Last Comic Standing: Audience Vote Round #2
You almost thought I posted a pre-jump spoiler, didn't you? Admit it, you were sharpening your commenter fingers just ready to eviscerate me for ruining the show!
Well, I did no such thing. The only person who is ruining this show for you people is Bill Bellamy, and that's the way it's gonna stay!
Let's get on with the review...
Last Comic Standing is a weird gig in the sense that for as popular as the show seems to be, appearing on it (or hell, even winning it) doesn't seem to do all that much for your career. It certainly helps it, but there doesn't seem to be a single break-out star that's come from the ranks of the LCS contenders. When you think of the millions of albums sold (not to mention the freakin' Oscar won) by American Idol alums, it certainly begs the question why we haven't had something similar from LCS.
To be sure, American Idol is a cultural force propelled by the three-headed monster that is Seacrest, Cowell, and that fat woman in the yellow outfit from the audition rounds, so the disparity in popularity probably has something to do with it, but I wonder if there is another reason.
I don't have a definitive answer, but here's one theory that occurred to me watching Doug Benson: maybe we don't like to see our comics so needy.
Here's what I mean: I thought Doug had the best set of the night. Watching him was like a sigh of relief after last week's performances. Part of that is because Doug is a great comic and came out with both guns blazing ("My name is Chuck and I like to... Parrrrrrrty" -- line of the night!), but I wonder if the fact that he was already out of the competition and no longer performing with the hopes of impressing a set of voters has liberated him in some way.
I felt like I perceived him differently as well. I think that a comic needs to be in control of his audience. Doug was freed from me as an audience member having any power over him and that's what altered my perception. He was no longer a comic that I lorded over like a Roman Emperor, my cell phone operating as my thumb, but was instead just a very funny dude in total command of his craft.
Compare that to the comics that performed tonight, hoping that Bill Bellamy will call their name so they have a chance to perform and then grimacing and pleading for votes after each of their sets. That's why I named Doug our winner.
I've performed in contests and I think there's a palpable difference in the way the audience feels when they're told, "Hey, these guys that are about to perform? You go right ahead and judge them!"
Could it be that it's hard for us to really get behind these comics once they're off the show because we know so much about them as people? Since we voted for them, does that alter how we feel about them as comics? Do they lose some of their power to shock and surprise us or be in control of us as an audience because of their participation on the show?
Or is there a much simpler explanation that I'm missing?
Please let me know. I'm curious to hear what you think. Why hasn't there been a sitcom, HBO special, or notable movie appearance from any of the winners of Last Comic Standing?
On to the performances:
Before we get into our competitors, a quick word about Bill Bellamy. There's a feature over at The Onion's AV Club called The Hater. From time to time, she'll write about "things that still exist but shouldn't." I'd like to nominate to that list the black comedian's "white guy voice." Apparently, we're all nasally nerds who name our children "Tad." Cool, great, wonderful, hilarious. I'm not sure what purpose this voice serves anymore other than to remind us what cutting edge racial comedy was like in 1972.
I give props to Bill Bellamy for trying to discuss something recent with his bit about Michael Vick. My problem was that instead of anything insightful, he simply grafted that Vick opening onto a moldy old joke about how white people like animals more than black people. The subtle implication of the joke (either unnoticed or ignored by Bellamy) was that since black people aren't as crazy about animals, they are therefore less outraged by Michael Vick than white people. I'm not saying this is the case, simply the implication by Bellamy.
Rather than explore this, however, he made a lame joke (in a lame white guy voice) about how white people will push whales back in the water.
Not that you needed anymore proof that Bill Bellamy is as far from Chris Rock as Earth is from Rigel, but there it is anyway.
Last week, I graded the performances from F to A. As we're down to four comics left, I'll use stars. One star to four stars, still focusing on comparing the comics to each other rather than grading them outright (meaning that a one star rating doesn't mean that I think the comic stinks, just that they weren't as strong as the others were tonight).
* Amy Schumer: Last week I said it appeared that Amy was out of A material and I think that was proved tonight. It felt like her jokes were strung together rather than built into a coherent set. It even felt like her "character" was a little forced and inconsistent tonight. I thought this was her least polished performance.
