This Page Was Most Recently Updated: September 26th, 2010
Copyright © 2010 Hy Bender
Hy on Last Comic Standing 2010
James Adomian, Laurie Kilmartin, and Myq Kaplan
Written July 13, 2010: I'm happy to report this summer's Last Comic Standing isn't so awful that it makes you embarrassed to be in the comedy biz. (Last season's run was all that, and more...)
First, they did away with the hokey "House" and "Challenge" aspects. The competition now simply consists of stand-ups doing their sets—which is what it's all about.
And some of the contestants actually deserve a national audience.
So far, Laurie Kilmartin takes the prize for best writing and delivery. On the July 12th episode she was a thorough pro: smart, in control, and funny. If she can keep it up, she's got a great shot at winning.
Kilmartin's main rival is James Adomian, who's a formidable talent—he explodes with comedic energy, and is a superb impressionist to boot. Adomian's main weakness is a lack of judgment...he seems to love his genius material and lousy stuff with equal fervor, unable to tell one from the other. If he's wise enough to seek solid objective advice from others before the competition ends, though, he could walk away with the crown.
Myq Kaplan is one of the smartest comics to ever appear on the series. Kaplan's quiet style is having mixed results so far on the TV screen; but here's hoping viewers vote for him to stick around a while, and that he starts raising his game—and energy—as the show continues.
Also worth keeping an eye on is Rachel Feinstein, who I've seen do on-the-floor hilarious sets on NYC stages. Feinstein is a genuine talent; but like Adomian, she has judgment issues. She also doesn't seem to be as prolific a writer as many other top comics. We'll see...
And then there's dark horse contestant Jonathan Thymius. Appearing to have stumbled into the show while escaping from a mental ward, Thymius offers a refreshingly uncomfortable approach. The main concern is he's a one-joke comic, and his schtick will start to wear thin week after week. Here's hoping Thymius can dig deeper and deliver beyond the quirkiness of his comedic persona (because this is stand-up, not vaudeville...).
As for the other five contestants...well, I'm sure they're lovely human beings.
Given the track record of Last Comic Standing, five actual contenders out of 10 is pretty good.
That said, to my mind the real star this season is one of the judges—who's not only among the funniest comics in the biz, but has turned out to be a rare jewel on this series: sweet, fair-minded, and always razor-sharp. For more on Natasha, please click here.
Myq Kaplan and Rachel Feinstein
Written July 20, 2010: That was an uncommonly fine show last night.
Yes, two of my five picks got knocked out almost instantly; and I was sad to see it.
But almost all of the remaining contestants—including comics I was discounting—did a terrific job of raising their game and delivering.
Mike DeStefano: I went to buy some soap recently—'cause I'm Hollywood now—and I went to pay for it. The lady said "$75." I said, "No, I just want the soap." She said, "It's expensive soap." I said, "$75! Does it clean shame?" (Best line of the evening...)
Roy Wood Jr.: Some black people get upset about Latinos. They say, "Only reason Mexicans are getting rights is because of the Civil Rights movement." Awright; even if that's true, wasn't that kind of the purpose of the Civil Rights movement? I've heard the I Have a Dream speech; there was no Puerto Rican disclaimer at the bottom.
Tommy Johnagin: He wanted to make an appointment. He goes, "How's 7 in the morning?" I said, "I don't know; I've heard it sucks. I'll see you at noon."
Rachel Feinstein: I'm scared somethin' awful. Even my breasts are concerned.
Jonathan Thymius: I finally mustered up the courage to go to a massage parlor. But I got a more plausible, realistic ending. (Second best line of the evening...)
The clear winner, though, was Myq Kaplan. He was the only comic to comment on what was happening in the moment instead of sticking to his script. And he'd also written the best script! For example: I don't even like the phrase gay friendly. It makes me straight angry. No other oppressed group has that kind of lingo to deal with. No one's ever, "I'm black friendly." Because that sounds racist, a little. And nobody's ever, "I am Jew friendly." Because nobody is. Ever.
Even the judges went the extra mile; Andy Kindler and Greg Giraldo were exceptionally sharp.
And of course Natasha was superb—but she's been consistently great throughout.
This season of LCS has come alive. Stay tuned...
Mike DeStefano and Myq Kaplan
Written July 27, 2010: We've run into snags.
