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October 7, 2015

Last Comic Standing: Semi-finals round one

by Jay Black, posted Jul 18th 2007 11:57PM
How many weeks is this show? It feels like a million.(S05E06) When the fine editors here at TV Squad asked me to review Last Comic Standing I of course said yes, despite the fact I was worried criticizing my fellow comics would anger the all-important comedy gods. My easy capitulation proves what you all already know: I'm a people-pleasing simp who would dance a jig in high heels if I thought it would make people like me.

If you've been following my write-ups of the show these last few weeks, you know that I've done my best to avoid reviewing it based on the actual stand-up comedy. Well, we're at the point now where I can't hide anymore.

So, let's get reviewing (and please, comedy gods, forgive me)...

All right, so two things before we begin:

1) I'd like to put a disclaimer that anything I write about these comics has nothing to do with them as people or whether I think they're entire act is funny. I'm reviewing them based on their hacked-up two-minute NBC sets. Anything I write should in no way be considered a judgment on the comic themselves.

2) I'm pretty much live blogging this thing. I'm writing about each comic as they perform (pausing the TiVo when my fingers can't keep up) so please don't expect any kind of deep-thinking here. This is all initial impressions of the acts. I'm sure that if I had more time to think about each set -- or, at the very least absorb each set for a few hours -- my opinions would be likely shift just a little.

All right, now that I've paid my karma price (as best as possible), here's the breakdown.

Bill Bellamy:

A lot of people ask me how to be a stand-up comic. They must think it's difficult to come up with all those funny jokes. Indeed, no. It's very easy. Just follow this formula: "Kids today have it easy! <insert something that parents, especially nouveau riche parents, do for their child>. It was different when we were growing up! Am I right! Am I right! <insert a dark twist on the previously mentioned parenting method>." If you can do that, you can host a prime-time network show!

John Caparulo:

I really like this guy. I thought his set was funny and his persona has a kind of smart anti-intellectualism to it. He reminds me of Larry the Cable Guy if Larry were, you know, good. I was a wee bit distracted by how much he was scratching his head, though. Did anybody else catch this?

Debra DiGiovanni:

I'm always suspicious of the way these things are edited, but it seemed like she was dying a pretty hard death up there the first few seconds she was on stage tonight (an eternity with the way NBC hacks these sets down). As I said last week, I'm not a huge fan of the "Hi, I'm a fat girl and I dislike people who are skinnier than me" school of comedy, but Debra pulls it off without being completely annoying. I thought her over-eager manner didn't play well, though, in a bigger room. There's a definite difference between a club comic and a theater comic and I think that Debra's style is much more suited for a small room.

Tommy Johnagin:

First, I had a little trouble following his set because NBC decided to cut a woman in the front row that had the kind of breasts that astronauts who are currently working in space could appreciate. That being said, his material was fantastic, but I think he had a bit of a hard time selling it to the audience. The phrasing of his last bit (regarding the high powered rifle and the police report) was oddly syncopated. I thought it should have killed... it got "eh" reception instead. That girl in the audience, though, she had fantastic stage presence...


One of my favorite Dennis Miller bits of all time comes from his 1988 comedy CD: The Off White Album. In it, he does an overly long set-up about how he likes to take some of his favorite actors and insert them into wacky situations. He promises that he's going to do a Jack Nicholson impression and just as he's about to start it he says: "No I would never do that. I just like to get right up to the precipice then je te back to coolsville." I think it's telling that Nicholson impressions were considered hacky enough that a comic could make a meta-joke about other comics who do the impression nearly 20 years ago!

It was hard not to sigh sadly watching Dante's performance tonight. But, hey, he got a standing o, so what do I know?

Joe DeVito:

Joe is my friend and I think that he's a great comic so it's hard not to be biased about his set. I love how dark he gets in his material (remember this is a primetime network show and he's managing to get laughs about pretending he's dying and getting pepper-sprayed). I think you have to have a bit of innate likeability to be able to do well with that kind of material. If I tried it, I'm sure I'd get pepper-sprayed for real.

Gina Yashere:

Okay, before she even started -- that whole "Kill them! Make them die laughing!" bit she did in her interview was a bit creepy, wasn't it? She quickly won me over. Her act was funny and original, without falling into the trap of being a Dat Phan-esque "hey, look at my weird ethnic parents!" routine. I do feel bad for any kids who may have been on the fence regarding the existence of Santa Claus and decided to watch LCS tonight. Another innocent belief in the world crushed by a well written stand-up joke!

