LAST EDITED ON 06-08-06 AT 08:01 AM (EST)
So, previously on Last Comic Standing -- well, that's not going to be a problem. Since NBC has apparently decided their ideal audience for this series is people with the attention span of sports radio talk show hosts -- those who don't find the punchline funny because they've already forgotten the setup -- anyone who never got past 'previously' in the first sentence because they have to keep going back to reread 'So' and then ask someone what the comma is for -- your basic presidential material -- they reran the first hour of the premiere before the new episode came on. So if you want to know what previously happened on LCS, just wait another week and they'll tell you again. In fact, they'll rerun this episode too. Actually, if this thing gets to a double-dozen of episodes, it'll be a full day of programming and FOX will sue, although they'll settle out of court for their very own series rip-off. Again. So we wait through sixty minutes of pointless recapping, which would have broken Donald's old record if they'd only gone on for an extra nine days and finally, we're punished by getting to the new material. The fresh stuff. The chance to see people destroy what used to be their careers. And isn't that why we all came?
You came to laugh? Really?
I have absolutely no idea what you're doing here. Roll opening credits.
(Hey, look! In the opening credits, the Mohrpet is listed as a 'Consultant'! I wonder which part of his rear they were trying to elicit wisdom from?)
Our host, whoever he is, tells us that we're at the historic Alex theater in Los Angeles, and if you've never heard of it, that's because it's kind of like the historic Chevy Chase theater in Hollywood, and if you have no idea what that means, you've effectively gotten the joke. According to him, twenty of the best comedians in the country will be performing here tonight: three minutes each, microphone cut off at the time limit, as much as forty seconds may actually be shown, and the five who best fit the network's needs for sex appeal, sob stories, regional demographics, and angry personalities who will kick up fights on the ship and increase the ratings with every punch they throw -- why, those five will become half of our official cast. You may be wondering what all of those qualities have to do with being one of the best comedians in the country, much less being able to win this show. And the answer is 'absolutely nothing'. We are not here to pick the best comedian in the Forty. We are looking for the maximum drama among the Ten. These are two completely different sets of priorities, and they are not on speaking terms. If you want to laugh, go to a comedy club. If you want pointless manufactured drama, watch NBC. Fortunately, we're on a reality site, so pointless manufactured drama is pretty much the order of the day. Let's find out who has no real right to be here!
Of course, this is still pretending to be a competition show, much the same way American Idol pretends to be a popularity contest instead of a hacker's paradise -- 'Hey, I rigged up sixty-four million votes last night!' -- and that means all of our twenty have to go through the motions of performing. Some of them will be funny. Some will be awful. None of this will have anything to do with whether they get picked -- well, mostly. As our host informs us, one of the five will not be picked by the network. The audience will choose their favorite by popular vote in the Still Not Mentioning The Sponsor Thing, and even though the network has rigged the deck so strongly that the entire trick has come down to 'Pick my card. Pick my one and only card', they could still go off the board and choose someone of their own free will if they really wanted to. Sure they could. By the way, do you know what the historic Alex theater is historically known for? Electroshock seats.
And if we're getting into the no-real-choice portion of our program, this must be the time for the host to introduce the 'celebrity talent scouts'. These are not judges, even though they conform to the legal requirements of one white male, one white female, and one black male. (No idea where they got that from.) They have no actual power to choose anyone for the show. Unlike Season #2, they're not even under the delusion that they have that kind of power. They're just here because they like to be on television and this gig pays $8.25 an hour. The network will choose the contestants based on drama potential. The 'celebrity talent scouts' will sit down and shut up. And if anyone invokes Drew Carey -- well, what's the Alex theater historically known for? You remembered? Are you sure you're part of NBC's ideal viewing audience?
So who are the people who are there to pick up some extra beer money and a few all-important seconds of exposure before we forget who they are, too? They happen to be:
Garry Marshall: Responsible for both Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, which means he almost destroyed American comedy once, and now he's back to see if he can do it right the second time, except that he has no actual power to do so and -- are we all together on this? -- is only here for the beer money. And for those of you who think those two series represent the best of what America ever put on television, please consider that neither one would ever make the air today without drawing a million protest letters generated from three sending addresses. A biker who uses his supernatural powers to impress teenagers and two women living together in an apartment? Satanism and homosexuality. You never figured that out? See how easy it is to corrupt you? Go throw your television out the window before it happens again! Remember, a rain of electronics from the sky is officially recognized as a miracle! Go forth and cast your hi-def into the hands of God! And if it wouldn't be too much trouble, aim for that mattress there. Oooh, free flat-screen...
