Tag Archives: Laurie Kilmartin

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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T.G.I.F. – Ten Comics Standing

So last week we got the dog and pony show.

Taking a cue from American Idol, the ten finalists were trotted out onstage to do a couple of minutes, after which they got to hang around for some uncomfortable close-ups while their voting number was displayed onscreen. Of course, you couldn’t vote until after the show, so whatever.

Unlike the other crapfest, the LCS judges were absent this round – wonder if that was to stop people like me from throwing shoes at the television because of their omissions in the top ten selection process? But then I remembered that it’s all about the off-camera producers and network execs pulling the strings. Shoes and television, saved.

The voting will eliminate three of the ten by next Monday’s episode and the judges will reportedly return. Not quite sure what the format is from that point forward, but it will be interesting to see what happens. Personally I didn’t cast a single vote – any voting process that allows and encourages multiple votes per person is absurd, from baseball’s All Star Game to reality TV competitions and web polls.

But I will tell you that based on pure funny, I would eliminate Feinstein, Vance and Esparza.

And I will also tell you that if the American public is voting, they will eliminate Adomian, Kilmartin and Thymius.

Tune in Tuesday to see how I did. For now, here are Ten Comics Standing and how I think they did…

01 Laurie Kilmartin – Awesome writer, solid performer, but I haven’t seen her at her best yet. And I think that oddball crowd reaction last week might have hurt her badly. What the heck was wrong with those people?

02 Felipe Esparza – Likeable guy, gets a couple of laughs, but pretty pedestrian stuff and the act wears thin pretty quickly. But the crowd loves him and I predict he’s a top 5 finisher.

03 Roy Wood Jr. – Starts every set with a short, killer line and ropes the crowd in immediately. Good balance of tone and volume and good material, although nothing spectacular. Like the golfer who lays up; always in the mix while the others eliminate themselves.

04 Maronzio Vance – Another likeable guy with some interesting material but not enough variety in the set and he tripped over his own jokes a bit. I could take or leave him for the final seven.

05 Rachel Feinstein – At the risk of sounding misogynistic, I think she’s getting by on her looks and stage presence. Her set last week was horribly hacky – doing mom and grandma voices in the rap culture? Please. But Dat Phan won this thing so I predict at least a top 3 finish.

06 Tommy Johnagin – Probably my favorite so far – strong pacing, solid delivery, great punch lines. Material is made for this quick hit format, and he dug himself out of an offensive turn by ending with the funniest line of the night.

07 Jonathan Thymius – The dazed, stunned, disoriented schtick took a new turn when he burned up his first thirty seconds pretending to get acclimated to the mic. But I think he went so oddball last week that he has people believing he’s the idiot he pretends to be and that will probably hurt him.

08 James Adomian – Took a huge chance by splitting his set between a long (but great) Aesop’s Fables routine and an extended imitation of Paul Giamatti, blending John Adams with Sideways. In other words, too hip for the room. The judges love him because they are smart enough to see what he’s doing…America won’t unless he gets very lucky.

09 Mike DeStefano – Big and caustic, Mike probably has the biggest hit-and-miss quota of the ten. Sometimes his rants fall flat, but when he nails one he gets bigger laughs than just about anyone. I think he’s Top 3 but he might be scaring the crap out of the voters.

10 Myq Kaplan – The smartest player in the competition, he combines intellectual wordplay, perfect timing and delivery and the ability to play in the moment by riffing off the other performers and events of the evening. I think the crowd likes him almost as much as I do.

Here are the voting rules at the official site

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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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Last Comic Standing

Last Comic Standing might be worthy after all.

Thankfully, the format of the show seems to have improved. Reportedly there will be no “comic house” or oddball challenges this year, just rounds of stand-up and voting. I never enjoyed the forced drama of the “house”; it’s gimmicks like that which makes me find reality tv revolting. And while the challenges sometimes forced comics to think on their feet, sometimes they were so absurd that they only made everyone – participants and viewers – uncomfortable.

Craig Robinson, as host, does what Jay Mohr and other prior MCs failed to do – let the comics be the stars of the show. If we really are about to see twenty or thirty comics who have bubbled to the surface we don’t need a five-minute routine from the host. Robinson playfully teases the waiting crowd outside the door and has occasional post-audition banter with a comic. Short and sweet.

To say that the judges’ panel has vastly improved is an understatement. Ross Mark and Bob Read, the qualifying judges on previous shows, were occasionally funny, but mostly came off as tired and cranky. But the trio chosen for this season – Greg Giraldo, Andy Kindler and Natasha Leggero – are consistently funny.

Kindler is one of the most underrated comics working today; he’s subversive, whiny and hilarious with the ability to play broad or subtle. Giraldo has been a favorite of mine since Tough Crowd, and although he shines on Comedy Central Roasts, he never seems to get his due – hopefully this will change. And although Leggero could just sit there and look smoking hot, her turns on Chelsea Lately prove that she can run with the big dogs.