Lawrence Mooney:

I'm very torn about his act. The first half was of that terrible, bland men and women are different, just in case you didn't know! school of comedy, while the second half was comprised of a great observation that I haven't heard a comic make yet. Pantyhose are scary and confusing. This is the first act that I think we really didn't get enough time with to make a decision regarding what kind of comic he is.

Sarah Colonna:

Now that's how to do a "child-proofing your apartment" joke! I'm curious what the women out there think of her. I thought her dirty persona was funny, but then I'm a guy (which means I'm kind of a dirty person by default). My wife is a big fan of Sarah's, but I'd like the other women to chime in on her. Yes? No? Too dirty?

Dwayne Kennedy:

I always wonder about people who have that much hair. Are they hot all the time? Do their necks hurt? I found it distracting. I'm not sure if I think that he's a brilliant political thinker or that his clipped manner of speaking just makes him sound about ten million times smarter than he actually is. I tend to think that people who pause a lot when they speak are profound thinkers, even when they're not. It's why that in two out of the last three presidential elections, I voted Shatner.

Spencer Brown:

Let's hear it for comedians with colors for last names! Yeah! Eager as I was for my color brother from another country to kick butt tonight, I thought he was a bit grating. I tend to remember him as being one of my favorites from the audition rounds. Tonight though... the banana bit was good, but the rest of it seemed over played in a way that didn't work for me.

Tracey Ashley:

Another comic that is a friend of mine. Again, regard everything I say with suspicion! Did anyone else notice the odd off-kilter clapping that Tom Arnold did when she said that her boyfriend was white? Was he trying to be funny during her set? Or was he just really excited that she was dating a white man? This is why I wish I had ESP. I think there had to be something cut out of Tracey's hippopotamus joke because I didn't see how she made the connection between it being responsible for deaths in Africa and why she might be frightened of one. Her facial expressions were funny on the ATM part of the bit, but I didn't quite understand how it all fit together.

Ralph Harris:

I don't know Ralph personally, but I know his brother Romont well enough that I again must be read here with the utmost caution. I might be shilling for a friend right under your noses! I'm not a huge fan of character pieces in stand-up (maybe because I can't do them) but I liked this one well enough. I think that the audience didn't do him any favors with the timing on the "surprise". It looked like he wanted to make a bigger splash with the visual on his funky glasses, but had to come in too early. Another guy who would be likeable if he were stabbing a hitchhiker on the stage.

Sabrina Matthews:

Best Lesbian Stereotypes Joke Ever. Most lesbian comics feel the need to refute stereotypes (including, I'm sure, the one I just said), but she went right for embracing them. Maybe I'm just tired from the four million words I've written so far, but Sabrina is currently my favorite real lesbian in the world right now. (By the way, did it seem like she was very shortchanged on time?)

Adam Vincent:

Already I'm a little wary because my father doesn't trust people with two first names and has raised me to feel the same. As it turns out, he was absolutely right! (No, okay, that was a bit too mean. I just didn't understand all the screaming. While I liked hearing the word "boner" on national TV again -- sorely lacking ever since the cancellation of Growing Pains -- I didn't really like how forced his energy was).

Lori Chase:

The old bait-and-switch! "I just had my first mugging... boy was that tourist surprised!" Her act had a lot of it and it wasn't bad, just not my cup of tea comedy wise. So instead of saying mean things, let me give you an assignment for the comments! Write your own bait and switch using this as your set-up: "I'm really happy because I had my first sexual experience last week..." You fill in the blank (and try to keep it clean, this is a family blog!)

Doug Benson:

Without a doubt, Doug had the hottest collection of people in the "Friends and Family" section. For that I thank him. For me, the biggest laugh in his act was the tourist's accent joke, which didn't get much of a response from the audience. It just goes to show you that what makes a comic laugh very rarely makes the general public laugh.


And your winners tonight:

Debra, Dante, Ralph, Doug, and Gina.

Who got ripped off?

Joe DeVito (I'm biased!) and Sabrina Matthews.

One final thought before we put this puppy to bed: what, exactly, was the purpose of Tom Arnold and the other judges? I mean, I know I've been a vocal critic of the fact that this show even has judges, but if you're going to have them at all (much less a celebrity judge) don't you need to hear from them at least once or twice? Again this show befuddles me with its odd choices.

