Tag Archives: Dan Naturman

T.G.I.F. – Ten CCP Episodes

 

To honor the fourteenth season of Comedy Central Presents, which kicks off next week (2/19), this week’s TGIF focuses upon ten standout episodes from the past. Many of these are in rotation at Comedy Central but there are no set days and times – the schedule of reruns changes constantly. So set that recorder to grab “all episodes” and you will not only come across these (eventually) but discover a few new favorite comics by accident. I know I did. 

And don’t forget to tune in for tonight’s episode (2/12) featuring clips from the upcoming season, followed by the season finale of John Oliver’s New York Standup with Mary Lynn Rajskub, Chris Hardwick, Greg Fitzsimmons and a feature set by the great Paul F. Tompkins

Below are links to ten comics who might not be household names in the flyover states, but are top-shelf for true comedy fans. Links will take you to their Comedy Central page where there are several video clips available, some from their CCP episodes. I’ve also included a note showing how CCP describes them…and what the truth is

In alphabetical order by height: 

Having a ball isn't a bad thing.

 

Ian Bagg – Actually, they don’t say much about Ian except that he’s Canadian and from a remote area. Maybe they need better scouting. I say he’s a nutjob with a rapid-fire delivery who will have you rolling. 

Todd Barry – They say he’s cute and adorable. Yeah, like a Doberman puppy! How about sneakily subversive and wily? One of the best minds in the game – dry, droll and lethal. 

Nick DiPaulo – They say he’s a little bit reckless. I call it brutally honest and fearless. In his world there are no sacred cows…there is only hamburger. 

Pat Dixon – They say uniquely off-kilter comedic sensibility. I say incredible wordplay, subtle perversity (and some overt perversity too), great delivery and such an old-school look he should be in black and white. 

Eddie Gossling – I guess they’re running out of adjectives when they call him original, charming, and slightly self-deprecating. How about the guy at work you don’t want to mess with because he might blow his top? (Literally – the teapot impression is a classic!) 

Nick Griffin – They say he’s personal, precise and powerful. Really, CCPalliteration? Why not go with sadness, semen and shame? Griffin nails the middle-age guy who is life’s pinata. 

Lynne Koplitz – They say an accomplished stand up comedian. (Yawn.) I say that she’s proof positive that the phrase “comedy ain’t pretty” is a lie. But be careful – behind that lusty appearance is a killer with a bit of crazy and a filthy streak…you bad girl, you. 

John Mulaney – They say he is nice, kind of tall, whatever. Boy, that nailed it, huh? Mulaney released one of the best comedy albums of 2009; he’s a great writer and should be much better known than he is now. With his skills I suspect that’s only a matter of time. 

Dan Naturman – They say he’s a combination of self-deprecation and downright grouchiness. I say that…yeah, they got that one right. Perfect delivery and funny as hell – Last Comic Standing really blew it when they overlooked him. 

Tom Papa – Ok, CCP, time to hire a bio writer when you describe a guy as a family man. Sure, “observational comic” is an overused phrase, but Tom Papa is animated and smart and cranky and sarcastic. Oh – and hilarious. Opens for Seinfeld and if Jerry doesn’t show up the show still rocks. 

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Stand Up Wit…Dan Naturman

Snappy dresser, too.

Curmudgeon. Cranky guy. Dan’s glass is half-empty and if you press him on it he’ll tell you it’s cracked, too. Not much works out well for Dan Naturman…thankfully

Maybe he honed that self-deprecating WTF attitude after being screwed over by Last Comic Standing not once, but twice! After the famous judges fiasco in Season Two, I was surprised to see him back in the running on Season Six, donning that Charlie Brown shirt and believing that maybe this time, Lucy wouldn’t whisk that football away at the last moment. Oops. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I guess. 

But Naturman’s style is bug-zapper quick jokes; there’s more than a little Rodney Dangerfield DNA in there. Watching Dan live, you can see how skillfully he uses the physical presentation – slightly hangdog posture, sympathetic facial expressions, those gestures that seem to stop halfway through because he just doesn’t have the energy or the will to commit to them. But even if you don’t see him – and certainly you won’t when you slip this CD in your player – you’ll realize that he has the perfect voice for this material. It’s a gift – the guy just sounds funny even during the setup. Of course, he’s got the material to back it up. 

Get Off My Lawn is loaded with several of his best bits from those LCS appearances, like those girls who give you a fake phone number, drug commercials on TV, the consequences of lying on an Internet dating profile. But I was pleased to find that there was a lot of material I had not heard before. Great interaction with the crowd right from the first bit, whether he’s getting them directly involved in conversation or just asking rhetorical questions to move the pieces along. He weaves the local info into the set flawlessly; I laughed along at references I didn’t even understand out of context. 

Some of my favorites are the bits about jukeboxes, how to maximize the cost of phone sex, misunderstanding the convenience store guy and why he wouldn’t make the ideal prisoner. He leads off with a great routine, and outside of a slight stumble near the end is consistently funny from start to finish. The album was assembled from a run at the Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis; sound quality and performer/audience balance is excellent; kudos to Stand Up! Records

Naturman started performing when in law school at Fordham, and when not on the road can be found haunting Comix and the Comic Strip in New York City. Keep your eyes open for him on the late night network shows and cable comedy showcases;  his sets are as tight as they are strong. 