If there is a weakness in the three hours broadcast to date, unfortunately it’s the comedians. There have been some laughs, sure, but very few have distinguished themselves so far, and I’m hoping that the longer routines in the semi-finals will let them shine. Some of them are familiar faces who have already scored album releases and/or televised specials. But that’s no guarantee – some have made it to the next stage (Kirk Fox, Laurie Kilmartin, Shane Mauss, David Feldman), others were cut (Jimmy Dore, Cathy Ladman, Jim David – who has a new album out this month).

My favorites from tonight – Jesse Joyce, Mike DeStefano, Tommy Johnagin, Roy Wood Jr., Kurt Metzger. Last week’s nods go to Kirk Fox, Chris Pope, Jonathan Stymius, Rachel Feinstein and David Feldman. Next week – the rest of the New York auditions. Hope they saved some ringers!

Last Comic Standing wiki.

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I Still Miss Tough Crowd

Seven years ago tonight, Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn made its official series debut on Comedy Central (a short test run of the show aired in 2002). A round-table discussion featuring four stand-up comics and host Colin Quinn, Tough Crowd‘s scope was everything and anything – race, religion, politics, current events, celebretards and whatever else the writers and the producers found chat-worthy. Issues would be raised and covered, sometimes a brief skit was included and then some bizarre audience participation games and/or final summaries from the comics would close the show.

It was fast and loose, and although the panelists had an idea of what the topics would be, it was anything but scripted. More often than not the comics would launch into tirades at each other, especially if a joke bombed (as it often would) or someone pandered to the studio audience for an applause break (a mortal sin for the regulars and an excuse for a verbal beat down). And by regulars I mean the most frequent panelists who cycled in and out; it seemed as if at least two of them were on every program. Quinn assembled a veritable All-Star team of cutting-edge comics who were quick on their feet, sarcastic and fearless; that they were also friends made the viewer a fly on the wall in a raucous no-holds-barred bullshit session.

Regulars included comedians Nick DiPaolo, Greg Giraldo, Judy Gold, Jim Norton, Patrice O’Neal, Keith Robinson and Rich Vos. Other frequent guest comics included Dave Attell, Todd Barry, Lewis Black, Billy Burr, Louis C.K., Jim David, Marc Maron and Greg Proops among many, many of the top names that sat in on the madness. It seems like everyone sat in at least once – George Carlin, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Robert Klein…you just weren’t seeing that many amazing comedians that frequently anywhere on television at the time, let alone that informally.

For those not used to him, Quinn seemingly bumbled his way through cue cards and stage directions, but Colin’s style had always been to keep moving forward, even if he ran himself over in the process. And Quinn always insisted that the blown gags, the awkward silences, the comics talking over each other remained in the broadcast, warts and all. Above all, Quinn wanted honesty, and although it was unlike anything else on television and certainly not for everyone, it was real.

Although the panelists did try to score points against each other, and it did give them a chance to work in some topical material, there were several moments when a controversial discussion turned fascinatingly serious and animated. Of course, they drove the car into the brick wall on occasion, too, and that was half the fun.

But soon Comedy Central seemed to stop promoting the show, and whether it was a battle to tighten the structure of the show (no way would Quinn ever do that) or the argumentative nature of the program not fitting in with The Big Picture remains unclear. But they let it die; by the end of 2004 it was over. Comedy Central was having great success with Dave Chappelle, but everything they tried to fill the Tough Crowd slot with – Blue Collar Comedy, Adam Carolla, Graham Norton – died quickly. Every time they come up with a Jeff Dunham Show and it sinks like a stone, I figure it’s just karma biting them in the ass.

Laurie Kilmartin was one of the writers. Her thoughts here.

Many current shows now use the same format – Bill Maher has three guests who discuss issues, but he has both the freedom of language and the restriction of audience that HBO brings. Chelsea Lately has two segments where the host (Chelsea Handler)  riffs on a news item and then has three guest comics pile on (albeit far tamer than Tough Crowd). and now we have the excremental Marriage Ref, which combines the host/panel format with reality television into a train wreck of a program.

There are dozens of Comedy Central products available and a humongous video library online, but Tough Crowd has been buried like a bad habit. No DVD. No reunion special. No re-airing of over two hundred episodes. On that network, Tough Crowd is forgotten.

But not to the fans. It lives and breathes in the hearts of anyone who loved the show.  And so tonight I tip my hat to Colin and Greg and Nick and Jim and Keith and Judy and Patrice and Rich…and all the writers, staffers and producers who had the brains and the hearts and the balls to make controversy entertaining every night.

Here’s hoping Comedy Central does the right thing – even if only to make some money – and makes those shows available again. In a universe where According To Jim stays on the air for eight seasons, surely Tough Crowd fans can be thrown a bone?

Best of Tough Crowd, Part One

Best of Tough Crowd, Part Two

Wiki site

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