Kathy Griffin: The so-called star of the so-called reality series My Life On The D-List, which airs on the Bravo so-called network, which just happens to be where the winner of LCS will have their so-called comedy special (no, 'special' doesn't even rate a so-called...) aired. What a coincidence! May be the biggest reality fan among celebrities as well as the biggest reason to put quotes around 'celebrities', and so knows that nothing she does here tonight matters. But she's getting the $8.25 an hour plus a plug for her own series, which actually aired against this episode in most media markets, and do you know what that makes her? D-List. If it was Brangelina, the network would have created an eight-day week and aired the premiere on the bonus day, twenty-four hours straight, live coverage, and breaking headline: the baby just spit up! Kathy, however, gets the privilege of drawing ratings away from herself. Way to go, Kathy! By the way, we made you a special gift bag just for the occasion. Look! Free lint!
Tim Meadows: Apparently he was on Saturday Night Live, plus he was in The Ladies' Man and Benchwarmers. Do you know what this means? It means I have no idea who he is three times over. But he's an essential element of this show. He has no power to influence the network's casting choices. He has no ability to make any kind of difference whatsoever. But he is a black male, and by all the laws of reality fake competition shows, there must be one of him sitting behind a long desk while pretending to pay attention. And here he is. We are now in full compliance with FCC standards. Let's get to the contestants!
The show makes the format simple: five contenders per segment, each one gets at least one joke out before the editing cuts them off, confessional-tell optional, pointless questions from the 'celebrity talent scouts' -- hey, that does describe Kathy: she's always scouting A-Listers to see if they have any actual talent -- also optional, next contestant. For us, it means name, quick look at the routine and any of the optionals that got in, next victim. The parade of the traumatized starts off with:
Vargus Mason: Does a few lines on crazy people and why they don't listen to the sensible demonic voices in their heads, theorizing that for every 'Go back to work and kill everyone there,' you've got to have one that's just saying 'Get another job.' It's an interesting theory even if it means nothing to me and my body count, but he runs out of steam when he starts talking about women who let their lipstick go outside the borders of their lips. Kathy is on the panel and since all her cosmetic procedures mean that her lips will soon be going outside the borders of her face, she's visibly less than happy with this routine. Good thing she doesn't have any power to influence the choice, right? But if Vargus ever becomes an A-Lister, he's in deep trouble!
Kira Soltanovich (one of the five not seen during the premiere): As we will learn throughout the evening, there's a not-so-hidden rule in effect for the Jewish comedians: they must mention they're Jewish. Immediately. Or else. Because this is a Christian nation and if there are Jews among us, we must find them and relegate them to the CCC, which stands for Comedy Concentration Camp, or just Bravo for short. (Wait until you see the uniforms. The star has a little smiley face!) Kira tells us that her religious-traitor boyfriend is Irish Catholic, so if she marries him, she's going to have to convert to alcoholism, then goes on to make sexual advances towards dolphins. This isn't going to get her onto the ship, but the Church Of Christ, Gutter Vomiting just got a couple of thousand new members. Way to go, Kira!
Theo Vonkurnatowski: Well, our Road Rules retread certainly knows what they want on the ship: drama! And what's a good way to get some drama going? Sexism! As such, Theo's routine is about not knowing why women don't want to cook when God already installed milk and eggs in their bodies, making them 'a walking omelette with a hairdo and a shoe obsession.' And six months from now, Theo's next routine will be about not knowing why he hasn't had any sex in half a year. (Chance of connecting A to B: two percent.) Theo is not a shoo-in for the ship, but he definitely knows how to play to his ideal audience, which translates to 'the network executives'. His skill at dodging high heels thrown with deadly accuracy, however, needs some work.