That being said, I did enjoy the fact that she made reference to "some people think[ing] she's only in the finals because she's a young, pretty female." Amy has been the only comic on the show to consistently break from her set to make mention of things that fall outside her prepared NBC-approved four minutes. Her addressing that point was at the same time a keen observation of a probable truth and very funny -- two things that all good comedians should be striving for.
I also figured out tonight why Amy reminds me so much of Sarah Silverman. After she does a particularly mean-spirited joke, she pauses, then makes a pursed-lipped expression of ironic shock that's exactly like Sarah Silverman's. I cracked the code for cute-mean-funny-comediennes! Seriously, go back and watch the tape and tell me I'm wrong! (Again, this is not a criticism, just an observation.)
I was pleasantly surprised with the bikini shots. After we were gipped last year out of Pam appearing in a bikini in the penultimate Office, it was nice to see that Amy, a Pam surrogate for me during the summer months, decided to give this gift to the creepy male members of her audience. Good show, Amy!
One last thing: there's a bit of debate among the TV Squad staff -- we're all enamored of Amy -- about whether her tramp-stamp (that tattoo girls get on their lower backs) is a good thing or a bad thing. We're undecided, so we thought we'd turn to the creepiest set of guys we know -- our male readers -- to settle the debate for us!
|Love it!||62 (45.3%)|
|Hate it!||56 (40.9%)|
|You're a sexist pig for even asking!||19 (13.9%)|
** LaVell Crawford: His best joke of the night was a tag onto Gerry Dee's "H" joke. I'm not sure if this is a positive or a negative, but it was very well executed and got a great pop from the audience.
His story was long, predictable, and didn't have a final payoff worthy of the build it took to get there. It was, however, more original and out there than what the other comics did tonight (an imagined conversation with a bear) and a very needed deviation from the "I'm Fat" rut that he's been in since the show started. I think he did enough to move on this week -- but just barely.
*** Jon Reep: Again in second place and again the comic with the worst producer-mandated signs ("Keep Reep"? Really? That's the best you got?) Overall, he gave a nice performance, despite wandering into some well-worn material (those nursery rhyme jokes have some dust on them, don't they?) The only thing I fear when I write about Jon is that each week, the only thing I can come up with is "nice" and "likeable." Maybe these are the keys to victory, but I'd like to see him do something to shake things up in the next few weeks.
I felt bad for Jon that he had to follow Ralph's being kicked off the show. I understand that NBC added this new wrinkle as a way to keep viewers (and to structure the show without the need for a separate "results" show), but as a comic, you never want to follow anything emotional. As pointed out in these pages time and time again, Ralph is as likable as four kittens dressed as the Beatles. Watching him leave the show wasn't exactly fun -- then we had Jon's performance. It seemed unfair to me.
(Kudos to Ralph, incidentally, for telling everyone to support live comedy. YES! Seriously, if you think stand-up is fun on TV, you ain't seen nothing till you've been at a club. Listen to Ralph and go to a live show. Perhaps one where, oh, I don't know, Jay Black or you know, whoever, is playing. It'll be worth your while!)
**** Gerry Dee: Not quite a homerun, but a solid double on a night of singles. As a former teacher myself, I loved that material. I do some teacher stuff in my act as well, but I never went as far as Gerry did tonight. His stuff was actually kind of dark, if you stop and think about it, but he sold it in such a way that it only came across as funny.
The transition to the "H" joke was odd, but the joke itself was interesting and memorable enough that it gave LaVell something to tag later on in the show. I suspect that this joke is part of a larger routine that was cut either for time or content purposes and that it makes a lot more sense in the proper context. I laughed at it, but was a little... disturbed by it (especially when Gerry ended his set with "it was a true story" when he was passing the mic to Bellamy). I'd love to see the joke in its natural place in Gerry's act.
I thought that the comics did a much better job on the whole this week than last. That lends some credence to the idea that they were holding back a bit last week in order to save their best material for the later rounds. I'm actually anxious to see what the final weeks brings on in terms of material. Will it keep getting better? Or have we peaked with regards to who has the best stuff in reserve? Damn you NBC and TV Squad -- you actually have me caring about a show that I thought I had put behind me after season one.
As always, you can find a different take from Shecky Magazine here.