LCS has become a lot more fun now that we're out of those awful audition rounds. I'll be back next week with another breakdown, assuming my fingers are still working.

As always, for another take on tonight's episode, check out Shecky Magazine here.

Which of the sixteen comics we saw tonight was your favorite?
John Caparulo55 (19.6%)
Debra DiGiovanni16 (5.7%)
Tommy Johnagin55 (19.6%)
Dante30 (10.7%)
Joe DeVito8 (2.8%)
Gina Yashere9 (3.2%)
Lawrence Mooney3 (1.1%)
Sarah Colonna10 (3.6%)
Dwayne Kennedy6 (2.1%)
Spencer Brown12 (4.3%)
Tracey Ashley5 (1.8%)
Ralph Harris5 (1.8%)
Sabrina Matthews32 (11.4%)
Adam Vincent1 (0.4%)
Lori Chase6 (2.1%)
Doug Benson28 (10.0%)

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I thought Dante and Ralph deserved to move on. After them, probably Joe and Sarah.

I've seen Doug Benson on TV a few times, and I think he's good, but in this format, there are other comics who I think are better.

Caparulo's voice is annoying, and Spencer reminds me of Harry Hill.

July 22 2007 at 11:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As always, Jay, thanks for the kind words. Legally I have to keep my mind shut for another week, but I will ask everyone to keep in mind that NBC edits our sets, so what you see may not be the way it went down on stage.

More from me later...

July 20 2007 at 1:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have to agree with you about Dante. While impressions are funny, they're such a cheap, overused gimmick that for me it ruined his whole set. And the actors he chose to impersonate are so overdone anyway.

July 19 2007 at 10:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Little Willy

I wish this show would stop pretending that it is auditioning for the funniest comic and just come outright and say it is looking for a marketable personality who happens to be a comic. I can see Dante and Harris going into the next round, but the other 3 were just unfunny. What NBC was looking for are comics that appeal to the 40yish housewife with 2 kids, i.e. safe with little adult-themes and jokes about family and friends. What couldn't the producers of the show just come outright and say they are looking for the Bill Cosby-kind of comedy?
I feel real bad for Devito, Colanna, and Chase. I thought Spencer Brown did some very bold schtick that most people didn't get. He reminds me a bit of Dave Attell.

July 19 2007 at 2:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really think they whiffed on John Caparulo. Maybe he would've been let through if he had worn the t-shirt and hat again instead of dressing up. but his bit about wishing McDonald's could be fun again had me on the floor.

Fav joke of the night was the one about the Mexican Slaves.

Debra was a lot funnier in her audition; I liked her crazy-cat lady self-depricating persona over her i hate skinny girls and ex-boyfriends persona. i also thought she wasn't doing anyone any favors by talking about how much she hates skinny girls while performing in downtown LA.

July 19 2007 at 12:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have to add my vote for Tommy Johnagin. The whole "coming at me with a knife, or maybe he was just carving a turkey" took a while to set in but gave us the biggest laugh of the night.

July 19 2007 at 11:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was really disappointed that Tommy Johnagin did not make it in. I thought his audition was hilarious and his jokes last night were fantastic. They could have easily replaced him with Debra DiGiovanni. She just wasn't that funny and I agree that the "fat chick that hates skinny chicks" jokes are getting old.

July 19 2007 at 10:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rick cokely

I don't know, maybe its just that my sense of humor isn't really meshing with this show, but I don't find most of the comics funny. I mean some of the stuff is good, but overall I'd rather watch re-runs of Charmed, or something on Comedy Central. The sets just don't have a lot of impact when broadcast over the networks. This show would have done a lot better on cable, at least it would have kept me more interested.

July 19 2007 at 10:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yea what the heck was Tom Arnold there for anyways????? I thought Doug accent joke was great.

I am with you on the frustration of this show. I am American Idol has like fricking 40 hours of airtime, so show the whole unedited bits. It would only add like a few more episodes, plus the cost saving from not having to "edit" it down, and more air time for advertising. Its a win/win situation.

July 19 2007 at 9:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm really happy because I had my first sexual experience last week...
...boy, was that tourist surprised!
...unfortunately, I was alone.
...but now I'm not allowed in the zoo anymore

July 19 2007 at 9:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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