Jackie Kashian (another of the five not seen during the premiere. Yes, she's doomed): Gets a c-t in about how the ship centers around exposure and if she makes it on board, she'll get to expose herself in front of millions of people a week. The PTC needs a few minutes to get that totally wrong, so let's cut out to her routine, which centers around her father, a Bible-misquoting salesman. 'Give a man a fish, and that man knows where to go for fish. Teach a man to fish, and you've just destroyed your market base.' A post-routine segment has Tim Meadows telling Jackie 'I liked it when you did your father', and g'night everybody! But Jackie has no chance of making it onto the ship. She's just a middle-aged Wisconsin woman of average appearance with no sob story to tell and nothing to expose to the nation once a week that the 19-45 Male demographic wants to see, so thank you for coming, next contestant. And if you want to try again next year, make your father into a bikini salesman and show some skin.
Chris Porter: C-ts about how he wants anyone standing in the path of his getting on the ship to get out of his way -- then steps onto the stage and into his own walkway, where he promptly collides with himself and, if this show was actually based on performance, would have knocked himself out of the competition. He starts off with a little shameless Republican-pandering as a warmup for the faux public vote -- he hates the French, he wants to take over the country and call it New Texas, he wants to replace the Eiffel Tower with the Statue Of Liberty and a big sign reading 'The bitch is back' -- but he's not used to working three-minute sets, and just before he can get to whatever his payoff punchline was meant to be -- his microphone cuts off. End of tryout. End of evening. Possibly end of career, but remember, the opinions of the professionals mean nothing, nothing. Tonight's five were chosen before they ever took the stage, and yes, this includes the audience vote, and your card is the three of clubs. Chris has as good a chance as he ever had: either one hundred percent or zero. Of course, he's pretending not to know that. Silly Chris! It's too early to show off your acting skills! Wait until the inevitable 'Create your own series' challenge!
(This ends the first segment, and while that means nothing for summary purposes, it does mean we get a quick look inside the waiting room, where all of the comedians are gathered. The place feels like the reception room for a funeral home, and the one where they bring the guest of honor in through the back. There is no laughter. There are no smiles. There is nothing but tight expressions, faces buried in hands, and diamonds being created from the coal that an enterprising stagehand is slipping between their buttocks. This atmosphere is repeated at the end of every performance segment, and the pressure never lessens. Isn't comedy fun!)
Roz: Do we even have to go into her performance? She's playing both the sob story card (former drug addict) and the demographics deck (black, female, heavier than average, would have been destined for her very own UPN sitcom if only UPN still existed, which means we now have to wait for the next young network to come along and build a viewership base by going after the African-American ratings point until it gets on its feet and forgets about them entirely), so we know she's getting on the ship. Her performance doesn't matter. So while she does a routine about helping prostitutes translate their job skills into resume' material -- 'works well with groups' -- and it's not that bad, it's kind of pointless. Plus anyone who works in the sex industry knows that all you have to do is put down 'I used to work in the sex industry' and some sleazy executive will hire you. One inevitable harassment lawsuit later, you retire. Duh. Bet this woman's never spoken to a real professional in her life... But she does get plenty of screen time after a first-episode c-t, and what does that mean? Did you say 'destined for the ship?' Can you take over this summary so I can go get some sleep?
David Huntsberger: Bombs away. He opens his routine by talking about how Catholicism would get a lot more converts if the Pope was hot -- muscle-magazine hot -- pose-wearing-nothing-but-the-hat hot -- and the camera doesn't even bother letting him get off the subject. David has spoken against the Pope, Jyhad has been declared, and the Opus Dei are closing in on his position. Or at least, they'll close in on his position as soon as they finish their incursion into Scotland. Finding Hogwarts and burning it to the ground to prevent the spread of witchcraft is much more important. It's only been nearly a decade: they should run across it any minute now...
Saleem (the third of the five unrevealed during the premiere. What are they so afraid of?): Talks about the difficult of being a black male married to a white female and
waiting to see the Constitutional amendment that will null his marriage letting people know his wife is Caucasian during casual conversation. Really, there's no good way to do it. Identifying yourself as anything not of the majority in a public setting during the current national paranoia is always asking for trouble. That's why I've never told anyone I'm a (CENSORED! CENSORED! AUTOMATIC CENSOR DELETING ENTRY! WEBSITE CANNOT RISK NOTICE BY POWERS THAT BE! HOMELAND SECURITY WILL NOT BE DISPATCHED -- YET. (WE'RE NOT ROUNDING UP THE LIBRULS FOR ANOTHER WEEK.) CENSORED! CENSORED!) Sadly, he's got a nice, light, breezy style that works well on stage and would probably keep people laughing for the entire season. But he didn't appear during the premiere, so he's doomed. Nice of the producers to give him a little exposure, though. Now the nation's bigots have a new pinup for their wall!
