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October 7, 2015

Last Comic Standing: Challenge Round #3

by Jay Black, posted Aug 16th 2007 12:08AM
Sure, leave it till the second to last week for me to actually enjoy the show!(S05E10) In a lot of ways, writing my reviews of LCS each week has been very easy. By hating the mindless format, the useless judges, the stupid challenges, the lousy editing, and the dearth of stand-up comedy, I was able to construct a pretty flawless template for each of my reviews: start with a thousand words or so about why one of the things I hated was so horrible, then review the comedy while commenting on how little of it there was, and finish up with a look at what was going to be terrible next week. Hate, apparently, fuels productivity; I could bang out two thousand words an episode like I was a goth kid writing about popular jocks on my blog.

Tonight is different, though. I can't do it. I'm at a loss for words. I... actually liked an episode of Last Comic Standing!

All right, one little flaw before we start: the yoga stuff. I'm not going to kill it too badly because it did lead to some pretty funny lines (like the heart sandwich), but I just didn't see the need for it. We had a strong challenge and three good comics in the elimination round, so I don't understand why we had to spend an entire segment on what amounted to be a whole lot of nothing. My only guess is that NBC is under the assumption that the entire viewing populace of LCS is twelve year old boys and people with adult ADD and if they don't change the scenery every thirty seconds, they'll lose viewers to other channels (or shiny objects).

That being said, let's look at the Challenge Round first:

-- This is the right way to do a challenge round! I thought it was an interesting experiment putting the comics one-on-one with various audiences. It forced the comics to think on their feet and use a slightly different skill set than what they would utilize in a club setting. I didn't mind the switcheroo either -- it forced the comics out of silly strategy (like Gerry Dee's "I'm gonna do the same set each time" gambit). Most importantly, this challenge didn't subvert the art of stand-up comedy (like the heckling challenge) or make the comics feel like the dancing monkeys Mel Silverback pretends to be (like the jester challenge).

-- Amy Schumer definitely deserved the win. She handled the challenge just right: she was sweet and engaging and though it looked to me that she was doing rehearsed material, I think she pulled it off as conversational. As someone who has had to perform in situations where there were only two people in the room (big draw that I am), I can tell you that making material sound natural in front of such a small audience is nearly impossible to do.

-- Matt Kirshen had the line of the challenge: "I feel like we're in some sort of movie where I'm trying to help you with a science project and you're helping me learn how to dance". Again, I think he's a cut above the other comics when it comes to cleverness.

-- LaVell also had me laughing with his response to finding out that the clown's name was Twinky.

-- Doug Benson was seriously hilarious throughout tonight's episode. He's really grown on me, and I love his attitude regarding the show. Also, I completely understood what he was doing with all that offensive material in front of the nun. A lot of comics (myself included), once they figure that there's no way they're going to "win" with an audience, decide to see how bad they can make the situation. It's the moment when a comic stops trying to please an audience and it can lead to some pretty wonderful stuff (at least from another comic's perspective). That's what happened with Doug and I thought it was fantastic.

-- It's twice now that we've seen Ralph Harris lose his composure during a challenge round. I figured that this particular challenge would be custom-made for him: it was all about likeability and he's more likeable than a sackful of cherry pie and puppies. Last week I thought that his bad showing had to be the doings of the thousand random monkeys that NBC calls its editors, but after this week, I'm not so sure. Maybe Ralph has been doing stand-up for so long (and has been so successful at it) that his comfort zone has narrowed to only big stage situations.

-- LaVell and Ralph's reaction to Amy's win. LaVell might have had a real shot of winning it, so I could understand why he'd be upset, but Ralph? At the end of the challenge, he was laughing at how horrible he had performed in it! He knew the loss was coming, why be so upset about it? It didn't make sense to me and it seemed out of character for him.

Now for a look at the elimination round:

-- Why are we on a beach? Why is the system for picking the final three so convoluted? Why do they go into the booth only to have the reveal seconds later? These are the first three questions I fully expect aliens to ask us in 40 years when the signals for these broadcasts reach their planet and they come looking for an explanation.

-- Bill Bellamy! Yeah! Give it up for him! I think that "Chuck E. Cheese" line is going to be the catchphrase of the summer! (In all seriousness, really NBC? This is the best that you've got? Was Pauly Shore's asking price too high?)

-- I was really sorry to see Matt be put into this situation. This is not a show about funny or clever as much as it is a show about who can make a roomful of people like him the most. I'm not knocking it, as every audience-decided comedy contest in the world is like that, just that Matt isn't really suited for it. As Amy said last week, his stuff is cerebral and that doesn't necessarily translate into votes. People don't think to themselves, "Well yes, I really liked Ralph and Doug, but Matt's dry British wit was working on a higher level. I'll vote for him because a vote for Matt is a vote for good comedy." The second he was picked for the showdown, I knew he was done and I was sad because I really thought he was the best comic on the show.

-- That being said, I thought Doug had the best performance of the night. His stuff was edgy (more anti-religion stuff! On TV! Did I wake up in an alternate dimension America? Did the Soviets win the Cold War in this dimension? Does it rain donuts here? Somebody pinch me!) and even though he dropped the mic at the end, I thought it was more ironic than douchey. I love Matt's stuff, but I would have voted for Doug.

