Last Comic Standing: Heckler Challenge
Anyway, I read the review out loud to my wife and when I was done, I threw my keyboard on the floor in triumph!
It got smashed, of course, but you can't blame me, right? That's what artists are supposed to do when they feel like they've accomplished something. At least, that's what I learned tonight watching Dante's performance...
We'll get back to Dante in a moment. Before I do, I'd like to address something relatively important. If you go to a club, DO NOT HECKLE.
The comedians won't like it. The other patrons at the club won't like it. The people who came with you to the club won't like it. When you wake up the next morning and scrub off the dried-vomit crust from around your mouth, you won't like that you did it either.
Listen, a good comic makes his act seem improvised and conversational. I guess that makes people (especially people so drunk that if you listen quietly you can hear their livers calling out for help) think that they should become a part of that conversation.
But here's the thing: even though what you're hearing sounds improvised and conversational, the vast majority of us are reciting jokes that have been honed to Haiku-like precision over several years of practice. A joke is a Rube-Goldberg device -- a lot of really delicate parts have to work together to achieve the desired effect. Any little distraction, like oh I don't know, some Denny's Night Shift Manager yelling out "Hey Jay Black! Where's the Americans!?" midway through my set, at best kills the joke and at worst kills the entire evening of comedy.
You might be readying your comment fingers to reply to that statement with: "But Jay! I've been to a comedy club and have seen a comedian handle a heckler and a good time was had by all! I wish someone would heckle you... to death!"
The operative word there is "handled." By the time you see a comic at a respectable club, there's a good chance he's done enough 2 AM Prom Shows, VFW Hall Beef and Beers, and run-of-the-mill hell gigs that he can handle pretty much anything being thrown at him. That doesn't mean, however, that if you see a comedian "handling" the problem that you're getting the best show possible; what you're seeing is a guy trying to make the best of a bad situation.
I mean, you wouldn't put up with heckling at any other live show, would you? Imagine traveling into the city to see a revival of Glengarry Glen Ross and during Blake's big "Second prize is a set of steak-knives" speech, someone in the audience starts making loud fart noises. Maybe the guy playing Blake is a great improviser and manages to say "excuse me" after each farty noise without breaking character, but eventually you'd be a little mad that someone took what could have been a great night of entertainment and ruined it.
Why not show the same respect for stand-up comedy?
So, no matter how many times you've seen Punchline, no matter how many of your friends down at the warehouse think you should be a stand-up comic, no matter how many Mojitos you've managed to slosh down your gullet... DO NOT HECKLE.
I feel the need to write this lengthy public service announcement because NBC decided for the second year to bring back the worst challenge in the history of reality television. The challenge that makes it seem to the viewing audience that heckling is a natural and expected part of stand-up comedy. The challenge that basically says to the audience, "Hey, if you see any of these guys out on tour, make sure you do your best to ruin the show by shouting something obnoxious! It's okay! They're comedians! They'll handle it!"
At least last year Joey Gay had the guts and the class to opt out of the challenge altogether. None of our comics this year had the cajones to say "no" to the NBC producers. (Which raises a question: would I, even after all this bile poured, go through with the heckler challenge if, by some miracle of bad casting decisions, I was ever on LCS? That's a good question. Let me ponder the ethics of "selling out" while I drink this cool refreshing Fresca. Ahhhh, Fresca, it's delicious!)
As for the challenge itself, I thought it went a lot better when it was obvious the comics were having a good time rather than trying to actually hurt each other. I think that's probably the reason why LaVell won. He was funny and quick, sure, but it didn't hurt that Debora laughed heartily at all his jokes and it seemed like they liked each other.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was Jon and Gerry. I got the sense that they weren't trying to be clever and enjoy themselves, but instead used the heckling challenge as an opportunity to try and insult the other guy. If nothing else, that challenge at least captured the pit-in-the-stomach feeling that the rest of the audience gets whenever there's some mean mojo being spilled between a heckler and a comic.
(Before we get off the heckler challenge -- how could there be 10 comedians in a comedy club in LA being asked to heckle and not one of them brings up Kramer? It was only the most infamous case of a botched heckler-comeback in the history of stand-up comedy!)
Now, back to Dante.
Okay, listen, we need to have a rule. Unless you're Chris Rock and you just rewrote the book on stand-up comedy with a triumphant and groundbreaking HBO special, you're not allowed to throw the mic down. Okay? You're just not.
(Quick side note: when I was first starting in comedy, there was a guy at an open mic who decided to end his set with the Chris Rock mic throw. Except that he wasn't Chris Rock or even a very good comic. The manager of the club stopped the show and made the comic walk back up to the stage and put the microphone very nicely back into the mic stand. It was one of the most beautifully tragic things I've ever witnessed and I would have traded a kidney if one of the NBC producers had done that to Dante tonight.)
It's kind of a shame that Dante had an early exit. Without him, there's no clearcut "villain" left. Not that we get much behind the scenes stuff on this show anyway, but the other comics' obvious dislike for Dante made for the best line of the night -- Doug's "Which comic do I want voted off tonight? I wish I could tell you, but I 'Cahntay.'" The comics remaining seem a bit too nice to generate that kind of back-stage jab.
On the plus side, I think the right comic won the competition. Ralph Harris was unbelievably likeable, energetic, and funny is his set. I'm not a big fan of the type of comedy he does (character pieces), but damned if he doesn't do a great job every time he goes on stage. He deserved the win.
Gina was a bit disappointing. Not that I didn't enjoy her set (she's got a great cadence and I loved the way she said "A dog could eat your face"), but she didn't reach the standard she had set in her earlier rounds. I was sorry to see her go, especially because she was the funniest "confessional" comic on the show. "I've got seven kids... well, seven eggs, but they still need feeding."
Dante was... well, from the way he threw his mic down, it seemed that he felt that he had done a great job, so he's got that going for him.
A few more random notes before we wrap up:
-- I don't watch reality TV all that much, so please correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't it seem like LCS wastes more time than any other show with recaps and teasers? I wish I had a stop-watch and a little more stupid tenacity: I would break down just how much actual "show" we're getting each episode. It can't be more than a 26 or 27 minutes when everything is said and done. It drives me crazy! We're 8 episodes in and we haven't seen one unedited set, but we're treated to 20 minutes of teasers for things that we'll see later on in the same show! How do people watch this show without TiVo?
-- Uh, why were in they in the LA Coliseum? And why was the photo booth spaced so far out from where the couches were? Was it so NBC could waste more time by showing us the comics walking in slow motion to the booth? Do you think LaVell was angry that he had to do that much walking for no good reason? Do you think they were there because there was a David Beckham appearance scheduled that was canceled at the last minute, but they were stuck with the pre-taped Bill Belamy on the big-screen intro, so they just went with it anyway? I don't know why this bothers me so much, but it does.
-- Amy Schumer is getting cuter by the episode. Her "I thought I took care of you in college" line (which I am really happy NBC decided not to edit as it was hilarious and shocking to hear on a network) was dead-on Sarah Silverman. I don't mean that in a bad way; I don't think she's hacking Silverman, just that she has that cute-innocent-dirty thing down the same way Sarah Silverman does. She and Matt Kirshen are the two I'm betting on to do something big once the show is over.
All right, that's it for this week. Be sure to come back next week -- I'm already preparing another rant on the way NBC is robbing comedy of its dignity just based on next week's previews. Jester's outfits? Really?
As always, for another take, check Shecky Magazine's coverage of the show here.
|Ralph Harris||97 (64.7%)|
|Gina Yashere||29 (19.3%)|