Doug Mellard: Notes that fantasy sports leagues are basically Dungeons & Dragons for people who used to beat up anyone who played Dungeons & Dragons. This is wrong. I know two people who happily do both, and the activities are nothing alike. You know the crucial difference? Healing spells. Can you imagine your average NFL season if the hamstrung running back could stagger over to the sidelines, lie down next to the official team cleric, receive the magic words 'Cure Contract-Threatening Wounds!', and immediately run back onto the field, completely healed and ready for the next play? Now that's fantasy football! And those half-ogre linebackers? Magnificent -- wait. What do you mean, they were like that before we switched genres?
Josh Blue: C-t reminds the home audience about his cerebral palsy (which is actually much more controlled in the confessional room) and feels that he's never seen a comedian with a disability go out in front of an audience and present their point of view. This means Josh has missed seeing a large number of comedians perform, but there's one he should really know about. Josh, this is Dat Phan. Dat has a mental handicap. He can't think of any new material, ever. Don't you feel bad for Dat? America did, and he won. Don't you want to be like Dat? Well, you're going to be, because you've got the sob story of the season and you're going onto the ship. But we need the formality of your routine first, so let's listen to you talk about how you're not scared of going in front of a large audience because that many people stare at you every day, you spent seven days in a drunk tank because the police kept waiting for you to sober up, and the audience is going to Hell for laughing at you. Said audience gives Josh a standing ovation, courtesy of the electroshock seats. By the way, did your three of clubs have a creased corner?
(End of second segment. How many of tonight's five have you spotted? How many have been rammed down your throat? Well, better swallow fast: there's more to choke down ahead!)
Matt Fulchiron: Starts by claiming to have been out on a date with a girl. The credibility of the routine falls apart right there.
Josh Wolf (the fourth comedian not seen during the premiere. Looks like next week is We're Already Sick Of Your Faces Tuesday): C-ts about having three kids and needing money to pay for braces, college, and way too much car insurance, which in New Jersey will cost you $8500 per quarter unless you call a cut-rate insurance company, which will then be evicted because they're not legally allowed to operate in the state and yes, we're all bitter. But not as bitter as Josh, because not appearing during the launch means he's going to fizzle out well before he reaches low-ship orbit. He gets just enough power under him to complain about his daughter wanting a cell phone and the shock value of non-circumcised male genitalia, then falls to earth and breaks every bone in his body, including the small ones in the ears, which are really hard to do. It's actually sort of ironic. He was aiming for the ocean so he could drown.
Nikki Glaser: C-t guarantees that she'll make the ship because she's twenty-one, blonde, somewhat conventionally attractive, and demographics, demographics, demographics! And in fact, she should be fine as long as there's no one else in the room bordering on 'Well, she's sort of facially interesting enough to look at her on a sitcom for ten years.' Honestly, what are the odds? Why, if she hadn't invoked the fourth rule of reality shows, which is 'Say you're staying, then pack your bags', she'd be fine. As-is, she comes out on stage and talks about how her frat boy ex-boyfriend was very considerate because he waited until the third date to rape her. But that's okay, because she got a voodoo doll, stuck it in the torso with a pin, and the next day, her boyfriend was stabbed. Of course, she did it, but it still worked! Now I personally love good dark humor and whistling past the graveyard is pretty much what graveyards are for, but the opinion of the judges -- oh, wait. There are no judges. Whew. Good thing she's young and blonde, huh?
Chip Chinery: Gets off an observation on the nature of reality television itself without quite meaning to -- 'Excited to see me live?' (pause) '"Chip, we're not sure who the hell you are.'" -- then notes the irony of asking a Satan worshiper who's on trial for murder to swear to God that he didn't kill anyone, followed by leaving the stage. And that's it for Chip, although you have to give the man credit for inspiring yet another Constitutional amendment. Let's see, how should this go? 'Only Christians may go on trial because only their Bible-swearing counts... all others automatically found guilty... after death sentence is carried out, possessions of the damned to be distributed evenly between local politicians and church heads...' That'll pass the Senate!
