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December 21, 2014

Last Comic Standing: Audience Vote #3

by Jay Black, posted Sep 6th 2007 12:21AM
Does anyone else think tonight was a trainwreck?(S01E13) It's unfortunate that after the NBC/Apple flare-up this week that people won't be able to easily download Last Comic Standing onto their IPods, because this week's show had it all:

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.

Who would you vote OFF the show tonight?
LaVell147 (75.4%)
Jon25 (12.8%)
Gerry23 (11.8%)

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Shannon

Jay...

I apologize for being rude, it is generally very unlike me. I was frustrated with your review because I misunderstood your intent. I do like your review of the competing contestants, and I do think that you have been fair to them. I bristled at your comments about political correctness before I realized that you were trying to start a conversation. I personally love politically incorrect comedy when it is funny. I think it is daring and badly needed in a society where we spend way too much time trying not to offend everybody. I appreciate those comics who are not afraid to be edgy, and I am tired of people who make a big deal out of what they are saying. I am especially impressed with Josh Blue and his ability to turn a disadvantage into an advantage, and my first take on your review of him was not favorable. I felt like you were attacking him for the deaf jokes and for his line of comedy in general. I think everyone is fair game for stand up comedy. We need to learn to laugh at ourselves as well as others. It's COMEDY!

That being said, I again apologize. After re-reading your review, I see that your intent was not what I initially perceived it to be.

September 10 2007 at 2:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jay Black

Well, almost. You didn't answer points four and five (regarding why you don't read just the poll if that's all you care about and what you meant by the turn of phrase "get a life"), but I'll give you a pass.

A few points of rebuttal:

1) Yes, I think I could do the show better. I think you could do the show better. I think that a thousand monkeys sitting in front of a thousand typewriters could do better. Hell, that's overshooting -- all you'd need is three, four monkeys, tops.

This show has a great product (stand-up comedy) that it feels the need to filter through a poor knock off of American Idol. The two art forms (singing and stand-up) are not the same, but the producers -- people who you'd think would be intimiately aware of stand-up comedy -- refuse to acknowledge this. Instead of a showcase for fresh new talent, we're subjected to a phony-baloney "search" followed by ridiculous challenge rounds.

2) I've been snide about the hosts, the judges, the show, etc., but I think I've always given a fair and balanced towards the competing comics. Other than giving Dante some crap for dropping the mic, I've tried to review them without attacking them.

Please don't misread my dislike of the show as a dislike for comedy. Indeed, any issues that I have with the show are as a direct result of my love for comedy.

3) My comment about political correctness in comedy was an observation that I was hoping would spur some spirited discussion in the comments. If you reread it, the last thing I ask is what the readers' opinions are regarding why people feel that only a member of a certain group is given a free pass to discuss that group. I clearly don't feel this should be the case (it simply is the case). Do you take issue with me posing the question? That is, do you feel that this space should be devoted solely to reviewing/recapping, without any further discussion beyond that?

4) To that end, I've been pondering your issues with my review all weekend, and I was bothered by one aspect of it: what would a recap of Last Comic Standing look like? Would it even be worth reading? Near as I could tell, it would simply be a rundown of who performed with a few jokes quoted. Whereas I can see the need for a recap of a serialized drama, I'm at a loss as to why anyone would even _want_ to read a recap of a reality show (except to see, maybe, who got voted off).

5) You're right, I did make my wife look insecure. She's not and I should apologize to her right now.

6) If anything requires a "get a life" comment it would be the time and effort I've devoted in these comments :)

-- Jay "2000 words or Bust" Black

September 10 2007 at 11:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Shannon

Hello again, Jay. Aren't you clever? To answer your questions:

a) I called your wife insecure because you made the following comment: "my wife, ever catty about my growing crush on Amy, said her outfit made her look like "Mrs. Claus." Sounds to me like she feels threatened by a reality TV contestant.

b) I mentioned your take on political correctness in comedy because you said the following: "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."

I was not aware that your job is to "review" rather than "recap" the show. The other blogs on TV Squad that I check up on from time to time recap the show rather than review it. My overall frustration with your reviews comes from the snarky comments you make about nearly every person involved in this show... the producers, the comics, the guests, the host, the talent scouts, etc. While I agree that the show does leave a bit to be desired (more comedy would be nice), you tear this show down week after week like you could do it so much better.

There, does that clear things up?

