Tag Archives: Mike DeStefano

R.I.P. Mike DeStefano

God damn it, it never ends.

Mike DeStefano, a NYC area comic whose career had finally started to explode, passed away last night after suffering a heart attack. His history of substance abuse was a central part of his act, and it was no secret that he was diagnosed with AIDS years ago. Yet despite those health obstacles and the enormous crapshoot of forging a career, Mike finally put it all together last year.

Video: Mike DeStefano on his resume. “I am a stand up comic. Before that, I was a drug counselor. Before that, I was a drug addict. Before that, I was 12…”

In 2010, he lit up the stage at the auditions for Last Comic Standing and blazed his way through the competition, making the finals. Although he didn’t win (he placed fourth), the visibility expanded his following, and his take-no-prisoners style of cringe humor made him a clear audience favorite. He parlayed that into a Comedy Central special and a show called Drugs, Disease and Death: A Comedy in which he discussed his heroin addiction, being HIV positive and the death of his wife. A new version of that show titled A Cherry Tree In The Bronx was set to open this Wednesday night.

Mike released an album last year, OK Karma, which will now be a testament to his truly original comic voice. I listed it in my top ten in what was a very prolific year for comedy releases.

In recovery for eleven years and counting, Mike took the accomplishment seriously. Now using comedy as a tool, he made working with and helping other recovering addicts a priority with the same diligence that he had when he was a drug counselor (check out Recovery Comedy ).

Many friends and fans are leaving comments at his Facebook page, at Stand Up! Records, and Punchline Magazine  (who conducted this funny and telling interview with him last year); I’m sure someone will open up his website for that as well. Patrick Milligan of Cringe Humor posted an amazing testimonial to his friend.

Mike with Mark Maron from a December interview on Maron’s WTF podcast.

Wrong Side Of The Bed – Mike’s webfilm series on Atom.com.

My condolences to his family and friends, and like “hundreds of people who think (he) is great“, I will miss him terribly.

R.I.P., Mike. Say hello to Greg for us.

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Best Comedy Albums of 2010: #10-9-8

Year End List caveat: I’m splitting comedy albums apart  from comedy DVD projects, so if someone had a DVD that was basically the same as the album, I’m rating it as an album. If someone winds up in the DVD category that doesn’t mean their album wasn’t top ten material…just trying to find some way of being fair. That said, there’s not an item on either of these lists that I don’t think is worth your immediate attention…click to hear clips and judge for yourself!

***

#10: Mike DeStefano, OK KARMA:

What a breakout year for Mike, who lit it up on Last Comic Standing and brought cringe humor to the forefront. Hysterically funny, he also has a personal back story so cathartic and outrageous that it will stop you dead in your tracks. Many comedians have a persona, but I believe this is the melting pot of the real guy bursting through. Irreverent and fearless, I love that he’ll swing for the fences, miss, and then dig in and swing harder because he knows he will get you eventually. (Stand Up! Records)

***

#09: Matt McCarthy, COME CLEAN

Total nutjob, and that’s fine by me. Prone to explosive rants of ridiculous logic as frequently as deceptively subtle comic gold, McCarthy’s debut album still has me laughing months later, especially the closing piece where he answers an Internet survey in reverse. Probably the most unusual opening and closing bits on any comedy album, ever, but both kill …as does most of what’s in between them. (Live at Comix)

***

#08: Sean Kent,  WAITING FOR THE RAPTURE

Kent’s “take no prisoners” attitude is relentless but funny, even bringing a unique take to common targets like Wal-Mart, Glenn Beck, