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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Last Comic Standing: Week 9 (finally)

Is it a reflection on me and my lazy habits or a reflection on the show that I find myself six days removed from the original air date and I haven’t watched the last episode yet? But let’s not play the blame game.

I thought there was a chance I wouldn’t have to write anything this week because I just sat down in front of the TV and found that my PVR mysteriously deleted the episode. (When in doubt, I always prefer to blame inanimate objects.) Thankfully (or not) modern technology is there to step up to the plate and deliver me episode 9 on-line.

Since I’m so late with this, I’ll be as brief as possible.

We ended episode 8 with my confident prediction that Jonathan Thymius would be the one comic voted off. Let’s see if I’m right.

With only five left, after one gets the boot, that leaves plenty of dead air. So to fix matters, they’ve brought in “legendary” comedian Ron White. I use the quotation marks not as a slight on White, because I think he’s great, but just because the term is over-used. He ain’t no legend. He’s just really funny. If all you know of Ron White is that he’s one of the Blue Collar comics, and thus easily pigeon-holed and dismissed, you’re in for a treat. He’s an excellent comedian.

Craig Robinson makes the big announcement right off the top. The comic leaving is none other than Jonathan Thymius. The audience lets out a collective “awww” and even though I didn’t like Thymius’s comedy, I sympathize because he seems like a good guy and funnier than his act. At least Thymius can hold his head high knowing that he was the first comic Robinson deigned to shake hands with, skin on skin, not once but twice. That’s something.

So the final five is Tommy Johnagin, Myq Kaplan, Felipe Esparza, Mike DeStefano, and Roy Wood, Jr. All straight males, 60 percent white. And while only one will be the last comic standing, all five will be on tour together for the next 297 days. And no matter what I think of them individually on the show, I’d definitely go see them live because that’s the beauty of stand-up – some acts don’t translate well to TV and you see them live and they’re great. Case in point: former LCS contestant Tammy Pescatelli. I couldn’t stand her on the show but thought she was really good live.

So they’re each going to perform one last time (I guess) and see who America loves best. First up: Roy Wood, Jr.

Not a particularly strong opening from Wood, talking about his drunk uncle telling people his nephew is going to be on the wrong NBC show, like Law & Order. But he segues nicely into his problem with white people: he can’t tell the difference between the racists and non-racists. He proposes a solution: the non-racists get a wristband or a hand stamp. Cut-away shot of judge Andy Kindler, stone-faced. Will that affect America’s voting? Then he talks about the inherent problems with being the only single guy amongst his friends. All they want to do is cheat on their spouses and they expect Roy to lie for them. He misspeaks, I think, when he says all he wants to say to them is, “Hey, man, it’s all right.” All right? Really? Not sure this is the set that’ll win America’s hearts. He’s basically saying all married guys – or at least 100 percent of his married friends – cheat. I think he could have distanced himself a little more from that notion.

The judges speak: Kindler says he’s getting better and better each week and he just loves him. Andy wishes he could think of something more incisive to say. So do I. But he ends with a great joke: “Thanks for the case of wrist bands.” Natasha Leggero loves that he’s personal and that he also has social commentary. So do I, actually. And he seems like such a nice guy, she says. Yes, he does. She tells him to stay single because he’s going to get a hot chick when he wins this contest. Not sure all the other contestants will love that comment, but she doesn’t decide who wins. Greg Giraldo said Roy had a smashing set and he’s getting better each week. I disagree. I thought he was way better last week.

My grade: B-


Tommy Johnagin is next up. He also starts out talking about his uncle. This one’s not drunk, he’s a redneck who stole a port-o-potty. The joke doesn’t really go anywhere but he segues into the weirdest thing he’s ever done, which was going to a gynecologist for a sports physical at the age of 13, and he found out they don’t do that there. Sound implausible? Not the way he tells it. It was a funny story and it led to another weird thing he did: while driving 70 mph, he hit a deer. At the point of impact, the girl he was with shouted, “Deer!” He couldn’t see it because there was a deer in his windshield. He’s a storyteller but not a rambling one. He punctuates almost every sentence with a joke. Pretty good set.

Robinson is shaking everyone’s hands this week. And no doubt scrubbing furiously with hand sanitizer during the commercials.

Natasha likes that he has jokes within the jokes and making the set-ups hilarious. I find Natasha’s comments the most instructive. Greg says Tommy is a great comedian. He experiences the world in a way normal people don’t. Andy thought it was his best set yet.

My grade: B+


Myq Kaplan’s prerecorded bit reveals that his girlfriend’s name is Myqa. He didn’t give the spelling, but that’s what I’m going with. Awesome.

He strolls to the myqrophone and just soaks in the applause. Hmm. Calculated move knowing the longer he stands there, the more people will applaud, making him look beloved? Or calculated move because he’s running out of material and is buying time? As he’s done every single time, he comments on the previous comic, showing us, I guess, that he can think on his feet. This time he also uses it to identify himself as Jewish which allows him to go into his bit on prejudice. And while in it, he references Roy Wood, Jr. gag on wristbands. He’s in the moment. He makes a good point on crazies who always see the slippery slope on the subject of gay marriage. Back when women got the right to vote, there weren’t people saying it would lead to furniture or horses being enfranchised. (For the record, Kaplan supports women voting. A funny line which got no response from the crowd.) And while trumpeting women’s rights, he simultaneously ridicules the femi-nazis who think ‘manhole’ is a sexist term since either gender can go through them. Pretending to take their side, he proposes they be called street vaginas from now on. Good set from Myqy.