-- Ralph was our winner tonight and I was (semi) surprised by that. I didn't think he had a very strong set -- I didn't count a lot of punchlines in his 3 minutes. Like I said, though, Ralph can charm an audience and sometimes that's more important than the strength of the writing.

-- "If you're going to make love to an album, make it a live one, because from time to time you'll hear applause."

-- Amy and Matt hugged. Amy and Matt made a heart sandwich together. Amy and Matt...? I'm just saying, if the two of them had babies they might be the funniest babies on the planet.

Your final five:

LaVell Crawford
Gerry Dee
Ralph Harris
Amy Shumer
John Reep

Is it possible that next week we'll have a FULL NIGHT of stand-up? Knowing NBC, probably not, but a boy can hope, can't he?

As always, for a different take, check out Shecky Magazine here.

Who do you think deserved to win tonight?
Ralph Harris12 (4.6%)
Matt Kirshen162 (61.8%)
Doug Benson88 (33.6%)

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Agreed: Doug Benson is a very funny person. Matt is lovable, smart, sweet, and funny funny. Amy comes up with some good stuff. The rest of the crowd are all awful, with Ralph the worst. Not not not not funny.

August 17 2007 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Every season I watch this show because I enjoy some of the stand-up, but every season I watch as talented comics are eliminated while mediocre acts stay. Reality TV is so frustrating. So much of LCS is for the ratings (particular "characters" they're looking for to make the show how they envisioned it) and not about the actual comedy. It will be hard to watch with Matt and Doug gone, but I will have to do it - kind of like the train wreck thing.
I was pretty happy with Alonzo Bodden and John Heffron - a few seasons ago - restored some faith in the show at the time.

August 17 2007 at 12:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Amy is officially the only good comic left. Sadly, I don't think that's enough for me to tune in. They really blew it tonight.

Bring back Jay Mohr, and let's do an American Idol-style show and eliminations, where the audiences that watch every week have some sort of say.

August 16 2007 at 12:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Little Willy

I'm thinking that all the comics that did not make it to the final 10 are now heaving a huge sign of relief if they caught last night's show. Seriously, they should just changed the name of the show to Last Clown Standing. For the second week in a row, the comics have to endure stupid stunts that have little to do with how funny they can be. It was dressing up like a jester last week and this week, the switcheroo. What is the point of trying to make a drag queen, nun, and clown laugh? How are these 3 people the target audience of stand up comedy? The whole thing was just a stunt intended to create an awkward situation so as to embarass the remaining comics. If I was a contestant on the show, I would eliminate myself and tell them I still have some dignity as a comic. I thought what Ralph and a few others did was pretty clever. They knew that each only had 1 out of 7 chances to get immunity; the odds are against them and they have crap to work with. So why waste time using your best materials on a drag queen or nun? Ralph said he is prepared for a headsup challenge and he should save his funniest materials for that.

In the 3 person head to head, I thought Doug was the funniest, but I thought Ralph was pretty funny with his 'wanting to see whether men put panties on their forehead' test. I thought Matt's piece was okay.

August 16 2007 at 12:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


August 16 2007 at 11:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jay -- Your reviews are "so close" to saying what I feel, but you have actually not came out and said it literally, so I will.

The challenges the last couple weeks have served to prove which comics are not funny people. Thrown into unique situations where they are forced to think on their feet and actually be funny without a pre-written, pre-rehearsed set, and most importantly deal with a subject matter that may differ from their usual material or audience (mid-evil times, nuns, clowns, etc) has really shown the weaknesses of the "pros" in this group.....And made the 2 less experienced comics (Matt & Amy) really shine.

I do think Lavell is a "one trick pony"....And the rest other than Amy (now that matt is gone) -- are just bitter and not very funny people.....Although they may have good sets and honed material.....(you could say comedy is their job, and they are pretty good at it in a box -- however it appears they are not funny after 5 or on weekends.)

Just my opinion.

August 16 2007 at 10:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm gonna go ahead and call a winner on this pathetic turd blossom of a show. It's obvious that it's not based on who's actually funnier but who appeals more to middle America based on what they've already seen a fuckin' thousand times. Jon Reep and his Blue Collar schtick will take home the gold. Of course, I won't know because I'm giving up on a show that consistently reminds me that my humor isn't welcome on network teevee.

[Doug, you rocked the casbah, my man. If there were _really_ a close decision it would have been between you and Matt. Let's just say LCS was not having the best week ever.]

August 16 2007 at 9:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I missed this week's show and was planning to catch the rerun on Bravo, but hearing that Matt and Doug are out (while Gerry and Hickory are in) might cause me to take a pass on the rest of the season.

I don't know ... I guess I could root for Amy.

August 16 2007 at 8:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

yea i noticed they only showed 3 out of the 4 switches, and thought the same thing. like others, i didnt see ralph winning at all, but i guess that's the new america for you. originality is nothing, we just want manufactured comedy from china.

August 16 2007 at 7:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How is Gerry Dee still on the show, and Matt Kirshen and Doug Benson not on the show when both had pretty strong sets? I always thought Doug Benson is a funny person (a la BWE talking head, movie reviewer on bobanddavid.com, etc.), but his standup was rather weak. I thought he had good energy and was awesome during his standup tonight.

August 16 2007 at 1:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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