LAST EDITED ON 09-01-04 AT 06:22 PM (EST)
And on the second night, there was another epiphany: the house had been a good thing. The house created conflict. The silly competitions in and around it gave the comedians and summary writers alike the most precious gift a reality show could create: the gift of Material. Without the house, all the comedians had was their two minutes on stage, randomly poking through an endless quantity of Jay Mohr, and that’s all the summary writers had to watch. No backstabbing, no near-pointless alliances, no Todd Glass trying to figure out how to hog sixty-five minutes of camera time in one hour. Just comedy. That’s all there is to comment on, with no way to bring any other elements in. It’s like getting an American Idol episode after the actual singing starts, and you don’t even have Simon to work with. It is summary death.
Think there’s any chance this one will go over ten pages? I’m going to call this in advance: my worst summary ever… Roll opening credits.
We come in to find twelve people on the stage: last night’s Season 1 performers on the left of the screen, Mohr in the center (so the extra-intense DAW spotlight can hit him without grazing any of the others), the Season 2 comedians on the right, and a stagehand desperately scrambling to get out of camera range before the show goes on the air. He doesn’t quite make it, which stands a good chance of being the funniest moment of the night.
The first business of the evening is to disburse the initial $50,000 – that’s 5k per comic per week at this point, which is somewhat less than the big publicity winners from Season 1 are making on the road, which means this is all about the DAWs, folks. Mohr gives the audience the usual tease/stall tactic about sharing it with them – that would work out to about $2.50 each, making this the first reality show to pay less than Forever Eden – the audience actually cheers for Season 1 and Season 2 by those names, and thanks to the short attention spans of the American public and the saving grace that is Alonzo Boden, Season 2 gets the cash. Hooray for Season 2! (So who wants the T-shirt franchise for this exciting new concept in fan relations? Not me: I’m more of a Segment Three backer.) Back in the Season 2 dugout/War Room, Corey Holcomb is so excited that he prematurely ejaculates his water bottle all over the floor. Of course, for Corey Holcomb, getting that $2.50 represents a 500% increase in his comedy earnings to date, so I really can’t blame him for being excited.
And now we learn that Jay Mohr, in the immortal words of Robin Williams, is actually a freaking Muppet. Why? Because we’ve tuned in during the first five minutes of the show to hear Captain Mohr say – wait for it – ‘Market research shows that we do better if we make you guys wait and sweat it out until the end of the show before we start eliminating people, so that’s what we’re gonna do.’ So tune in early every week, because you just never know what blatant, obvious, incredibly annoying license to kill the Mohrpet will dispense. It’s our very own Pigggg On Staggggge!
The comics are sent off-stage with Todd Glass digging to find change for a dollar, the voting methods are reviewed – phone, online vote, text message (duplicate host joke from last night), repeatedly hit the host until his groans of pain turn into Mohrse code – and the already-usual reminder: two minutes to perform, microphone cut off, ten second grace period before the comedian’s family is strapped to a chair and forced to read Mohr’s book. Life’s tough, and the host is in his cups.
And now, the comics:
Set #1: I’d forgotten. I really had. My subconscious – good, good subconscious – completely blocked her out. I didn’t recognize the name at all. And then Mohr says ‘Cha-cha-cha!’, and it all comes back like a world-record burrito with spoiled cream cheese. Since the return of repressed memories is seldom a non-traumatic experience, I get to watch Tere Joyce’s set from the floor. The good news: the memories are traumatic enough to block out the additional distress radiating from the screen.
Routine: New material, for the very little that’s worth. Her car broke down and she had to take the bus to the theater, someone told her she doesn’t look like a hooker (she doesn’t, as long as you don’t put the word ‘dissipated’ in there) and she’s not because she gives it away for free, she’s stolen Jay Mohr’s last drink, and she’s in therapy now and has every mental disorder known (which surprises no one). Her therapist pays her because she gets treated in the nude – apparently her therapist has some major issues to work out – and she’s learned to make noises which release emotional pain. I try a few of them out. Her performance still hurts.