Giraldo says he’s great, hilarious, his jokes are so well-written, and he’s very spontaneous. Kindler says hurray to Myq’s thought process. Leggero thinks he’s so funny. Well, her comments aren’t always that insightful.

My grade: B+


In Felipe Esparza’s prerecorded segment, he says he got into hardcore drugs and “gang-banging”. Oh, yes, he did. I’m going to guess he means he was in a gang, not that he was raping women with his buddies. He says when he first got the red envelope lo these many weeks ago, he was shocked. On that, we are in agreement. I was shocked, too.

He starts his set talking about his dad being a fixer-upper, throwing in the always-hilarious (i.e. hack) McGyver reference. He’d take an old TV that once had 500 channels and affix a knob from the oven to it. You kind of always have to figure out what he means because he never explains anything well in the set-up. Here is a transcription of that joke, word for word: “One time he brought a television home. I said, Look, that TV had 500 channels. When I got older, it didn’t have 500 channels. It was a knob from the oven.” It’s confusing because he started out saying his dad would bring home junk and fix it with duct tape. But in the joke, it sounds as if he brought home a new TV and only after it wore down over the years did he try to fix it. And yet that confusing story got him an applause break. Go figure. They just really want to love this guy. But his tag was funny: “My favourite channel was 300 degrees.” Then he talked about his diet growing up. His mom cooked everything with lard. He had a heart attack when he was 12 playing kickball. Not nearly as funny as the long involved, but similar, story Brent Butt tells in his stand-up act. Esparza ended it there, whereas Butt would go into way more examples, like getting a tingly arm while colouring. Then he talked of his father’s reaction to his gay brother, with the pay-off being the dad thought the Heimlich maneuver was homo-erotic. A stretch. He gets another inexplicable applause break comparing his gay brother’s good looks being able to get him any woman he wants but preferring men to having Superman’s powers but not rescuing no one. Really? That’s what it’s like? Is that so on the money it deserves applause? Am I too hard on this guy? I feel like I’m always tearing him apart but his sets just make no sense to me.

Kindler nails it. He says he loves that in the Heimlich maneuver, his dad was concerned about the gay aspect, not the incest aspect. I think we can read into Kindler’s comment that “I love” means he doesn’t love it. He’s politely making fun of the logic of the joke. But then he goes and spoils it all by saying something stupid like “I have grown more in love with you each week.” He calls him the real deal and says he loves what Esparza does. Oh please, Andy. Natasha also gets a little shot in, saying he loves that he talks about his family and brings them to the theatre to start the standing ovation. Greg says Felipe is definitely his favourite Mexican Amish comedian. He also says Felipe is an original with such an original world view.

My grade: C-


Mike DeStefano runs out to entertain us. He’s back in full tatt mode. No talk of relatives off the top. He went to Catholic school as a kid, which is why he’s a Buddhist, he says. Good line about ugly scary religious people who tell him Jesus loves him. “Oh yeah? If Jesus loved me, I think he would have sent somebody else to tell me. You are bad advertising for Jesus. Like Mel Gibson.” He does some jokes at the expense of homeless people that are funny but I can’t wait to hear what Kindler has to say about them. He’s been on record at least a couple of times this season as finding offense in jokes even mentioning the homeless even if they’re not the butt of the jokes. And, to be fair, DeStefano makes himself the villain in these jokes. Then he talks about his uncle who told him two things: the only difference between Jews and Italians is college, and if you hit a guy with a hammer... Wait a second. What? Hit a guy with a hammer? He didn’t set up his uncle as some sort of goombah, but I guess that was the implication. The crowd loved it. Applause break. Next he gets in a good line about the inability of black rappers to shoot straight. He gives the advice, “Hold the gun straight. Focus. ... If 50 Cent had got shot by Italians, two shots, he woulda been done. Dead.” And then, after saying, “Murder works”, he ends on a bit about beating the cell phone guy with a ball peen hammer. That was a warm and fuzzy set.

Natasha loves him. Greg thought it was a great set, saying it’s so hard to be mean and tough and still so loveable. Yes, it is hard. I’m not sure DeStefano accomplished that, but I’m just one opinion. Giraldo says he was “super funny and super great”. Andy says he’s very bright but very funny. Hmm. I think DeStefano is brighter than he lets on, but it’s not the adjective that describes his comedy best. No stern lecture from Andy on joking about the homeless.

My grade: C+


That’s it. Next week (well, tomorrow at this point) we find out who the big winner is. This week I have them in this order:

  1. Tommy Johnagin
  2. Myq Kaplan
  3. Roy Wood, Jr.
  4. Mike DeStefano
  5. Felipe Esparza

Which, as we know by now, means absolutely nothing. Say it again: absolutely nothing.

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