'Last Comic Standing' - 'L.A. Auditions': Season 7 Premiere Recap
by Gabrielle Dunn, posted Jun 7th 2010 10:00PM
(S07E01) For stand-up comedians, NBC's 'Last Comic Standing' has the same "easy road" stigma that singers feel 'American Idol' has. The show even took a year long break before coming back for its seventh season. Former winners have been as hit-or-miss as those on 'Idol.' Revamped once again (the show is on its fifth host and an all-new judging panel), 'Last Comic' is back.
The two-hour premiere focused entirely on auditions at The Improv in Los Angeles. The judging panel -- with established comics Greg Giraldo, Natasha Leggero and Andy Kindler -- weed through comedians, all aiming for a spot on that night's showcase.
Giraldo, known for his cutting bits on Comedy Central's Roasts, says he prefers comics who have "suffered a little" and "can put a spin on it." Leggero, known for her 'snobby, rich girl' stand-up persona, says she stresses material and point of view. (Full disclosure: I've met Leggero a couple of times. She's very friendly and helpful -- and she's incredibly tiny in person.) Last is Kindler from 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' who proclaims you can't teach stand-up comedy.
But now it's time for the first auditioner: Maronzio Vance from North Carolina, who also auditioned during season 2. Vance has a pretty dry delivery on stage and looks off to the side a lot. It's a totally different persona than off stage. I don't particularly enjoy this brand of comedy but the judges love him -- particularly Leggero, who even highlights his delivery.
As an aside, something that right away stands out as a flaw with 'Last Comic' is that the judging panel are all comedians as well who want to look as funny on TV as the contestants. It's like if after someone auditioned with a song, the 'Idol' judges were all singers who then sang their responses, each trying to outdo each other vocally while also putting someone through to the next round. It's overwhelming to watch.
Anyway, Vance goes through to the next round as Leggero, Giraldo and Kindler all yell funny things over each other.
The next auditioner is the lovechild of Charles Manson and Tommy Chong. His name is Felipe Esparza and he's from Los Angeles. He's got a thick Hispanic accent and a hairstyle not unlike Hurley's from 'Lost.'
He doesn't get a lot of laughs from the judges and his jokes lack punchlines. Giraldo mentions that he's seen Esparza perform before and is torn on letting him through because crowds in the past have loved him. This is another flaw with 'Last Comic', although I'm glad they're addressing it. Comics should be getting through based solely on their auditions. Leggero says 'no' because his audition was bad but the men say 'yes' and it's enough. His presence is more frustrating than anything else.
Now start the bad auditions. First is "FlibbertiGibbet" dressed in a devil costume with a guitar. The next guy is a gothic killer clown wear KISS make-up, a top hat and a pigs head on a stick. The judges cut him off but I was actually hoping his set was just full of "Lord of the Flies" jokes. Now, we'll never know. Another guy wears a bejeweled hat and someone else hits an egg with a frying pan and it turns into feathers (Cool! But not comedy.) There's a bunch of shots of Leggero laughing but she's cracking up at Kindler's commentary, moreso than the auditioners.
This next auditioner is Kirk Fox from San Diego. He looks like Jeff Foxworthy, mustache and all, which is unfortunate. His joke isn't that funny and he loses his train of thought midway through but gosh darn it, he's so likable. Fox actually tells the panel, "I don't think I'm cut out for this show." Giraldo says Fox is their first surrender. "I peaked in the hallway," Fox explains and this whole thing is such an endearing train-wreck. The judges think so too and they put him through despite himself.
Laurie Kilmartin, a single mom who's been a comic for 22 years, makes jokes to her toddler son as they move into a new apartment in her backstory segment -- "Who do you think we should steal cable from?"
"I don't know if I'm doing anything right but maybe I'm not doing too much wrong?" Kilmartin says. It's the opposite of a sob story and it's not making me hate her. On stage, her best joke is about marrying Charlie Sheen so her name can be "Laurie Kilmartin Sheen." (Say it out loud.)
The first comic after the commercial break is Fortune Feimster from North Carolina. She is a big curly-haired weirdo with a face like Natalie from 'The Facts of Life.' She loves costumes and strange voices -- a Hooter's uniform with her belly sticking out and a grey wig and shimmering gold top.
She's also got a precious Southern accent, which she exaggerates on stage to play her mother. When she gets through, she does the robot and talks about pumping iron while listening to "Eye of The Tiger." She is my absolute favorite so far.
Lil 'Rel is next up. He's from Chicago and tries to 'rep it like a gangster but his shirt and vest are definitely from H&M so that's confusing. He does a cool Little Richard impression but there's not really a punchline. He gets unanimous yes's based solely on his good stage presence.