Angela Macie: Completely blows her first punchline -- and when you wreck a joke in confessional, you'd normally be in trouble. She wants to get on LCS to prove herself to everyone who made fun of her in high school, because 'Look at you, sitting there, watching TV, and look at me -- now.' Wrong. To keep the rhythm and say something at least mildly amusing, you finish that with 'And look at me -- on it!' So by all rights, Angela should be doomed. But Angela is moderately tall, somewhat conventionally attractive, pretty thin after losing forty-five pounds and not-quite-joking about it on stage, and a wild, crazy, wacky redhead. Or at least, that's what the network thinks the prior three categories added up to. So Angela's not trying to be funny. Angela is trying to get Nikki's spot. And while Angela has weaker material, she's wearing better makeup, she uses her routine as an excuse to show off her flat stomach, and she hasn't blinked in three days! Her only problem (other than not being funny) is revealing the existence of the Genitalia Communications Network, which means that regardless of gender or orientation, anyone who's friends with your SO knows your vital statistics better than your diary (because you lied to your diary, didn't you? You so totally did! And your voice password is 'Coolness!'), but this doesn't bother network executives because power corrupts, and the first thing to go is your own true sense of self as expressed in inches. Angela could have gone out and taken a nap: her spot in the five would still be a mortal lock. (Instead, she left the nap for the audience. So considerate...) Kathy asks Angela where she gets her inspiration, Angela uses the question as an excuse to say 'oobie' <click>, Garry wakes up for the first time all night, and Nikki's officially out.
(End of third segment. Current pressure inside waiting room: six atmospheres. Please wait two seconds before leaving to insure you get the bends prior to reaching your bus.)
John Roy: Wants to be George Carlin, and probably will be in forty years. He starts off by asking racists to pick a belief and stick with it -- are Mexicans lazy or stealing jobs? It can't be both! -- then says he's scared of white people, because when you see the white guy in prison, you know he's actually guilty. This is followed by listening the major crimes of the Caucasian race. Slavery. Slaughter of the native American population. Eight seasons of Full House. John is out to make you think and laugh at the same time, but John has run into two major problems. 1. Network executives are white. Really white. Damn white. And 2. Network executives don't like to think. It makes the empty space inside their skulls temporarily fill with regret. So John is not going to get onto the ship. John, however, is going to get my attendance at his next local performance. This means absolutely nothing to John and probably shouldn't, but in forty years, that ticket stub is going to be worth big bucks.
Willie Parsons: C-t feels that being on LCS would make it easier to get work and then he could buy a house instead of having to figure out how to steal one, which means that Willie is now the most recent in a very long line of reality contestants to be more intelligent than Richard Hatch. He starts his routine by saying how nice it is to be 'standing on a stage with a bright light in front of my face without having a voice say "Number Three, turn to the right, please."' This is followed by the logistics of weapon concealment during strip searches, and a quick Q&A with the 'celebrity talent scouts' during which Kathy tells Willie that he kills (but only when there's no witnesses) and Willie informs Garry that he stands ready to sell out his entire stage persona at the sight of the first paycheck. Willie's actually pretty funny, but Willie's ideal audience is on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and this is Los Angeles, where any evidence of once having been in Willie's prospective voting pool is paying off at $100,000 a month if you still have the negatives. Goodbye, Willie.
Tig Notaro: A weak, unfunny routine about hanging out a Do Not Disturb sign in Mexico, with all the horrible implications therein. And if you can't find the comedy in that, well, neither did anyone else. Could have had a funnier routine just by going for the cliche', and missed the chance. After all, if Ant can make a career out of jokes no one realizes he's stolen... (The old one: 'Do Not Disturb. I'm disturbed enough.' C'mon, how hard would that have been? If you can't identify an originator, that means no one can sue!)
