One-for-four. I suck at this.
  5. Guy Torry. One-for-five. This is getting ridiculous.
  6. Kirk Fox. Two-for-six.
  7. Jacob Sirof. Three-for-seven. Inching back to respectability.
  8. Taylor Williamson. Four-for-eight. I know, I only picked seven, but I’m claiming whoever I can at this point.
  9. L’il Rel. Five-for-nine. Back over 50 percent!
  10. Fortune Feinster. Six-for-ten.
  11. Laurie Kilmartin. Seven-for-eleven.
I guess that means seven of my eight picks made it through to the semis. I’m better than I thought I was. I wish they would have told us ahead of time how many would advance, but oh well. Gone are Cathy Ladman (for shame), Rob Delaney, Kevin Small, and Amy Claire. Only four didn’t make it? That seems high.

***

L.A. auditions, day 2. Everyone’s lined up in the rain. I thought it never rained in southern California. So much for truth in lyrics.

Rachel Feinstein has been doing stand-up for 11 years. She can do voices but I’m not so sure about her material. But the judges say yes... Michael J. Herbert arrives with a ridiculous mohawk and goes straight into a not bad joke. But the panel is thrown by his coif. They think he needs to address it right away. And because he doesn’t, he’s not advancing. At least, that was the impression they gave... And then we see the usual assortment of freaks and weirdos: jugglers, alien warriors, chicken impressions, shirtless fat guys, a sasquatch on stilts, none of whom advanced... Lastly was a fetching young Ethiopian Jew from South Central Los Angeles named Tiffany Haddish. Great attitude. I’m predicting she’s going to the semis right now.

***

Robinson is a great host. He’s easy-going and comfortable and, bottom line, funny without trying too hard.

The auditions continue.

Chip Pope describes himself as a big homo, so he’s got to advance, right? They don’t have a gay comic yet. They’ve got to cover all the bases... Cristela Alonzo gets the judges laughing at her suicidal ramblings... Chris Fairbanks talked about Campbell’s soup and got a big laugh just because he screwed up the name. I think he got a yes but I’m not sure... Christina Pazsitsky had a joke about eyelashes that Legarro loved. She’s coming back... Skippy Greene was a character with a cigar, hat, big glasses, and a moustache doing old-timey jokes. Kindler said no, Giraldo said yes, and I’m not sure what Leggero said. We’ll see, I guess... And Jonathan Thymius had a good joke about being mugged. He had no money so the mugger got him a job. “Now he’s there every payday.” The judges are iffy but he wins them over with a great tag to a joke about a breakfast cereal surprise.

***

It’s showtime.

Ah, that was Jimmy Dore we saw earlier. I knew I recognized him but all we saw was a wink and I didn’t hear the voice (he does a good podcast, too, called Comedy and Everything Else).
  • Chip Pope started weakly, I thought, but I laughed out loud at his CSI joke.
  • Paula Bel has got the angry schtick down pat. She sounds like another comic but I can’t put my finger on it just yet.
  • Jimmy Dore on gay marriage. Okay.
  • Christina Pazsitsky played the immigrant parent card. Meh.
  • Tiffany Haddish wants boobies. She was wearing a tight shirt and I was just thinking it made no sense because she clearly had some boobies. Then she reached in her shirt and pulled out one of the fake boobies. Hmm. I had her moving forward into the semis. Now I’m not so sure. Although judging by who they picked in the first half, I’m sure she’s still a lock.
  • James Adomian has played the Vancouver festival a couple times. He’s famous for his Bush impression, but now that W. is out of office, he’s doing more stand-up. He had an okay set about the lovable cartoon Mucinex blob.
Out of this group, I’d say Pope, Bel, and Haddish.

***

Showtime, night 2, part 2.
  • Rachel Feinstein was okay. Better than okay, actually. But less than really funny.
  • Chris Fairbanks just quit smoking. Or rather quit just smoking. It’s a longish bit but the payoff is funny.
  • Jonathan Thymius enters wearing a gold lamé jacket. He’s got a great look. He looks much older than he is, I’m guessing, and plays it up. But the two jokes they showed were weak and unoriginal.
  • Cristela Alonzo lies on her resume. Pretty good premise but she took it one step too far with the countdown tag, I thought.
  • Jason Nash is the father of a 3-year-old WWII Japanese general. Pretty good.
That’s only five comics by my count. Out of these, I think Feinstein, Fairbanks, and Nash should advance. So that means I have Chip Pope, Paula Bel, Tiffany Haddish, Rachel Feinstein, Chris Fairbanks and Jason Nash. That’s only six. Eleven advanced in the first hour. But there were only eleven comics total in the second hour. So I’m sticking with my picks.

***

The results are in:
  1. Rachel Feinstein. One-for-one. Off to a good start.
  2. Chip Pope. I’m on fire. Two-for-two.
  3. James Adomian. I like Adomian but didn’t pick him based on what I saw. So I don’t mind this pick at all. Two-for-three.
  4. Jason Nash. I’m back. Three-for-four.
  5. Paula Bel. This is too easy. Four-for-five.
  6. Cristela Alonzo. Oops. Setback. Four-for-six.
  7. Jonathan Thymius. What the? Well, he’ll be interesting, I’m sure. Four-for-seven.
That leaves out the lovely Tiffany Haddish, Chris Fairbanks, Jimmy Dore and Christina Pazsitsky. Odd that Dore wouldn’t advance, but then Ladman didn’t, either. That’s the thing with competitions: the best don’t always advance. It’s a crapshoot.

And just like that, it’s over. Next week they move on to New York for more of the same. I’m actually looking forward to it. I didn’t watch the last season or two, so this is encouraging.

Anyone else watch? Thoughts? Opinions? Do share.