Another bad auditioner Marc Ryan makes fun of reality show judges. Leggero doesn't look amused but maybe that's because she's got a similar bit in her own repetoire. Ryan calls the room "impossible" because he idolizes Giraldo and Kindler. Leggero is again super not pleased. Ryan tries to pick up the shovel to dig himself out but ends up calling her "Nancy" instead of "Natasha" and basically buries himself. He gets a "no" and Leggero, in a talking head, says she now understand why Paula Abdul was "constantly high on pills." I don't blame her either.
There's another nice advice montage where Giraldo says he hates when comics say, "I know what you're thinking..." to set up a bit. I wish these audition rounds had more pointers like this instead of inane banter. There's then a montage of a bazillion comics doing jokes about being ethnic mutts that emphasizes how tired that premise is. It's smart and really highlights the importance of originality.
Kevin Small, who's from Dallas, looks like your neighbor who collects your mail for you while you're on vacation. He does a Texan accent for his father that's a weird mix of Frank Caliendo's and Will Ferrell's George W. Bush impressions. It's pretty affected. He's even got a catchphrase -- "Watch out now!" Giraldo says he feels a lot of what's funny about Small isn't on purpose. "If you don't know what's funny about what you're doing then you're only going to do it once or twice by accident," Giraldo tells him and it's awesome advice. The judges put him through anyway.
Cathy Ladman, a dry middle-aged woman from Los Angeles, gets a funny one-liner: "The closest I've come to getting a facial lately is when I drain macaroni." She's put through to the next round. Rob Delaney from Massachusetts gets put through as well. So does Wisconson's Shane Mauss, a college-y-looking dude with a funny time machine joke. And older gentleman David Feldman from New Jersey, who has easy jokes about Republicans. Jacob Siroff, a wire-y, bespeckled young man who looks like someone my Rabbi would set me up with, also goes through.
The next audition is Guy Torrey doing a not-at-all-played-out 'MTV's Cribs' parody at an apartment he probably just moved into. He has awesome delivery but he says his name at the end of his set like a d-bag. The judges say he will kill the room but his material isn't that good. It's 'Dane Cook' syndrome. They are on the fence but Torrey convinces them to let him through.
Then comes a tiny furry dog in a bowtie and hat with a French accent. The "comic" is named Edith Piaf and it sits on the lap of an owner who at first seems to be doing ventriloquism, which is really impressive. It's later revealed that another woman is doing the dog's voice from off-stage and so it's less cool again. The whole thing is really funny but the judges say no because...do I need to explain why?
The following comic Taylor Williamson, was born about five minutes ago in San Diego. He's got a baby-face and an annoying 'widdle' baby-voice. Kindler and Leggero say 'yes' and Giraldo does that Simon Cowell thing where he doesn't give an answer but just says, "You got two yes's so you're going through." It makes me wonder what he'd have said. Either way, Williamson goes through to the next round.
That night, it's the first Los Angeles showcase, which will decide who goes on to the semi-finals.
Esparza is up first and opens with a fat girls joke. It's lame. He kills the room though. Cleansing the palate is Feimster who makes fun of her first name calling herself "Precious" and also makes a joke about being fat but instead of being creepy like Esparza's, it's suitably quirky. She also has an absolutely hilarious bit about being a lesbian and does a voice that kind of evokes Chris Farley. I want her to crush the competition.
Delaney is third and I get the feeling editing is really selling him short but he does well. Next is Rel who does more voices that are funny but the material isn't that great, which is exactly the problem the judges had with him before. Small is next and he bombs, probably because the accent he's doing is still a Ferrell rip off.
Next, Kilmartin does jokes about being a mother that are pretty mean to her child but it's funny. Siroff reveals he's a Jew (shocking!) and he also does well.
Fox stands like he's been riding a horse but doesn't have the dumb affected-ness of anyone on the 'Blue Collar Comedy Tour' despite looking like he belongs there. Williamson does jokes about hanging out with his grandparents. They probably watch him during the day while his mom's at work. Feldman's next and he rips on the Palin family with a joke I got in an e-mail forward from my dad in 2008.
Then comes Amy Claire, who we haven't seen at all yet. Her name is Amy and she also looks like a 'Last Comic' contestant from season 5, Amy Schumer, so that's bad news. She's all right. Vance kills with a joke about Spanish Rice Krispies. Ladman seems pretty funny too and does well with a joke about Hitler and his girlfriend. Torrey talks about his wife being both classy and "ghetto." He's got presence but the punchline isn't there. Mauss does a weird Jerry Seinfeld impression that is probably unintentional. His jokes are funny and also again about time machines. (Nice!)
