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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

LCS: Grand finale

You might have noticed I'm later than usual with my blog post on the big Last Comic Standing finale. And I'll continue to be late for it because I'm not going to watch. Damn Facebook ruined it for me. I guess that's what you get for having so many Facebook friends in the comedy bizness.

Maybe if one of the other five finalists had won, I would have watched, but how can I support a show that produces such winners as Felipe Esparza and Dat Phan? Clearly, this is not a program that is made for people like me. I know, I know, comedy is subjective. I'm the first person who'll tell you that, too. But there has to be some level of craft to it, doesn't there? There are plenty of comics that aren't my particular cup o' Red Rose, but I appreciate their professional abilities.

But I can't say Esparza had a professional level of competence from what we saw on TV. Now, you may counter that we don't get an accurate reflection of their act on the old flatscreen, and again, I'm the first person to tell you that, too. But that's all we, the viewers (and presumptive voters), can go by. The winner wasn't chosen by the three very funny judges (although had they offered anything more critical or constructive beyond "hilarious" and "the crowd loved you", we maybe wouldn't have arrived at the results we arrived at); he was chosen by the public. So I saw what everyone else saw. Only I didn't see it. I saw a guy with no craft; just a goofy devil-may-care persona and some half-assed jokes. That shouldn't cut it.

And making matters worse is the perception of a fix. It doesn't help that the winner was somehow affiliated with the executive producer. If an American Idol contestant were represented somehow by Simon Cowell, would it just be tossed off as, "Oh well, he's in the music biz; they're in the music biz. Of course there are going to be connections"? Absolutely not. There should be no hint of conflict of interest.

But, you counter, the viewing audience voted on the winner, not the producers. So what difference does it make? Since all along the way we were never told the breakdown in percentages of the votes each contestant received, who's to say what the actual votes were?

This all may have been on the up-and-up, but there were too many factors to suggest otherwise. At the very least, the show didn't do all it could to be as transparent as possible: not allow contestants with connections to the producers (lord knows there are enough really funny professional comedians in North America to choose from), be explicit with the process from the beginning so we all know what will happen each week, and give us the breakdown of the votes along the way (yes, they could just make up numbers but at least it would give us some confidence that they're not just pushing through whoever they want).

The show came a long way this season. They concentrated solely on stand-up; they got some very good contestants and minimized the freak shows; they brought in three very funny judges. And then they go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like Felipe Esparza is the Last Comic Standing.

Sour grapes? Maybe, I dunno. I just think he was so far worse than the other four, and many of the others who were eliminated much earlier. Each and every week I had him at or very near the bottom. As I said in an earlier post, I look forward to seeing the LCS tour if it rolls through Vancouver because I might very well like him in person and in an extended set. But that's completely different. America wasn't judging him on a longer live set; they were judging him on what we all saw – his short TV sets.

It's great for an individual comic to win this competition, but it's not good for the franchise to advance comics that aren't deserving. If he goes on tour and brings in people based on his credit and fame, and is anything less than great, these same people are going to think either the show sucks or stand-up in general sucks. How is that helping anyone? Look at Dat Phan. If he really was America's choice, that implies he received millions of votes by people who presumably thought he was really funny on the show. How's his career doing? Is he selling out large venues? And if not, why not? Because he wasn't ready to win such a big deal.

I know my argument falls apart a bit if America's votes were legit, in which case I can just say the people are usually wrong (or I'm out of step with the voting public, which I can't deny). But until they can at least offer us some hard numbers, I can't just accept the result. I wasn't a huge fan of Mike DeStefano along the way, but that guy at least has comedy chops and would have made a fine champ. And, of course, any of the other three would have, too. I grant you that Esparza was extremely likable, but I expect more than just that from a comic.

But that's just me.


Little Jackie Showers said...

Being a big fan of Don Rickles, your bias against likable is perhaps the problem here.

Guy MacPherson said...

I have no bias against likable. I just said I expect more than just likable. Brian Regan is really likable and I really like him. But Regan has, you know, actual jokes and a high degree of craft. And there are plenty other really likable comics I really like, too.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't hurt that Don Rickles is actually funny either. I'll never forget his role in Innocent Blood. A vampire AND a lawyer! Eat your heart out Twilight.


dj said...

Watched it, was stunned... STUNNED.