Set #2: Jay London. Now, I like Jay. I like his hybrid Steven Wright/Chewbacca one-liners. (My spellchecker just recognized ‘Chewbacca’. Well, we all know who programmed it…) And I even like the way he makes fun of himself and reassures the audience that his presence is only temporary after a joke falls flat. It’s just hard to see how anyone would continue to like him for twenty-two minutes once a week. What would NBC have done with him if he’d won the exclusive talent development contract? Where could they put him? Is it true that Father of the Pride (which is already looking like a monkey-cage sized stink bomb) was developed just for his future prospects? If he’d won, animation would have returned to the NBC schedule in bulk. It would have been that or the continuing adventures of Troll Bridge Man.
Routine: standard Jay: he videotaped his hair and now he’s going to watch the highlights, his Hot Pockets have lint in them – don’t worry, sirs and madams, this summary will be over soon and you’ll never have to read me again – down jackets fit his personality, and ribbed condoms now come with barbeque sauce. There’s a lot of trolls in the United States and they vote, so Jay’s safe this week.
Set #3: Rob Cantrell. It’s nice to see Rob again, especially since he may vanish into the depths of a medical research lab forever at any moment. Stem cell research? Forget it. What’s needed is a study on the comedian who ages backwards. If he gets any more boyish, he’s going to glide onto the stage on a skateboard and take out the cameras with a slingshot.
Routine: And what’s the best way to stop looking juvenile? No, not take a lot of drugs like so many comedians have done before you: that’s been done to (many people’s) death. You talk about sex! Rob’s got a new girlfriend, but she only likes the missionary position: that is, they have to go door-to-door, demonstrate in front of strangers, and convince them it’s the only position anyone can ever use. (This is actually historical humor, but please don’t ask me to explain it outside the safety of private messages.) There’s only two more jokes – ‘Do something funny!’ gets the demander kicked in the nether regions, and the ancient ‘Money talks, mine says Updated Version Of Goodbye’, and he’s out. And that may extend to next week.
(You have no idea how many ‘we’ll reveal the eliminated comics really soon now’ teasers I’m cutting out here, along with about twenty ‘Call this number to vote for’ bits, all of which require Jay Mohr to be on stage for half the show. I’m surprised he didn’t insist on four comics from each house and fifty-digit phone numbers.)
Set #4: Corey Holcomb, introduced as ‘the sharpest-dressed straight man in America’, which means I have serious doubts in three fronts at once. He’s dressed for Sci-Fi’s original Space Ghetto movie, he’s not much of a man, and as for the whole straight thing? One word: overcompensation. I would look forward to the day he gets out of the closet, except that it would expose the rest of his wardrobe to air, and the fumes would wipe out most of California.
Routine: falls apart immediately, because comedy requires a little bit of belief. The audience has to fool themselves, even for just a fraction of a second, into thinking the events in the joke could actually happen. Corey Holcomb starts off by saying his girlfriend caught him cheating on her and reported him to his wife, and it’s all over. I can believe Rob Cantrell would demonstrate a position for a stranger. I can believe Jay London would film his own hair. I have no trouble whatsoever believing that Tere Joyce is in therapy. But I can’t believe there are three women on the planet who would find Corey Holcomb attractive. There’s only one other attempt at a joke and it’s overcompensation again, but for all intents and purposes, right there -- Game Over.
