Tag Archives: Andy Kindler

WTF Turns 100

Congratulations to Marc Maron – tomorrow will mark the one hundredth episode of his brilliant WTF podcast. Since September 2009, like clockwork, these hours of self-analysis, penetrating interviews and social observation keep popping out twice a week like gold.

The WTF Podcast page

The very first episode featured the Roastmaster General himself, Jeff Ross, and the array of guests he’s welcomed is staggering. Patton Oswalt, David Feldman, Maria Bamford, Jim Norton, Robin Williams, Dave Attell, Sarah Silverman, Doug Stanhope, Andy Kindler…he’s quietly assembled a library of audio documents that any serious comedy lover should savor.

And Maron, beyond being incredibly funny in his own right, has proven to be an incisive interviewer who is unafraid to broach sensitive topics (and yes, sometimes with a personal edge). Some of my favorites included a frank discussion of race with Chicago comic Dwayne Kennedy and some gutsy exchanges with two popular but controversial comedians accused of joke thievery (Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia).

Although many are recorded in his garage studio, Maron has taken WTF on the road and has even filmed a pilot for that will hopefully be picked up as a series. Not only will it bring in some welcome funding, but the show and its brilliant guests will get much-needed exposure to the vast majority of people who don’t even know the show exists, let alone where to find it. Surely there has to be room in the vast cable landscape for intelligent discourse?

For now, I’m just thankful that Maron, Bill Burr, Kevin Pollack and so many others have adopted the format and put this out there for free. With literally hundreds of hours of these shows available, there will never be another boring car ride. Ever.

Congratulations, Mark! Please try to enjoy the moment.

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Last Comic Standing: Last Thoughts

Felipe Esparza, Last Comic Standing (but not here)

They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. 

Oh, well. Not like my tastes and the consensus of the multiple-voting American public line up much. Top Ten singles? Top movies? Best selling books? Nope, not in a long while. Shouldn’t be a disappointment when it happens again, but this time they had the right guy in the final two. And then…pffffttt

So before we tuck this one in for the season, a few final thoughts: 

Nobody unlikable in the final five and congrats to Felipe Esparza, who seems like a nice guy and hopefully will improve over time. 

With a vote-for-one-of-the-final-five format, did Myq Kaplan and Tommy Johnagin split votes they would have likely easily gotten in a head-to-head “final two” contest? 

How the hell did Myq Kaplan finish fifth after the prior week’s sets? 

Apologies to Natasha Leggero, who I was pretty rough on all season for not doing much besides laughing and looking smoking hot. She came out last night and did a great set, better than the other two judges who I normally like a lot better. 

Initially I cringed when Greg Giraldo broke out the vintage “underwear outside the pants” routine; I wondered (1) did I black out for a minute and go back in time?  and (2)Now whose resume “ain’t all up to date”? But another viewer pointed out that he probably never did that routine on primetime TV before, and he even tossed in a self-deprecating comment (which I missed) beforehand. 

Andy Kindler was hilarious, but I understand that some people think he’s too quirky to be funny. I do not envy those people

Seeing Kurt Metzger’s great Micheal Jackson joke again was worth sitting through the two hours for. Okay, not really – that was a long two hours with lots of unnecessary padding and lame guest appearances. But Metzger should have been in the top ten at the very least, and that might have been one of the funniest jokes all season. At least he got a rubber chicken, which is more than comics two through five went home with. 

Liked the final comments from the comics who lost – Roy Wood Jr. paid props to the road comics, Kaplan was classy, and Mike DeStefano’s parting words were classic, as expected. 

Did that $50K development deal (and the show’s past reputation for subterfuge) mean that the judges (read: behind the scenes network producers) wanted someone they could build a sitcom around? I think they wanted a person who people like, talent aside, safe as milk. A sitcom candidate who will play well between the coasts. If that’s true, they hit their target. 

Do I believe the results were controlled? Of course, but then again I don’t think any of these “contest” shows are left to chance. 

But despite a summer of head shrugs and suspicion, if they’re back next year I’m sure I will be, too. When all was said and done, I got to see a few people I like that I had never seen before, and many good comics got national airtime. Win/Win. 

