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August 29, 2015

Last Comic Standing: Challenge Round #2

by Jay Black, posted Aug 8th 2007 11:42PM
Only one more challenge round left? Wooohoooooooooo!(S05E09) Remember that story about The Doors? The one where Ed Sullivan told them that they could only be on his show if they changed the lyrics of Light My Fire? They agreed, but when they went on Jim Morrison not only said the original lyric, but emphasized it. The message he was trying to send to Ed Sullivan and the network was that no amount of television exposure was worth selling out his integrity.

Watching Last Comic Standing tonight made me wish that Jim Morrison was still alive. And a stand-up comic. And on this show. I'd bet he'd have had something to say about jester costumes....

Usually, I would start this review with a thousand words on exactly what was wrong with the jester competition. I would illustrate how it demeaned the comics and stand-up comedy in general. I would then go on to suggest (semi-tongue-in-cheek) that the term "jester" might as well be a slur for comedians. Something that would be okay if I were to use among my comedian friends, but that was inappropriate for NBC to bring up, much less dress the comics as such!

But I'm not going to do that tonight. I've railed enough about how poorly this show treats stand-up and I'm guessing that you guys are tired of it about now. So, in the spirit of reality shows, I'm going to let you guys vote (and comment) about it.

Was the jester competition demeaning to the comics? (please explain your answer in the comments)
Yes85 (54.5%)
No71 (45.5%)

There was one good thing that came out of the jester competition and that was for the first time since the show began, the comedians have been asked to write original material for a specific audience. While I liked the situation they had to write for about as much as I would have actually liked living in the Middle Ages, I was happy to see the comics have to show some writing chops.

Here's what I noticed:

-- LaVell is a one-note comic even in olden times (if you didn't notice, he's fat!). That being said, he might have the most forceful comic presence of the entire cast and I would be scared to death to have to showdown with him.

-- John Reep (at least in the early portion) seemed to have lucked into having a bunch of stage-tested Renaissance Fair material already in his act. I don't know for sure, but it felt like his first round material wasn't written on the spot, but taken from his regular set.

-- Matt Kirshen had the funniest bit of the night with his "security guard/moat" routine.

-- Amy Schumer continues to impress me by improving. This might be indicative of someone who doesn't have the writing skills as some of the other comics, but so far it's been a breath of fresh air to watch her make fun of her surroundings. That's what comics do and we see very little of that on this show. (Incidentally, I think that my wife has read on here how cute I think Amy is because she mentioned a few times how "she shouldn't wear her hair like that" in that way women do. I wonder if any of the readers experience this kind of mild TV jealousy with their spouses...)

-- Ralph Harris couldn't possibly have tanked that badly! I mean here's a guy with 20 years of stand-up comedy experience, a sitcom under his belt, and a natural comedy presence -- jester outfit or no, that stinkbomb had to be at least somewhat manufactured by NBC's crack (ahem) editing staff.

-- Did Gerry Dee really try to do political material at Medieval Times? Wow. I actually admire the guts that took.

-- What's with the knights fighting? Did anyone like that? Was there a single person watching at home saying, "Well, they can't just tease us! You can't set a stand-up comedy show at Medieval Times and not show us fake sword fighting! C'mon NBC, don't leave me hanging!" only to be relieved by the fake-fighting money shot? As always, one wonders how much stand-up (from a show about stand-up comedy, mind you) they cut so they could show us fake sword fighting. I think the only person who might have been happy about the decision was the ask.com chicks-with-swords guy.

Mercifully, the "I know I'm funnier than..." segment was done right at Medieval Times without the need to travel to the LA Coliseum or to the Hollywood sign or Jupiter or whatever. It's becoming a ritual for the comics to make a joke before giving their pick and this week's best goes to Amy Schumer with her story about what she wanted to be when she grew up. It was weird and funny and she gets the win because she tagged it with "true story".

Kudos, by the way, to Doug Benson for going after LaVell. Everyone is afraid of him (I would be), but it showed some major league cajones to out and out challenge him. I really like how Doug is comporting himself on the show.