Buy Dan’s CD at Stand Up! Records 

Dan on Last Comic Standing 

Dan on the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien 

Dan’s Podcast 

Real Books, Fake Excerpts 

*** 

R.I.P. Mick Green – another guitar giant gone.

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Last Comic (Still) Standing – Part 2

Summer 2010?

So according to reports, if the show does return, it will have a new host, some new rules and hopefully some new contestants as opposed to another best-of reunion. While the current climate is far from the comedy boon of the 80’s, the market does seem to be in revival mode. Perhaps if they do it right they can make this a practical – and credible – method of getting some deserving comics serious air time. 

But back to our story… 

One of the elements I did pick up on was how many good comics did not make the cut. Mary Beth Cowan, from Boston, for one – her clips were funny, she was poised and (for the shallow television execs) she is attractive. Nope – cutting room floor. Jim Wiggins – more on him later – was cut, invited back when Jim Norton had to drop out and then was cut again. And the funniest guy on the show got screwed bigtime. 

Of course there were the odd conflicts of interest that were permitted to occur. Bonnie McFarlane is married to Rich Vos, yet he was allowed to be a celebrity judge for one of the selection rounds in which she was a participant. On the same episode, Jim Norton was onstage while Colin Quinn was a judge, despite the fact that Norton was a regular panelist on Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn. Granted, in the comedy community, and especially in major cities, people are going to know each other. Nothing against either comic, but this clearly was one area where disclosure could have neutered a problem before it bit them in the ass. 

Then there was the producer’s admission/excuse that despite the show being promoted as a vehicle to finding the funniest comic in America, the selection process for the ten finalists had more to do with the personalities of the comics…what they thought would be an interesting mix of people. Huh? Since when does that translate? So I guess if Steven Wright walked onstage, he’d be hilarious enough to laugh at but too deadpan for the crap they film in the house between stage appearances? 

Being a reality show, the overtly dramatic pauses before each announcement were painful, of course. Ditto the in-house voting where each comic’s vote was replayed for the guests; Jay Mohr would recap the count between every single vote. Come on, people  –  if viewers (and/or the comics) are too dim to keep track of ten votes, get a white board and a marker

And then there was the posturing, setting some people up as sympathetic or as villains. Bonnie McFarlane was occasionally obnoxious, sure, but Tammy Pescatelli was as or more manipulative than anyone else on the show, including the designated weasel, Ant.  (At least what was portrayed in the broadcast, carefully edited to push your buttons as well). By the time McFarlane really melted down, she had pretty much been backed into a corner, and after a humiliating defeat in a showdown with John Heffron, the event reduced more than one of the participants to some form of tears. Kathleen Madigan – one of those who chose to maintain her dignity throughout the process – wondered aloud what happened to the comedy. 

So why am I talking about this again today? 

Looking back, I realize that despite its flaws, this is a viable vehicle for comedians to gain exposure and make some money. Unlike American Idol, participants are not told how to create their art to conform to the judges’ ideas of funny. The judges are not mocking out the contestants on the broadcast episodes – although the audition process seems to have a constant stream of quick “I’ve seen enough” dismissals. And reportedly adding the words Last Comic Standing to their resume has enabled comics to jack their earning potential up dramatically. Hopefully they pass some of that goodwill along by bringing lesser known comics on the road with them, the divisiveness of the coalitions and strategic bullshit of LCS long behind them. Right?

But now we’re into the credo of the comedy community, and since I’m not a working comic, I’m not privy to that. I do know that most of those I’ve met acknowledge those who paved the path before them, speak fondly of those who lent a hand when they were starting out, and profess to paying it forward with the ones coming along behind them. In any competitive industry there are throat-cutters and back-stabbers, and comedy is no exception. But it’s a small world, and payback is a bitch. And if I can believe that comedians can create believable stage personas, I can also believe that they can create a different persona for this televised show that is – at the end of the day – just a game

And besides the bonding with my daughter, which will cause many comedy CDs and DVDs to come off the shelf in the coming weeks, by watching all the episodes I also found a new comedy hero. His name is Jim Wiggins

Jim Wiggins 

Here’s a self-professed saloon comic in his 60s, thirty-plus years as a comic, tossed into the mix with all the ringers and up and comers. Looking and sounding like Mickey Rourke’s doppelgänger, Wiggins was consistently hilarious, disarmingly charming and showed incredible humility and spirit. Why he didn’t make the cut is…well, we know now why that didn’t happen. I looked him up last night and sadly discovered that in the ensuing years he was diagnosed with cancer, but apparently is now close to being back on the road. 

And as for Dan Naturman, who elicited a standing ovation from the crowd and the judges but still didn’t make the cut? Cream rises. Tune in tomorrow for a review of his CD, Get Off My Property

So if they do get LCS back on the air, I guess I’ll make an exception to my reality show credo and give it a chance. Despite the disasters they had in the subsequent seasons (including not televising the conclusion to Season 3!) there were a gaggle of good comics I discovered as a result of the breaks they got from being contestants. Sure, they might fuck it up and Dat Phan me again, but if I get a Jim Wiggins out of it, it will be worthwhile. 

Here’s a little history about LCS.

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