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Who Will Be The Last Comic Standing?

And then there were five.

(Advance Spoiler Warning:  I will update this column tonight after the winner is announced and list the results in a tag at the bottom of the article).

For someone who despises reality television, I have really enjoyed Mondays this summer thanks to Last Comic Standing. I guess in my defense I’m really a fan of stand-up, period, and that’s what this season has centered upon. I was thrilled that they decided to excise the “house” and the fabricated/edited drama that goes on behind the scenes. That’s the part of these shows that is so false; so scripted and staged and edited that it’s anything but real.

There were exceptions, of course – anytime a camera is on Todd Glass pretty much anything can happen, and he did liven up his season of the show by a mile. But how many times can you see a comic sitting with a pad and pencil trying to come up with material, especially since the cameras and lights following him around is about as conducive to creative thought as a rabbit punch?

Last week the five finalists ran the gauntlet for supposedly the last time. If that’s indeed true, I’m not certain how they are going to build the drama over two hours tonight, although I am excited that the judges (Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero, Greg Giraldo) will perform. Kindler and Giraldo are among my favorites, and I’m excited to see Leggero rock the microphone since I’m only familiar with her from sketch comedy. I’ve been a bit harsh about her contributions – in fairness, the judging in general has been pretty lame – so I’m happy to laud her comedic skills if she decides to flex them. Also guest-performing are Tom Papa (a great stand-up unfortunately slumming on the abysmal Marriage Ref) and Kathy Griffin (no doubt whittling her routine to get past the censors). 

Last season’s winner, Iliza Shlesinger, is also slated to perform, and I’ll try to have an open mind for her as well. I thought her Comedy Central special was weak, and she plows the same shallow ground that Rachel Feinstein did this season. Hopefully she will rise to the occasion and bring some strong material to a nationwide audience.

Last week Ron White was a guest performer, and although I had heard just about all of the material before, his timing is so impeccable that I enjoy the jokes even when I know the punchline. Again, I’m not certain why they include guest segments, but more stand-up comedy on television can only be a good thing.

Jonathan Thymius was finally voted off the show, a feat I was starting to think was impossible. I think his loopy, disoriented style started to wear thin and possibly his material did as well. But the fact that a guy who resembles the bastard son of George Goebel (in appearance and cadence) made it to the top six shows me that anything can happen.

I’ve been hard on Felipe Esparza but I thought last week was his best set; he took a bit about coming out of the closet at a family dinner and milked it about as well as you can. I still have him in the lower region though, just ahead of Roy Wood, Jr. who probably had his weakest performance. Second place in my mind is a virtual tie betweek Mike and Myq. Mike DeStefano doesn’t hit on every joke but when he connects it’s a home run; Myq Kaplan’s clever wordplay and well constructed set is consistently funny and sharp.

But the man to beat, in my opinion, is Tommy Johnagin. He’s poised, he’s hilarious, and he’s as strong a writer as he is a performer. I like that he can do a quick 1-2 set up and punch line as adeptly as he can weave a few great lines into a longer bit. His sets have gotten stronger from week to week, and even when he launched a line that divided the audience he was able to dig his way out of it. A couple of the comics got lengthy ovations when they took the stage and his might have been the most spirited.

As in past years, I think a couple of the best comics never made the cut; I’m convinced that Kirk Fox and especially Kurt Metzger would have been great in the final five. But if Kaplan, DeStefano or Johnagin wind up winning – and that’s a 60% possibility – they would instantly become the best comedian the show has ever honored. And with two hundred thousand dollars in cash and a fifty-thousand dollar development deal, also the richest.

I’ll update this essay tonight after the announcements.

It’s over. If you want to know the results, click here.

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Last Comic Standing: Really?

 

I may have seriously misjudged you, America. 

Lo and behold, when the whittling came down to the final two last night – one of whom would be going home – I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. Were they the two comics I would have axed? Absolutely. But I would have bet a serious sum of money that the two of them would have been in the final three vying for the title. America – and you long distance global people with too much spare time – take a bow. 