I'm still a little fuzzy how the voting process works, but somehow John Reep's immunity meant that we only had two comics in the showdown. That's the best thing that could have happened as it resulted in more actual stand-up from our two comics. It's what I've been asking for from the start and I think it made for a much better show tonight.

Here's what I noticed about the showdown:

-- They should do a Last Comic Standing host competition. Jay Mohr versus Anthony Clark versus Bill Bellamy. Think about it! Jay Mohr could do material of questionable origins, Anthony Clark could stare blankly at the camera, and Bill Bellamy could do material that echoes BET's Comicview... from 1991.

-- Did anyone else notice that Bill handed Debra the microphone? That's terrible emcee work. The first thing they teach you when you do your first emcee gig is put the microphone back in the stand for the next comic. Debra is a comic who performs with the mic in the stand, so she had to go over, get the stand, and put the mic back in it. Not a huge deal, but an annoyance for a comic. Good thing that this gig doesn't mean much. Er...

-- I think I've made it known in these reviews that I'm not a huge Debra DiGiovanni fan. I think she relies too much on that "I'm fat and crazy" schtick. Tonight, though, was her best effort. The bra thing was funny (more on that in a second) and the body-fat percentage routine was very clever. ("Technically, I'm cream.") For the first time in the competition, I thoroughly enjoyed one of Debra's sets.

-- That being said... Matt Kirshen is far and away my favorite comic on the show. That kid is hilarious. There wasn't a thing he did tonight that I didn't think was clever and original. I loved how he acknowledged his nerves and I was amazed at his willingness to do a bit that involved questioning whether or not there's a God (in America!). The only fear that I have for him as he moves through the competition is that he's young (26) which means he might not have the reservoir of material to draw from that the veterans do.

-- A note on Matt's joke regarding his helping put on Debra's bra. This is what's known as "tagging another comic's joke." For any of you who might have thought it was a cheesy move, it's generally not considered bad form to do so, especially if the comics are friends. I think that the way Matt brought it up (distaste for the contest aspects of the show) absolved him of anything except trying to be funny.

-- Matt and Amy are friends, eh? Did you notice any chemistry there? Hmmmmm? Am I living vicariously through my favorite comic on the show? Hmmmmm? Is the use of "hmmm" here annoying? Hmmmmm?

Our winner tonight: Matt. Had it been any other way, I would have thrown the TiVo remote through the screen.

No ads for next week's show (at least on my recording of it), so I have no terrible challenge to complain about in advance.

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

Who deserved to stay on the show tonight?
Matt146 (83.9%)
Debra28 (16.1%)

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-- What's with the knights fighting?

* Somewhere in NBC there's an exec saying, "What is this, McNeill/Lehrer? It's all talking heads! Let's get some action in there!'


Hence the sword fighting.

* Thanks for the link to the "chicks-with-swords" ad! I'd never seen it.

* So your wife comments on Amy Schumer's hair? That's what wives and girlfriends DO: they point out irrelevant flaws in other women. When you watch "TV Squad Daily with Brigitte," does your wife make some comment like, "That Brigitte Dale has the deepest infranasal depression I've even seen"!?

(OK, maybe she says "deepest philtrum I've ever seen."


-- Eli

August 10 2007 at 1:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mostly boring show... I'm tired of a lot of the comics except a key few. Get to the final 5 already!

I'm sorry, I can't share in your partialness to Matt. While cute, light-hearted and pretty original, his jokes get little more of a smirk out of me at best. He just doesn't have that *punch*.

As for LaVell and Debra... They both stick to their guns closely, but there is something about LaVell's deliverance that does it. Debra on the other hand just seems like a wreck out there.

Lastly I think Doug Benson (who is by far my favorite out of the bunch) made the smartest move! Who else would have gone after LaVell with so many "eaiser" comics to choose from. By going for him, he pretty much secured not being dragged into the stand off since LaVell probably would not have been the one to get voted in there. Well played Doug! You silling bastard!

August 10 2007 at 1:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Matt is my favorite comic on the show as well. While he is not the most crisp of all the comedians, he has variety an likability.