Set #5: Dat Phan, which means it’s time for the question of the night: does he have new material? In the course of the last year, has Dat managed to get away from the subject of his genetic origins to find humor in Anything Else? Is it possible that his obsessive-compulsive audience observation skills have been turned to the larger world and the power of good? And if not, how on Earth is NBC going to edit sympathy for him this time? ‘The last Vegas casino Dat performed at was really mean to him and made him sleep under the roulette table…’
Routine: Dat? New material? Same old musty book, slightly fresh chapter. He opens with an old man ordering him to pick up a cane as he gets called ‘Poncho’, because apparently he’s now a member of the Mexicanese. According to Dat, people are now making up races to hate. This is a great idea and I support it wholeheartedly, so Dat is now officially a Notfunnian. After that, he checks his watch a lot and gives us the old racist mutter-walk, Dat’s uncle was on television because John Kerry attacked him coming off the swift boat, and people should be asking the Vietnamese whether Kerry was actually in the country or not. ‘There goes the neighborhood.’ Dat’s still from Onenotetopia, but the election seems have given him something to work with. Imagine how funny he’ll be if Kerry wins and he gets to do four years of swift boat jokes.
(Pause. For the first time all year, give serious thought to voting for Bush, for such is the power of Dat. Shiver and push Play.)
Set #6: Gary Gulman. He’s still tall.
Routine: Celery should thank Buffalo Wings every day in the world’s slowest mock phone call, the walrus is God’s last-minute deadline anxiety project which in no way resembles Robin Williams having a platypus being God’s stoned project, and an outright pitiful ‘Spider-Man looks just like the star of Seabiscuit!’ joke. This is the weakest set Gary’s had since he first appeared. Either he didn’t really prepare for tonight or he’s trying to coast on his looks.
Set #7: Geoff Brown, who is much better dressed than Corey Holcomb is, was, or could ever be. Of all the comics, he’s the most aware of the time limit, ordering the sound people to cut his music and the audience to stop laughing because he’s only got ‘two damn minutes, two damn minutes’, one second of which he used up on the repeat. And for all that awareness, he’s still telling his jokes in slow motion, using the weirdest, most off-key word pacing of the night. Could someone please tell Geoff that it’s impossible to make your fifteen minutes of DAW fame pass in subjective time?
Routine: Geoff starts by asking a question I’ve always wanted the answer to: why do some fast-food people act as if the ketchup packets come out of their paycheck? Unfortunately, he doesn’t have an answer, but he will have fifty-eight packets to go. Beyond that, it’s the very old ‘roll backwards slowly at the stoplight to freak out seniors’ routine because he’s annoyed at their driving old police cars, and something completely unrepeatable on a PG-13 board concerning male levels of genital endowment as cars and the problems with underground parking, and please don’t ask me to explain that, even in private message. Geoff is not getting the Bible Belt vote tonight.
Set #8: Kathleen Madigan. She’s actually going to perform tonight for two whole minutes, which, in an ideal world, would increase the amount of time she’d been funny over two seasons by roughly six hundred percent. Every time I see Kathleen perform, it’s like I’m seeing her for the first time – mainly because nothing she did before was good enough to remember. And since Mohr’s fifteen repetitions of her phone number won’t be enough to log that in the temporary files, she’s going to have a hard time getting my vote tonight. She may even have a hard time making it to the next paragraph. Listen to one word, get it in before it slips…
Routine: Let’s do nothing but political humor and alienate half the voting base! (Does Kathleen know she’s playing a game? Did she watch Ralphie’s cheap gas crash-and-burn last year? Does she know where she is?) The whole routine is an extended Bush bash, from his occasional no-funny-gestures speeches to his being the only one in the family with an accent. Oh, yes, and his using ‘in other words’ for things that don’t need other words. Well, Kathleen, when you trot out completely unoriginal political humor for a mass audience and the local one isn’t laughing, it’s not a good sign. Or in other words, seven days from now, you’re outta here.