September 10 2007 at 11:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jay Black

By the way, a note to all the regular commenters on LCS: you guys really do rock. I look forward to writing the review each week just to read what your thoughts about the show are. If I don't post in the comments as much as I'd like, it's less to do with you than it has to do with my brand new baby (who, at 7 weeks is still lazily pooping in his pants like he was some sort of infant!)

Keep your comments coming!

September 08 2007 at 7:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jay Black

Shannon, a few things:

1. Thank you so much for the kind words. A lot of people ask my why I blog and the answer isn't the money: it's comments like yours!

2. Just so you know, this is not a "recap", but rather a "review". Our editorial guidelines for reviews are to assume the audience has already seen the episode and to comment on it. While I should hope that you'll always check TV Squad (and my posts specifically) during the course of your online day, if you're looking for recaps of the episode, there are several recap-only sites available online.

3. That being said, I'm always open to constructive criticism. To that end, if you could elaborate on a two points in your comment, it'd help me greatly:

a) What makes you think my wife is insecure? I'll grant you that when it comes to "fake sign language" she's got a quick offense trigger, but where did I imply that she was insecure? Frankly, it looks more like a mindless insult on your part and not at all constructive. I don't take you for the type of person that would do that, though, so if you could explain your thinking in making the comment, it would be very helpful!

b) Where is my review "political"? I suppose you could say that my line about a "Browne-like level of poor execution" betrays a bit of liberal bias, but I mean it when I say that the line exists less because of my political feelings and more because it's an easy joke to make. As a comic, I'm all about the easy laughs. If you could eloborate further, I'd love to hear it!

4) Not to be a smart-alec, but one might point out to you that if "the only reason you read this site is to know how the online community is voting", you could choose to scroll down to the poll at the bottom of the post without reading anything else. I know, I know, I'm being a little over-the-top in my snarky response! You write a cogent and well-meaning critique of my review and I come back with insouciance! I apologize -- sometimes my wit gets the better part of my manners.

5) "Get a life" -- are you saying that by fulfilling my duties as a paid writer here at TV Squad makes me some kind of "dork" that needs to get out more? Or that because my review didn't meet your standards that I'm a geek that doesn't deserve your time? Or are you simply making a reference to a great Chris Elliot show? If the latter, then I'm totally with you!

Again, thanks for the comments and please let me know about the above issues!

September 08 2007 at 7:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Shannon

Jay... I don't care what your insecure and easily offended wife thinks. I also don't care about your political take on comedy. Would you please just give us a recap already? I only read this damn thing every week because I want to know how the online community is voting. Get a life.

September 08 2007 at 7:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JT

I thought LaVell was hilarious and hope he wins. I think all the other comics on the show have stunk, and Josh Blue was funnier last season.

September 07 2007 at 3:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim

Jay: Be careful where you place your adjectives. Bellamy is not "the embarrassingly awful host of a national TV program," he is the host of an embarrassingly awful national TV program. Just how awful (and irrelevant) was confirmed when last year's winner performed.

I should have stopped watching when Matt was eliminated.

September 06 2007 at 11:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Haley

This season proves that the way Last Comic Standing is set up... is set up to fail.

It sucks that the comics that most of America would love to see do their set never make it that far. In general, it feels that the other comics are threatened by them and they get out. I understand the show creators tried to keep it fair - but wouldn't it be more fair for an outside party (judges, guests, or an audience) vote on who has to fight for their life?

It is sad that the best comics have to go up against the worst they "know they are funnier than" - allowing mediocre comics to slide their way into the finals... and possibly the win.

It was apparent that even the show producers did not want Doug Benson to leave seeing that they gave him time to do his set. And while I am mentioning that... doesn't that make a lot more sense than allowing Harlen Williams to perform? If this show is trying to really promote its own and elevate comics that we've not all heard of - wouldn't it be nice for fallen contestants be given a chance to do one more set when they are just trying to fill time anyway?

those were my thoughts... thanks for reading...

September 06 2007 at 3:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bash

LaVell has been mumbling all the time. And again he tried to clap this weeks instead of just realizing that some things will never work if... well I don't know. Maybe he still thinks he will see his penis again before he dies too...

From the beginning I thought NBC is trying to push Gerry Dee to win this thing because I found it extremely disturbing that he had been on the show last year (IIRC because this is the first season I watch this cra* of a show)...

LaVell is a goner because of the cursing if you ask me.

September 06 2007 at 3:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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