Last Comic Standing: Audience Vote #3
A kinda, sorta standing O! A very apparent screw-up by one of the three remaining finalists! A set of produced pieces so poorly made that simply by airing them NBC set TV back 50 years (seriously, they turned my TV black and white).
What I'm saying is, who wouldn't want to take this show with them on the bus? The review starts after the jump...
We need to talk about those production packages detailing the comics going back to their hometown to work their old day jobs. Does anyone else get the feeling that the people who put them together are in some kind of mid-60s Beach Boys/Beatles rivalry with the producers of the Coke commercials for American Idol to see who can make the most horribly contrived and terribly edited collection of nonsense on television?
I'd like to nominate tonight's soul-sucking quagmire as the Pet Sounds of the rivalry. It was a masterpiece, managing to meld a ridiculous premise with a Brownie-like level of poor execution. LaVell as a crossing guard! Wow, look at him eat that sandwich ('cause he's fat, 'case you didn't notice!) And Jon, look, he's so bad at changing tires he's actually in a stack of them drinking coffee! They sure do things different in Hick'ry!
A note to the American Idol production team: you're really going to need to step it up this year if you want to out-bad Last Comic Standing.
(One last thing about the old jobs segment: Gerry Dee's act is rife with references to his job as a teacher. Why didn't they go back to his old school? Was it too difficult from a legal perspective -- all those kids -- or is maybe someone who talks about being hung over in class not all that welcome back at the old school? It just seemed odd to show Gerry as a waiter.)
We had two guest comics tonight, Harland Williams and Josh Blue, as a way to fill the hour up with comedy. I understood why Blue was there, being a former winner, but I was unsure why Williams was making an appearance. Do any of our readers know? Is he on an NBC show? Or just friends with Bill Bellamy?
Either way, I thought his comedy tonight was fairly interesting, even if it didn't seem to make a lot of sense ("Have you ever yawned so long a hot-dog flew into your mouth?" Uh, no. Judging from the audience's reaction, neither have they). His set did manage to have a few twists and turns in it (especially the stuff about talking in his sleep), so I rate the appearance as decent.
The best part about it for me, aside from the comedy, was the tremendously awkward half-standing O that Bellamy tried to start after Williams' set. Williams finishes up, Bellamy stands. All of a sudden, the audience directly behind him (who, up until Bellamy stood, had no intention of standing themselves), realizing that the camera was on them, jumped to their feet.
The rest of the audience, only moved enough by the set to offer obligatory TV applause, didn't stand at all. So, when Bellamy went from over-enthusiastic supporter of Williams back to his regular job as the embarrassingly awful host of a national TV program, the audience members who stood up along with him were left awkwardly standing. They looked exactly like someone who, thinking they've just seen a friend, waves at a stranger and tries to cover the wave by pretending they were just fixing their hair. That was just awesome to watch.
Blue's set had some funny moments in it. One thing that he did, though, raises an interesting philosophical point. His bit about his hand having a job as an interpreter for the deaf got my wife a little angry. Her mother is deaf and one of her pet peeves is when people make fake sign language as a way to get a cheap laugh (think Robin Williams circa 1986).
It got me thinking. We let comics get away with making fun of something so long as they come from that group. Ethnic comics can comment on race, fat comics can comment on weight, and handicapped comics can comment on being disabled. For most people it's a-okay for Blue to make a deaf joke, because people tend to lump all handicaps together. For my CoDA wife, who knows better, it was slightly offensive. The equivalent would be me making a CP joke -- no matter how funny it was, you would find it offensive because I don't have CP.
Why is this? Why do we only laugh at jokes after we realize we're inside the safety zone of a comic's personal experience? Isn't a salient observation independent of the race or weight or level of ability of the observer?
I ask you because as a comic, I literally can't get offended by anything anymore (except Bill Bellamy).