The format was a little different this time; instead of handing out the walking papers immediately, they kept saving comics one by one until the final death knell at the fifty minute mark. Of course, in reality (pun fully intended) the announcements probably happened one after another at the top of the show. Ah, the magic of editing! Although they never said so, I wonder if the announcement order was from most votes to the least votes.? 

The other new twist was the insertion of a filmed vignette after the announcement and before each comic’s performance. These were pretty funny; in some cases better than the material that followed. My favorites were Jonathan Thymius running his sideline business “Comedy O’Gram“, Felipe Esparza’s barrio workout and Myq Kaplan’s clever song. You can find these at the Last Comic Standing website and/or Hulu

After last night I am befuddled as to who gets axed next. I thought Thymius was pretty weak the prior show and he might have topped the vote totals.

Some thoughts: 

Rachel Feinstein being eliminated means no more women left in the competition. Really, LCS? 

Thymius wobbled but had one great line about not wanting to be a cowboy because he didn’t want to get milked every morning. Cow. Boy. You didn’t get that joke, Natasha Leggero? Really

Roy Wood Jr., your M.O. every week is going to continue to be describing an idiot you run into and then dressing the imaginary dude down? Really

Mike DeStefano, you spent the first half of your set pretty mush telling a true story about being a recovering addict just to get the “heroin is like swimming in a pile of puppies” line in there? Really

Felipe Esparza, you continue to milk the racial humor, although I guess that’s a fact of life for an East L.A. guy. But going Mencia on us with the lazy Mexican jokes? Really

Tommy Johnagin, you risk comedy death each week with a cockier-than-thou line that offends people before saving yourself. Penis-popping? Really

Myq Kaplan…you slayed last night. I have nothing to add. (Really?) 

At least the judges started to show some spine last night, wondering aloud if Thymius was running dry or if Johnagin did his best set – although I thought DeStefanos’s set was his weakest to date and Greg Giraldo called it his tightest. Leggero continues to find ways to tell Thymius that he creeps her out, and I’m wondering if her backhanded compliment to Kaplan (saying he’d win if it was Last Comic Writing) means he’s toast in her mind. 

But for all my complaining, I’m getting to see Andy Kindler on television every week, and that’s a great thing. And Craig Robinson continues to redefine the host role with great quips, delivery and energy. 

If it were up to me I’d have Kaplan and Johnagin in a dead heat at the top and Esparza would take the next bus home.  But my prediction for next comic corpse is DeStefano. He repeated the Blackberry joke from the audition, and then when a long set piece wasn’t killing, repeated another (the “Tibet” joke). Did America notice? Will they punish him? I hope not, but I fear it’s true. Really

Surprise me, America. 

Bring it hard or America will take you down.

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The Green Room and The Portable Lounge

Love, love, love comics talking about comedy.

Finally got the opportunity to start watching Paul Provenza’s show The Green Room. The basic concept is simple – bring a handful of comics together for a roundtable discussion and let it rip in front of a live audience. Provenza knows pretty much everyone in the comedy universe, and he excels at bringing the right mix of people and personalities together.

Check out the trailer.

The first season is in the books (six episodes) and the guest list is amazing. Green Room guests range from iconic veterans like Robert Klein, Jonathan Winters and Tommy Smothers to cutting-edge guys like Dana Gould, Jim Jefferies and Andy Kindler. It’s fast, funny and uncensored for your protection.

Provenza, who helped bring the documentaries The Aristocrats and I Am Comic to the screen, also has a new book called Satiristas which is loaded with great interviews. I was always ambivalent about him as a comedian, but his passion for the art and history of comedy is undeniable and I hope he has several more projects up his sleeve. (More on this and other comedy books soon...)

Visit The Green Room

No Showtime? No spare time? Spend a few minutes at Comedy Central’s Portable Lounge, where two comics hang out, discuss absurd topics, plug a new project or two, review what Internet scabs are writing about them and just generally have fun with absurd games like Tweet Of The Moment. The plethora of commercials at the website are a little annoying, but that’s why browsers allow you to open multiple windows. Multi-task, people!

