Last Comic Standing Episode 4

July 5, 2010 at 12:05 pm Leave a comment

Oh my god, the auditions are over! We’ve finally arrived at the Semi-Finals, and as such we can finally start to dig into these characters. I can be specific! At long last, I can be specific. The night began with nineteen comics, but only five of them would go on. Which five? Read on, dear reader.

Myq Kaplan took the stage first, kicking the night off with a bang. His bit about people needing to be tricked into reading by putting movie stars on book covers included one of my favorite lines of the night: “Brad Pitt is in this book!” I immediately flagged that sentence as a potential title for this installment, then Andy Kindler echoed my feelings and I crossed it out. I like Andy, I just don’t want to feel like I’m trying to ingratiate myself to anyone.
His next bit about religious people going to extreme they start denying absurd things was also a particular favorite. “They say things like ‘Gay doesn’t exist in the natural world. I don’t see Gay in nature.’ You know what I don’t see in nature? Angels. Half-human-half-bird creatures running around, I don’t see that.” I’ve stated in previous posts that I like Myq and hope he does well in the competition. His approach of hard work and practice is one that needs more of a cache in this modern world.

Jamie Lee went next. She was the woman who quit her job to pursue her calling as a stand-up – in other words, the easy sentimental favorite. Before heading out to the stage, she confessed to the camera that the stakes of the show were so high, she’d get terrified if she stopped to think about them. Problem is, comedy is something that pretty much requires you to overthink everything. Comics are the most painfully self-aware people in the world. They’ll make an innocuous gesture while talking, then point out the gesture and try to make a bit out of it. My point being, there was really no way she was going to force her brain to not think about something.
Her material was fine, if a bit slight. She has an affable presence, but nothing compelling. Personally, I think Jamie Lee has tremendous upside, but she’s too raw to go far in the competition. I hope she takes the fact that she made the Semi-Finals this time as a sign that she’s on the right path, and tries again on a future season. Because I don’t see this ride lasting much longer.

Mike DeStefano was the guy in NY who told the story of killing the kid for mispronouncing a word. A lot of his material sounds latently racist to me, but it kills in the room. As Leggero pointed out, the man already has “screamers”, which are the women who howl their approval. Gotta love comedy audiences and their lowered standards!
While I might have misgivings about his content, dude definitely has a voice. And with the 80s coming back, it makes sense there’s be a Andrew Dice Clay-esque comic in the mix. I expect Mike to actually last a spell in the competition, since voice is so important to comedy.

Kyle Grooms is a decent young comic with a knack for regional humor: “Detroit’s doing so bad, Haiti’s throwing a benefit for them!” Kyle seems like the kind of guy you’d enjoy hanging out with, but his jokes are rather bland. In fact, his bit about America being awesome because we have water parks while other countries don’t even have water is one I’ve heard elsewhere. Andy Kindler liked it though, and had no other real feedback.

I’d like to pause here and point out something that struck me as interesting. The format of the night is that the comic tells their jokes, then Craig Robinson walks out and asks the judges what they thought. More often than not, this consisted of the judges telling the comic that they’re very funny. This goes back to my initial post, where I said that comedy is one of the hardest things to quantify. It’s like porn, you know it when you see it – or hear it as it were. Someone can write a good joke, but if they don’t deliver it well they’re screwed. Or they have great delivery and have the audience laughing at something that really wasn’t all that funny. How do you coach that? It’s an unenviable position the judges are in, aside from being paid to be on TV which will raise their profile and increase their rate for club dates.

Shane Mauss was an interesting moment in the show. He’d built his entire set around a single bit about a person dying on a rollercoaster and how it inconvenienced everyone in line to ride that rollercoaster. Halfway through the set, he acknowledged that he was bombing, but stuck with it and let the audience come to him, which they did in the end. It showed real confidence in his material, though you can’t really build an entire five-minute set around a single punchline. I doubt he’ll move on from this round, but I hope he sticks with it as the things he does right, he does really right.

Adrienne Iapalucci runs the risk of being “too cool for school”. Her entire persona is that of being Over It. She knows how to write a joke, as her bits about the contentious relationship between her mother and her clearly show. My concern is that she can’t connect with an audience, and you really can’t overstate how important that is. She did tell a joke from a vaguely pro-pedophilia angle, though, which was pretty cool.

Felipe Esparza is a cool dude. A big, hairy, funny dude. The kind of guy Greg Giraldo calls “the funniest homeless guy” in his feedback. Felipe is a story comic, not given to one-liners. Like a musician, it helps when you believe that the comic believes what they are saying. Felipe’s act feels wholly genuine, and I expect him to go far in the competition.

Jonathan Thymius a fantastic little enigma. He’s clearly gotten this “Middle-aged Stoner” schtick down to where it’s second nature, and that prep is paying off in spades. He can stand silently on stage, and still get laughs! Perhaps the most inspired bit of the show was his ventriloquism, wherein he took his shoe off and put his sock on his hand. He asked the character how it was doing, and then put the mic down to his now-bare foot which responded. I don’t remember what the response was, as I was already laughing hysterically. As Giraldo noted in his feedback, so much of comedy is the surprise of the punchline, and he pulled that off perfectly. I hope Thymius sticks around, as I can’t wait to see how thoroughly he sticks to the character and whether we ever get a look behind the curtain.