Set #9: Sean Kent. I’m going to go unbashable here for a little while simply because he now has hair. This isn’t an appearance comment, it’s a ‘the cancer recovery is going nicely’ notation. He looks a thousand times better than he did during Season 1, and I’m honestly happy to see him in that kind of shape. I’m frankly thrilled just to have him in a condition where he can get on stage without an IV attached. So kudos to Sean for getting this far in the health department, but as for the:
Routine: He recently learned that men make love the way they dance, so apparently he does both as if he’s retarded. This is followed by something else that can’t really be summarized in a PG-13 context where he attempts to show what would happen if he tried to dance the way he made love, which involves a lot of vibration, pleas not to look at him, and a declaration that he hates his mother. He’d also like to thank everyone for watching tonight because they could be watching FOX instead, which has a new reality show called Hey, Put This In Your All-Star Survivor For Money. (Somewhere in America, a FOX programming executive comes up with a completely original idea for a new reality series.) He then notes that millions of people just changed the channel. Oh, and he was on medical marijuana during his cancer treatment, found that its side effects included making Who’s The Boss? funny, and watched CNN while high just in time to see Bush declare that the U.S. has to return to the lunar surface. ‘Great, now we’re going to attack the moon. I didn’t even know they had oil.’ And it looks like we’re not going to get any bashing in this section, either, because he’s one lunar round trip away from where he was in Season 1. The improvement is incredible. (Do you think Jessica Kirson would be similarly affected by a near-death experience? Do you think one could be arranged?)
Set #10, and I want Jay Mohr to be struck by lightning in the middle of the theater (or maybe a House could fall on him), because he calls out ‘You don’t have to be Scooby Doo to know who the next comic is!’ Ant. And that lame joke doesn’t work any better coming out of that mouth. Ant is also a citizen of Onenotetopia, and now he’s apparently gotten the host to apply for immigration. The question isn’t whether Ant will have new material or jokes not related to his sexuality, because the first is likely and the second is impossible. It’s whether he can actually make it work for more than five seconds at a time. (If Ant was writing this summary, he probably wouldn’t say ‘Yeah, that’s what my last date told me’. But he should.)
Routine: He now lives in West Hollywood, where men are men and so are some of the women: in AntSpeak, the presence of the apple will indicate the existence of the banana, whatever you want that to mean. He then goes on to conclusively prove the Boy Scouts gay across the board and feels that gays should be allowed into the military, because what would scare America’s enemies more than him? And frankly, he’s got a point there, and I for one not only vote that we allow openly gay soldiers into the military, but that Ant be the first one. Drafted. Immediately. Ten-year hitch. No USO tours. Let’s hear it for equality!
With all the routines done, it’s time for me to play the first major Fast Forward of the season and head straight for the Pit Stop: at speed, Jay Mohr checks his hair in the camera lens, gives out all the voting information again, sells tickets to the theater, and presents a recap of all ten performances, which lets me get through five minutes of air time in thirty seconds. And I didn’t have to listen to the host for any of it. This isn’t the funniest moment of the night, but after you take Sean’s two-minute gem out, it could be the highlight.
And finally, it’s time for the eliminated comics to be revealed. (Imagine how long the wait would feel if you’d had to fast-forward through all of Mohr’s little ‘just a few more stalls’ tactics.) The previous night’s performers come out again, wait for their dramatic lighting, and learn that the first person out is – no, I can’t do the fake pause, everyone’s waited long enough – Cory Kahaney. The host encourages everyone to go see her on the road. Just listen for the sounds of her daughter chewing her out for losing twice and then home in.
The Season Two ouster is proof of, if not the power of mass prayer, the power of low phone pulls: Jessica Kirson is going home now, and SurvivorScott’s experiment in comic recombinant DNA has come to an end. The host gives out her website, which he’s apparently not sure of the URL for, because he adds (just barely audible) ‘Or not. That’s awful,’ which, because of the many ways it can be appropriately misread, is the winner for highlight of the night. So long, Jessica. Say hi to Buck Star for us!
Eight comics left. Two more will be going home next week. Who will be the Last Comic Standing? How many minutes per episode will be taken up with filler, recaps, and Jay Mohr’s obsessive grabs for screen time? Will we ever get over the two-minute mark for routines? And how is poor Grit going to deal with this storyline-free season next week?
1. No idea, but I actually have a rooting interest now.
3. Yes, but two minutes and ten seconds is the limit.
4. The power of mass prayer?
Let me know when we get a chance to vote out the host. Peace, over and out.