Four episodes so far – the pairings are Chris Gethard and Bobby Moynihan, Amy Schumer and Julian McCullough, Joe DeRosa and Rachel Feinstein, and Kurt Braunohler with Kristen Schaal. It’s possible you won’t recognize the all the names; if not it’s a great opportunity to discover a few new funny people in a different environment than they are usually presented. It’s a very casual atmosphere; long enough to be worthwhile and short enough to fit in any schedule.

Visit The Portable Lounge

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Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad

 

Prediction-wise, that is. But not happy about it. 

I had a bad feeling that America was going to reject Laurie Kilmartin and James Adomian after last week’s set, and unfortunately those were the first two severed. When Jonathan Thymius and Maronzio Vance came out (what is it with finishing the eliminations with a duo?) I felt sure I was three-for-three even though if I were voting I would have sent Vance packing along with Rachel Feinstein and Felipe Esparza

But somehow, despite a strange and awkward set, Thymius survived. Did America really want to punish Vance for blowing his punch line last week? Because I don’t get how they can dig deep enough to enjoy Thymius’ surreal act yet not see the charm in Adomian’s equally obtuse direction. And god knows what will happen next week, because Thymius had an even stranger set with a really weak close…although he did slip a teabagging reference past the censors. 

Teabagging the toilet water?

I do not understand the fascination with Rachel Feinstein as a stand-up comic. She’s very attractive and leggy and is comfortable on stage and does great voices…but there are no jokes! I agree with some bloggers who suggest a career in voice-over work; she could be a versatile player in the animated world as long as someone else is writing the material. All she did last night was another extended ethnic rant

Myq Kaplan continued to riff strong material (although familiar to anyone who has his album) and once again he tagged a prior comic’s set to good results. And Tommy Johnagin continues to kill, peppering punch lines and adding that little bit extra, like pointing out his sweat stain and mocking the judges. I thought Mike DeStefano was more miss than hit this time around, although the “does it clean shame” line was solid. 

Roy Wood Jr. continues to be consistently good – never great – but always enough to get a few laughs. And while I’m not a Felipe Esparza fan, this was probably his best set; the crowd loves him. I’m starting to believe that it’s going to come down to the ethnic comic and the comic who can’t avoid ethnic schtick. That would be sad, but we are talking about a show that crowned Dat Phan as the funniest comedian. 

The best parts of the show continue to be Craig Robinson’s one-liners coming in or out of commercials. The judges are back, but why? They don’t criticize anyone – everyone is great and their sets are solid? It’s insulting to watch. I enjoy Greg Giraldo’s quips and Andy Kindler is reason enough to watch the show. And I’ve seen Natasha Leggero be funny, but it’s yet to happen on this program. But the bigger issue is that America is voting and they aren’t judging anything anymore – so why the pretense? 

Not certain how many go home next week but I predict the next two voted home are Thymius and Kaplan. Sadly, America will get what it deserves

— 

"Sitting in the back of a car..."

R.I.P. bass player Andy Hummel, leaving only drummer Jody Stephens with us from the late great Big Star (no, I don’t count Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow). I don’t really have to make any special effort to pull a Big Star album out of the racks as they’ve been in rotation for…oh, almost forty years

Hummel had been battling cancer for the last two years. My friend (and Not Lame honcho) Bruce Brodeen posted that he had seen Andy at SXSW in March, where despite his illness he flew in from halfway across the world to participate in the tribute. Bruce said his playing was “a blessing“, and I guess if you’re going to strap in for a last gig that would not be a bad one to go out on. 

Blurt and EW announcements.

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Last Comic Standing – The Other Five

 
Yep, that’s gotta be how Kurt Metzger feels. 

Are you kidding me, Last Comic Standing? Just when I thought you had gotten past the asinine policy of “casting a reality show” in favor of finding the funniest comics, you pull another Dan Naturman on me. 

