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.