The first comic to get through is Esparza. And next is Feldman. I am kind of losing hope here. Vance and Mauss are next. Torrey too. Oh, but then Fox makes it and I feel better. Siroff is a "yes." Williamson makes it as does Rel, who cries. More people I hate than love have made it so far. Feimster makes it and all is redeemed. Kilmartin makes it through last and we see a whole bunch of comics standing on stage who we were never introduced to. Most notably, an elderly woman in a red sweater. Her presence is so jarring that I can't believe we didn't get to see any of her set. I'd be disappointed if this premiere wasn't already too long.
Backstage, Willamson says when he started stand-up comedy, his goal was to get on 'Last Comic.' I suspect Kilmartin's been doing comedy longer than Williamson's been alive. Torrey says the first thing that's made me like him all episode which is that he made it through because he had a good set but it doesn't make him funnier than anybody else. It's pretty insightful.
Day two auditions begin in a rainstorm. It's supposedly the next day but the judges are wearing the same outfits as the day before. I'm on to you, reality television.
First up is Rachel Feinstein, a pretty Jewish girl who does voices. She uses the word 'tits' a lot and judges give her unanimous yes's.
Paula Bel, who looks like a scary ballet instructor -- severe brows, highly-pulled hair, all black, slim scarf -- is next. The judges don't laugh during her audition but they all say 'yes' because they've seen her before. (Blerg.)
Then comes Tiffany Haddish, a young Ethiopian Jewess from Los Angeles. There's some inside joke between her and the judges about iguanas but editing doesn't leave us privy to it. She has hilarious banter with Robinson outside trying to convince him to cast her as his wife in his next project. Haddish also teaches me the term "boo-ed up" which apparently means "taken." I'm going to use it every day. She's pretty cute and she makes it to the next round.
Chip Pope, a gay from Texas, does a joke about the B-52s. Kindler has seen him before and sends him through. Cristela Alonzo, also from Texas, goes through. Chris Fairbanks from Montana messes up but recovers and moves on. As does Christina Pazsitsky, a cute Hungarian blonde from Los Angeles.
Jonathan Thymius also gets through. He's a weird, deadpan middle-aged guy with white-blond hair and he looks JUST like this comic strip character that I can't freaking remember the name of (Not 'Dilbert' but sort of like 'Dilbert'). Oh, this is going to bother me for forever.
Anyway, now on to the second showcase. Pope and Bel are both way funnier than in their auditions, probably because they are comics that need a crowd. This is the first time we're seeing Jimmy Dore and he has a great joke about gay marriage. Pazsitsky says backstage that she wants to impress her immigrant parents who don't understand what stand-up comedy is. On stage, she does a funny impression of her father. Haddish is next. She talks about wanting bigger breasts and pulls some padded pasties out of her shirt. Somehow, she's still charming.
James Adomian, who we also haven't seen yet, has my favorite joke of the episode about the blue collar Mucinex mascots. He starts laughing during it though but even that doesn't stop it from being hilarious.
Feinstein does well but her funniest joke is a throwaway that her mother calls stand-up "her talent show." Fairbanks does a funny fast-talking bit that showcases his neurosis nicely.
Thymius is up next. At the end of his audition, Kindler told him to wear a smoking jacket and though his suggestions have all been jokes, Thymius is the only one who actually shows up wearing the suggestion. It's effortlessly funny and Kindler loses it when he sees. His set is way funnier than his audition.
Then comes on Alonzo and she's made it this far before but never to the semi-finals. She does a funny impression of her sister, who apparently has a thick Hispanic accent that Alonzo does not share. Jason Nash, who we haven't seen yet either, hilariously compares his three year old to a WWII Japanese general.
Moving on to the semi-finals first is Feinstein. Pope is next. Adomian makes it through too, which is great. As does Nash. Bel goes through and doesn't shake any of the judges hands which cracks up Leggero. Alonzo also makes it. The show tries to build up drama for who the last comic going through will be but it's totally going to be Thymius even though Haddish had a great set. Maybe she's just not ready. I hope she auditions again. Oh shoot, Fairbanks also didn't make it? He was more talented than some of the first round people. That's the way the cookie crumbles with reality talent shows though, huh?
And so ends the season 7 premiere of 'Last Comic Standing.' Eighteen comics from L.A. made it through to the semi-finals. Next week's episode will showcase the New York City auditions. That's right. Only two audition episodes. Take note, 'Idol.'