Rachel Feinstein—who delivered the second-best set last week—got dumped.
Was it because the show's audience is mostly male, and Rachel's set was about how dumb and insensitive men can be? Whatever the reason, very frustrating.
The show will be significantly weaker without Ms. Feinstein—not to mention, without any other female contestants. (Thank goodness we still have Natasha's non-male—and refreshingly honest—perspective...)
On top of that, some of the comics are starting to run out of material. The most obvious example is Jonathan Thymius, who delivered the equivalent of an open-mic set. You could almost hear him thinking, Let's see if this one gets a laugh. Is the next one funny? I dunno, let me try it... It was a decidedly unwise strategy for national television, with roughly a third of his act bombing. I really enjoy having a semi-surreal comic on the show; but Thymius should only play at being a loser, not actually behave like one.
Roy Woods Jr., who last week talked about Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech, this week devoted the first third of his set to how he didn't want to help a guy unhappy with his Chicken McNuggets. He then spent the remainder of the set on how he didn't want to help people who need money to raise their children. Roy, could be you're going in the wrong direction...
Felipe Esparza is a teddy bear with heart and some talent for physical comedy. He's just not a strong writer; and his set this week was even worse than the instantly forgettable one from last week.
In contrast, by far the best writer this season is Myq Kaplan, whose sets are consistently razor-sharp. This week he began by pretending to be the Roy Wood Jr. guy unhappy with his McNuggets—smart. He then tossed out such diverse ideas as combining reality shows: Kids Say the Darndest Things...When Animals Attack. And instead of having a photo of a caller pop up on his cell phone, he has "a picture of my face reacting to how that person makes me feel. Fewer pictures that way." As Natasha observed afterwards, "If this show was called Last Comedy Writer Standing, you would definitely win." But it remains to be seen if Kaplan's quiet delivery and semi-static body language (almost the only part of him that moves while he talks is his left arm) can nab the crown.
To my eye, his only worthy opponent at this point is Mike DeStefano, whose delivery and comedic persona are both strong. The quality of DeStefano's material can be inconsistent, but this week he delivered such wonderful bits as "Heroin makes you feel like you're naked in a pool full of puppies" and "Do you look fat? I have memories that weigh more than you do" and "I went into a Chinese restaurant and it had a suggestion box, so I wrote Free Tibet." My only quibble: DeStefano had already performed some of this stuff on his Comedy Central Presents special in April. Which makes me wonder if he's running out of material too...
Aside from Myq and Mike—and Natasha—I have mixed feelings about watching the show next week. But am crossing fingers for someone unexpected to hit it out of the park.
Roy Wood Jr., Mike DeStefano, and Myq Kaplan
Written August 5, 2010: Some comics demonstrated growth this Monday.
Roy Wood Jr. followed the advice I gave last week and delivered more depth. The result was the very best set he's done on LCS.
And Myq Kaplan finally moved more than his arm—he demonstrated a number of joke-appropriate hand motions. (His legs were still chained to the floor; but it's progress...) Meanwhile, Myq's material continued to be razor-sharp: "Prejudice used to be about keeping people separate. LIke interracial marriage: 'Don't let black people marry us. Make them marry only each other.' Today, with gay people, it's 'Don't let them marry each other. Make them marry...us?' Bigotry is confusing..."
As for Myq's primary competition, Mike DeStefano, he also still had the stuff: "You ever find money on the sidewalk? It's the most incredible experience. I found a 20 dollar bill, and felt so special. Then I see a homeless guy sleeping three feet away. I'm thinking he should've found it. So I woke him up (holds out an invisible $20) and said, 'Hey, you should've found this. Pay attention.' (Puts the invisible $20 back in his pocket...)" Not quite as strong as last week's Free Tibet; but coupled with Mike's caged tiger-like delivery, pretty formidable.
The worst aspect of this episode was the judges fawning over every single contestant—presumably because these final five will be going on an LCS nationwide tour post-show sponsored by the producers. I assume the judges were "just following orders;" but it was a mistake that damages the show's credibility—and viewer interest in ever tuning back in.
One week left to this mixed-bag season. If Myq or Mike wins, it will have been worthwhile.
And either way, we can look forward to Natasha Leggero coming to NYC and headlining at Comix on September 24th & 25th. (Buy your tickets now using discount code VIPAUG...).