All that aside, Blue got a standing ovation. A real one. I don't pretend to understand what forces are at work in the minds of NBC's audiences -- I personally thought the set was a little weak -- but it did lead me to wonder whether or not Williams and Blue had a strained conversation in the green room.
Williams: "Congrats on the standing O, Josh!"
Blue: "Thanks. Yeah, it was crazy. At first I wasn't going to do the handicapped material, but you know, it's kind of what I'm known for. It was a nice feeling."
Williams: "Yeah, I felt good during mine, too."
Blue: "Yours? Oh, like, when you've gotten one in the past?"
Williams (pausing): "No, I mean tonight."
Another long pause. Blue: "Oh, cool, yeah. Totally. You got one too."
And then both of them eat baby carrots and try not to make eye contact with each other. At least, that's how I see it happening in my mind.
Of our competitors, it was time, tonight, to say goodbye to Amy Schumer. She looked her best (though my wife, ever catty about my growing crush on Amy, said her outfit made her look like "Mrs. Claus"), but I got the sense she was relieved to be going home. She's come far enough in the competition that her career prospects are excellent; any more performing would have strained her three and a half years of experience to the breaking point.
Judging from the way they packaged Amy's farewell, I'm guessing no one wants a Matt Kirshen/Amy Schumer romance to happen more than NBC. I think they sniff reality show. And you know what? I'm totally there. C'mon Matt and Amy! Let's make this happen.
Since we're down to the final three, our grading system tonight will be the colors of a stoplight -- red being worst, green being best. Remember, the grades are not a stand-alone assessment of the performer's abilities, but rather a grade of how they rated next to their fellow comics.
Red - LaVell Crawford. For the first time that I can remember on the show, it looked like a comic was on the verge of actually forgetting his routine. You can tell LaVell was flustered in the beginning of that set -- he stumbled on his words and cursed three times (one of which, if I read his lips properly, involved doing something unthinkable to my own mother!) It threw him. My theory is that he was used to performing the routine with the curses in, stumbled, and put them in without thinking. Once he realized what he had done, he was taken out of his performance and only got back in it right at the end.
The performance itself trod some very well traveled ground. There's a part of me that wants to help fund research to create a non-invasive test for prostate cancer. Not so much for the general comfort of men over 40, but just to remove that particular well-worn nugget from a comic's stage arsenal.
I've been wrong in my predictions before, but I think this is LaVell's week to go.
Yellow - Jon Reep. Though he had the line of the night with his impression of what people in LA think Southerners are like ("What are shoes for!??!"), he misses out on being the hands down winner by a rather awkward finish involving his father shooting the bed. I thought the piece was performed very well (especially Jon mimicking himself not being able to hear after the gun went off), but it just felt like such a false premise. It very well could have been a true story, but it didn't feel like one.
Green - Gerry Dee. I continue to be impressed with Gerry. His sets are by far the smoothest and best constructed of the finalists. It's like he's spent the last ten years doing his club work four minutest at a time.
He's also a deceptively dark comedian. Think about it: he was effectively endorsing drunken driving on television. I've seen this get big laughs in clubs before, but I can't recall it ever showing up on a network. The way he presents it, though, gets the audience laughing without thinking about the larger ramifications of what they're actually laughing at. This is not a knock; I'm writing it with the utmost respect and admiration.
Gerry's observations are spot on as well. Discussing the differences between men and women is always a dicey proposition for a comic because it can very easily take a left-hand turn down the hack highway. The precision with which Gerry hit his target's tonight (especially his wife refusing to drive after one drink and the way women check with each other when they laugh) allowed him to find new comedy in a familiar place.
With Doug and Matt out of the competition, Gerry is my personal pick for who I'd like to see win the entire competition.
We're down to two more weeks! I can't wait to see how they pad the final shows! Perhaps they'll have the comics visit old girlfriends and video tape them trying to elicit some kind of jealousy because of their newfound success! Won't that be wonderful to watch?
As always, you can read a different take on tonight's show from Shecky Magazine here.