As for the challenges, I don't mind them so much. Yeah, I'd rather just see them all get a chance to do 5 to 10 minute acts each episode, but so long as they are going to do the competition thing in the show, I like the way the challenges are structured. Yes, it is embarrassing to perform in a jester outfit. But that's kind of the point. A good way to separate the good comedians from the great ones is to put them in difficult situations. I know that last week's review complained about the heckling challenge, but that's part of being a comedian. It allows the audience to note some of the more difficult situations that comics face and to see how they overcome obstacles.

August 09 2007 at 7:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

keepitreal, good point -- though I'd point out that Debra is a very likeable comic. She always smiles, she has a nice way about her, and I think American audiences will always view her favorably. I know I certainly liked her :)

August 09 2007 at 1:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Little Willy

For those who did not finish high school (I'm looking at you, Bill Bellamy), a vote count of 55-45 is NOT a close vote. Someone won by 10 percentage pts; that is not close by any stretch of the imagination. A close vote would be 52-48 or 51-49.

Even though I didn't care for Debra during the audition stages, she has shone during the last 2 weeks, and I'm gonna miss her. OTOH, I would miss Matt more if he lost the challenge. I was hoping the show would find a way to kick Ralph Harris off; he probably thinks he is immune after winning the first head to head by a wide margin and no one would dare challenge him again. He is the funniest out of the group but I get the feeling he wants to coast through the entire competition.

August 09 2007 at 1:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

David, i would argue that Matt only winning 55% of the votes against Deb means the audience doesnt appreciate the different/cerebral comedy (i thought it deserved to be a much bigger margin) and it will be interesting/troublesome when he faces a comic stronger than Deb and the audience sides with the more basic humor.

August 09 2007 at 11:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As seems to be the usual for me around here, I'll disagree :)

I think LaVell's material makes me laugh out loud more consistently than anyone else on the show. I think Amy's material is the same joke re-framed over and over. I liked the costumes.Why would they be demeaning? They were appropriate for the audience and venue. I thought it was an excellent challenge (and I too was shocked Gerry tried political humor).

I'll also disagree with your concern, Jay, about Matt Kirshen's intellectualism. It sets him apart from other comedians (at least, on this show) and, in turn, might just be what wins it for him. I don't know how the format of the show will change after next week (the VO at the end from Bellamy indicated next week was the final challenge round), but any time you go head-to-head with Matt Kirshen, I think the audience is going to notice that Matt does a very different kind of humor than you do, and more often than not, will appreciate it to the tune of votes. Then again, maybe I'm overestimating the capacity of the average American to appreciate something different.

This week's episode was my favorite of the season, as it the editing gave us a high percentage of humor (good and bad), and the longer sets at the end from Debra and Matt were truly entertaining!

August 09 2007 at 11:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I didn't think the jester bit was demeaning because everyone had to do it, i.e. it was a level playing field. If half had to do it and half didn't, I would think it was unfair.

My other comments:

* Jay, it's taken you this long to realize LaVell is a one-note comic? What show have you been watching?

* Gerry's set was so bad, I was half expecting Amy to open with a "knock knock" joke and save her best material for the next round.

* I'm not a Bill Bellamy fan, but I think he's doing a good job as host. He sells it and seems sincere at the same time.

* Amy summed it up when she said Matt's comedy is "cerebral." I love his material, but I thought Debra was going to win the head to head until he threw in the "tag." At least the way the show was edited, it seemed to be his life-saver.

* The listing on my DVR (for last night) said the comedians would have to make "Deal Or No Deal" models laugh. Perhaps that's next week's show?

August 09 2007 at 10:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Is there a connection between this show and the NBC standup show "Live at Gotham"? Because I've seen a lot of the contestants on that show, doing a lot of the same material. Which, frankly, is another example of these comedians looking like they're already working professionals, and not just neophytes trying to get discovered.

August 09 2007 at 1:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When Bellamy said it was the closest vote ever I actually took my remote in my hand ready to throw it at the TV. Thank god Matt won. That kid is hilarious.

August 09 2007 at 12:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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