My reaction to the season finale
Written August 10, 2010: Ack.
Honestly, when Myq Kaplan got knocked out in fifth place, and Mike DeStefano in fourth, I pretty much stopped caring who won. Most eloquent was MIke's response on hearing the news: "To my fans, thank you very much. And to those who didn't vote for me, fuck you."
You might ask, "Hy, how can you blame the voting audience?" Well—putting aside eight years of George W. Bush—the point is that the producers and the judges had the power to make decisions throughout the season to favor breathtaking talent over mildly amusing teddy bears.
On the up side, the musical acts were good. It was also nice to see the sets from comedy veterans.
And while I was disappointed with choices throughout this season—particularly at how unaggressive LCS was at bringing in top talent, and at even hanging onto the talent it nabbed—it was nonetheless a vast improvement over the disastrous previous season.
Plus the show is likely to help the careers of everyone involved.
Natasha, raise your rates, and start speed-reading movie scripts; and we'll look forward to seeing you in NYC in late September.
Star of This Summer's Last Comic Standing: Natasha Leggero
Natasha on Biology
Natasha on Female Comics
Tearing It Up on Chelsea Lately
On Hip Hop
On American Idol and Death
On Acting Auditions
"It's Just Business"
Click Enter, then click Tonight Show 1
Click Enter, then click Tonight Show 2
Natasha's Acting Reel
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Late Night TV is Back!
(To learn why, please click here.)
Highlights of the return of both David Letterman and his WGA writers
to our homes on January 2nd, 2008 included:
Hillary Clinton, who's been the target of numerous Late Show jokes, kicking off the show by declaring, "Dave has been off the air for eight long weeks because of the writer's strike. Tonight he's back. Oh well; all good things come to an end..."
Dave explaining the strike to his national audience with, "Simply put, the writers are sick and tired of having to buy their own pencils."
Dave doing an equally problematic job of explaining his beard.
Dave repeatedly thanking the WGA. (Example: "Without writers, and without caffeine, I'd have virtually no personality whatsoever.")
Dave taking phony audience questions. (Example: "Why are there still picketers outside?" "Oh, that has nothing to do with the strike. Those are just people who hate the show.")
The first Top 10 list of 2008 being "Demands of the Striking Writers"—from actual striking writers! (My favorite: "Complimentary tote bag with next insulting contract offer.")
Bill Scheft, who's both a Late Show staff writer and its WGA rep, interrupting a Dave comedy bit to sweetly say, "Unfortunately, we aren't going to be able to show you the conclusion of this joke. Why? It's to remind you that even though the Late Show writers are back at work, the WGA strike still goes on. Thousands of writers still walk the picket line every day until their legs cramp and their backs ache, only to return to a home they can now barely afford because of the producers' greed. So, to the arrogant media moguls who've gotten so fat off our sweat-soaked toil that they can no longer fit behind their oversized mahogany desks, I say to you, stop spending all your money on cufflinks, cocktails, and whores. Stick a crowbar in your wallet and start bargaining in good faith with the writers. Maybe then American won't be denied the joy of seeing David Letterman hold up a pair of flaming underpants."
To which Dave simply responded, "Right, Bill. Nice job."
Indeed it was.
Also returning Wednesday night was Conan O'Brien—but sans his writers
(which isn't Conan's fault; again, for details please click here.) Highlights included:
Conan saying about the WGA, "I support their cause. These are very talented, very creative people who work extremely hard. I believe what they're asking for is fair. I do."
Conan delivering a fine monologue (because he's always been one of the sharpest comedy writers in the business...as well as a superb performer).
Conan killing time by sipping water.
Conan killing time by spinning his wedding ring on his desk.
Bob Saget as a guest dropping dud lines, repeatedly, without writer help.
Conan spinning his wedding ring some more.
All things considered, it was a pretty good show—a testament to Conan's magical talent.
But there were way more laugh lags and dull spots than in a typical Conan episode
crafted by his genius writing staff.
Here's hoping comments from luminaries such as Dave and Conan to their national audiences
help corporations realize they're doing no one any good by acting in bad faith with writers, who are the lifeblood of the entire industry...and that it's time to treat WGA members with the respect that writers so immensely deserve.
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Comedy in the Moment: Del Close Improv Marathon
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