Modi Rosenfeld: C-t notes that LCS could put him more on the map than he is now, which is to say 'on the map', which is not a map of the Deep South because Modi's not legally allowed to enter most of it. And after his routine, he could be barred from entering comedy clubs as well, because his main joke is to say that fitness nutrition bars taste like compressed sand that emerged from a camel's rear, and this doesn't bring up a laugh so much as it asks a question. How does he know?
Joey Gay: Would c-t like us to know that he lives over a funeral home, which means he not only has a built-in audience to practice his routine on, but there's nothing his audience can do to him in the way of dead silence that hasn't already been done by real experts. Oh, and he's hungry. He's really hungry. And not in that 'I live over a funeral home and I haven't gotten paid in a month' way. With that out of the way, Joey goes out and repeats a joke from his audition -- but the rest of the routine is new, fresh, and about as edgy as you can hope for on network television in these post-Jackson days. Joey wants to know why we don't have any Palestinian baseball pitchers because three thousand years of throwing rocks has to give you one amazing screwball. His best friend is heterosexual and a professional figure skating instructor, and yes, he knows 'I might as well be saying "I have a unicorn at home."' He's missing an earlobe -- bitten off, and that's probably a story for another day -- went to a plastic surgeon for a consultation, and was told the solution was to put a piece of his rear on his face. For some reason, he's against this. And yes, this is as edgy as network television is not allowed to get without the presence of six million protest letters generated from four sending addresses. The man said 'rear'. And 'earlobe'! But give the man credit for bravery -- he wore a Brooklyn-labeled hoodie in front of an LA audience. Now that's guts. (And twelve blocks away, that would be his guts, strung along the nearest fence.)
(End of fourth segment. That's it. End of the fourth segment. Nothing more. Isn't that special all by itself?)
It's time to announce the five shipbound contestants. Did you figure them out while they were performing? Is your drama meter going off? Do you care more about conflict than comedy? Can you not-think like a network executive?
Let's find out.
The host thanks all the comedians for appearing, congratulates them for getting this far, ship or no ship, tells people to expect them at nearby clubs, in the parking lot, begging for change, then slips into a coma and lets the camera reveal tonight's five. They are:
Chris Porter. (Silly Chris! You don't have to finish your jokes when the network executives had already picked you going in!)
Angela Macie. (Silly Angela! You don't have to be able to tell a joke if you're the semi-appealing female that the networks feels they need to draw in the males! Sorry, Nikki -- next time, dump the dress and wear a blouse so you can lift it!)
Joey Gay. (Because we're looking for the next Don Vos, and it doesn't hurt that he can actually tell a joke once in a while.)
Roz. (Demographics #2! Sob story #1! Tess 3, Everybody Else 0!)
And the audience vote-through -- Josh Blue. (Sob Story #2, and everyone else on the show can just lie down and die now, because it's guilt time. How can you not vote for Josh? You're a horrible person if you don't vote for Josh! Only a completely empty shell wouldn't vote for Josh! Good thing America's full of horrible people who just happen to be empty shells who will go to Hell for not laughing at him! (There's about thirty thousand on this site alone.) And yes, this is your card!)
Willie feels let down after having a great night on stage and not being chosen, but Willie didn't know talent doesn't matter. (He knows now. Poor, poor Willie.) Josh retires on the spot. Sixteen more commercials for Windfall air while people are trying to breathe, and by the way, NBC? I will never watch it. Never. The five finalists, standing on the stage in front of the audience, engage in a group hug. Three of them, realizing just what they've gotten themselves into, attempt to strangle Josh and Roz while there's still time. And the closing credits roll.
Next week, five more comedians will be chosen based on the way they look, the segment of the population they appeal to, and how much they plan on whining about their seasickness before reducing their stress by throwing up on another contestant. After taking careful aim.
Actual talent, as always, remains optional.
One more week -- and then the real svckfest can begin.
And remember: the proper gift for Network Executive Day is always a 0.0 rating. I've been Estee, and this has been a complete waste of my time. G'night!
(Willie and a few of the other rejectees have now joined the downloadables for the two Finals Night slots at http://www.nbc.com/Last_Comic_Standing/voting/ . Go say hi and ask Willie about his prison stories. You wouldn't believe some of the things you can make into a shiv! And apparently the rest of the summary pool has decided to wait until the Ten get to the ship before they take over. They want actual material to work with. Hmph. Elitists.)