Naturman, you’ll remember, was the contestant on the second season of LCS who was passed over for the finals even though the on-air judges all voted for him. Turns out that there were more people behind the scenes – a voting majority, no less – and they thought it was more important to have an interesting mix of personalities on the show. It was an embarrassment at the time and still a stain on the program’s reputation to this day. 

So what happens last night? Metzger comes out and absolutely kills…easily within the top 2-3 responses from both audience and judges – and he doesn’t make the cut? WTF?

Of course, none of the judges looked surprised or said a word. In fact, the announcement process is bizarre in itself, as pre-assigned groups of five or six comics walk downstage and only one is chosen. When I saw that Roy Wood Jr. and Metzger was in the same group, I was dumfounded, as the two were easily the best performers on the program last night. 

Video: Kurt Metzger: Hilarious Crimes

And while Craig Robinson is openly mocking the banality of the role of host, the judges continue to coddle the contestants; I’ve learned that “you are telling personal stories and you should go with that” and/or “you are very unique/original/funny” is code for “make sure you pack as soon as you get offstage“. I realize that some of these people work together and no one wants to crucify a colleague onstage, but some of these comics just aren’t that good

Some went beyond that, bombing and going down in flames. Guy Torry is a seasoned actor and comedian but chose to riff on Hillary Clinton and – are you sitting downMonica Lewinsky. (I don’t know who is in charge of the calendar at the Torry house, but they should be fired.) Torry’s set pretty much sucked, but as the judges tried to be professional while telling him he was capable of doing better, he became argumentative, dismissive and insulting. Nice strategy, idiot!  He’s lucky that the ratings for LCS are minimal or we would have been watching career suicide. The only funny thing Torry did all night was come out for the final announcements with his coat on and his duffel bag over his shoulder. 

Guy Torry's career, as seen from space

And weren’t all of these people supposedly from the bigger groups last week? Either there are some continuity errors or several of them were so bland that I don’t even remember them after a couple of weeks. You’d think I’d remember a name like Fortune Feimster, for example, who plays off her unfortunate resemblance to Jonah Hill to good effect. Or Maronzio Vance, who barely registered last night in a short set. I want to like Nikki Glaser but she did another variation on the abortion joke she did at the auditions and it seems like she plows the same narrow ground. I’m a longtime fan of  Laurie Kilmartin, a great writer, but I’ve seen her do better and I was a little disappointed that she used her old routine about her Russian boyfriend.

Jason Nash, Carmen Lynch, Cristela Alonzo, Nick Cobb, Claudia Cogan and most of the others were okay; a chuckle or two but fairly pedestrian material. Two exceptions: Brian McKim has been doing stand-up for thirty years, and everything from his posture to his cadence screams old-school comic, but his delivery is great and he is memorable. Jacob Siroc wouldn’t have made my cut either but following the Torry debacle and opening with “okay, that wasn’t awkward” broke the ice; he later ad-libbed a “Google” call-back from Torry’s disastrous rant. He looks like a cross between Tom Kenny and Jake Johansen; in other words, he’s got the look down. 

But I’m starting to think something fishy is going on. Again. 

For example, comics are supposed to be judged on what they are doing that night – not how their career stacks up or how they did elsewhere. Yet several references were made to other performances; Andy Kindler told Jerry Rocha that he loved seeing him at another show, and Natasha Leggero went absolutely Paula Abdul on Feimster.  

Neither made the cut, but one of the finalists seemed to get a push. James Adomian had a mediocre set but then Craig Robinson and the judges asked him to do impressions at the post-set review…and then rated the impressions! And I can’t explain the vibe I got when Kilmartin‘s name was called, but it was as if she knew making the finals was a fait accompli

Their five:  James Adomian, Laurie Kilmartin, Maronzio Vance, Roy Wood. Jr and Tommy Johnagin

Mine : Kurt Metzger, Roy Wood Jr., Tommy Johnagin, Taylor Williamson and Mike Vecchione

And then there were ten. If I had to handicap, I’d bet on Mike DiStefano, Myq Kaplan and Tommy Johnagin for the trifecta. We’ll see what happens.

— 

 

R.I.P. Harvey Fuqua, Moonglow and Motown mover/shaker.

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