Lil Rel was another comic building his entire set around one bit, a funeral scene where a black man insisted on telling his dead mother’s life story and was constantly being interrupted. Not particularly funny, the bit failed to connect and Giraldo offered the sage advice to watch the crowd and know when to cut a bit of and switch to something else. I do not envision Lil Rel surviving this round.

Jason Weems had a winning moment at the top of his set when he walked out and said “I’ve always wanted to point into a balcony.” Unfortunately, nothing in the remainder of his set was as memorable.

Ryan Hamilton went the One Long Bit route, but clearly understands pacing. As he recounted his first skydiving experience, he found little pockets throughout for digressions and random observations. His presence is interesting, but not enough for me to see him lasting much longer in the competition. I hope he’s writing, though, as I think he’s capable of putting a really good book or script together.

Speaking of digressions! I tried watching this episode on NBC.com, and failed miserably. Their server would just stop the ep for no reason, forcing me to hit F5 and begin anew. NBC Fail!!! I switched over to Hulu, where the viewing experience was brought to me by Sun Chips, whose new marketing campaign seems to be “Eat me, Hippie!” Their bags are compostable, doncha know!

Up next was Paula Bel. This might surprise you, but I actually really dug her doing standup. Plus she called the audience a “room of heads”, which pleased me. I’m pretty sure Andy has a crush on her, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see her move on – nor would I mind.

Jesse Joyce had a funny bit about a pizza guy watching porn and getting frustrated by how unrealistic it was, and that was about it. No tomorrow for you, Joyce!

Rachel Feinstein took the stage to catcalls, which she did a good job of taking in stride. Her bit about dating a “male feminist” was pretty fantastic, as is any time someone quotes their grandmother calling someone a “well-oiled bitch”. Rachel’s another comic who has put the time in developing her voice and presence, and I definitely expect her to be rewarded with a run deep into the competition. Plus, I really don’t want her to go – she’s just soooo pretty…

Kirk Fox. Good lord, how I love Kirk Fox. I really want him to go far in the show. This week was really the first time I’d seen him do a traditional bit, and it was awesome like a hot dog. He opened by saying that he knew how he was going to die, that he would be shot in the top of the head. That, people, is a damn good tease, especially in a comedy routine. He goes on to explain that an old woman moved into the apartment above him and invited him up to show off her .357 Magnum, which she couldn’t even lift. “Why do you have a .357 Magnum,” he begged to know. She told him there’s a contract out on her. “Lady, you’ve been stuck to your couch for 25 years. If they haven’t killed you yet, you’re not a priority! Hell, they probably can’t kill you. God can’t kill you!” Kirk kills it. The audience loves him, and the judges like him. I expect him to go far.

Amanda Melson had jokes about Homeless Chic and Juvenile Diabetes. I’m putting her in the No Tomorrow pile with Joyce.

Chip Pope is a damn fine comedy writer, and I think he’s very close to figuring out his onstage style. His observation that office work is merely “the world’s biggest, most boring game show” was pretty ingenius. “If you can last eight hours a day, five days a week around these people, WE’LL GIVE YOU MONEY!!!” Good shit. I’m also partial to people willing to mock their humble beginnings, so I really dug his bit about being so poor that he had to come out from behind the curtain, as opposed to the closet. I don’t typically care for impressions, but his Paul Simon bit – much like his B-52’s bit – shows an interest in finding a deeper joke within a stale medium.
I think he’ll probably make it past this stage, but I don’t think he’s quite finished evolving. It’s odd, understanding why someone who tells jokes I like might fall by the wayside at the expense of someone telling jokes I don’t find all that funny. As I said before, Mike DeStefano might not tickle my fancy, but he’s clearly developed a voice and it appeals to some. He’s put in the time and effort, and that will probably be rewarded over Chip. Objectively, I understand – but comedy is subjective, so I call Bullshit on that thing I just said!

Alycia Cooper thanked the Nigerian bomber for making air travel so hard on Black Folk again: “I cancelled my insurance, because I’m getting pap smears at the airport!” I also liked her advice to men that they should “Cheat Up, so you’re woman can’t be mad at you.” She had a nice interaction with Giraldo regarding that bit, and knowing why you’re the girl who gets taken out on Feb. 13th. She’s pleasant and fairly funny, but I don’t see her lasting much, if any, longer.

David Feldman backed off the Angry Liberal schtick, and “shiv” in a joke which pleased me. His bit about bombing at a Home For Abused Women because “they wouldn’t listen!” prompted Leggero to label him “dark, original, and quotable”. I can see him going far in the competiton.

Before we get to who made it out of the first half of the Semi-Finals, let me take a moment to ask why Craig Robinson must always be underused. He’s the host of this thing, but all he really gets to do now is walk out, prompt applause, and ask the judges what they thought. This guy is hilarious, and I hope he’s given more room to perform soon.

From this group, Myq Kaplan, Mike DeStefano, Felipe Esparanza, Jonathan Thymius, and Rachel Feinstein moved on. I’ll miss you, Kirk Fox and Chip Pope!

By Adam Stovall

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Entry filed under: Reviews. Tags: , , .

Episode 109 : Great Scott Eating at Philippe’s

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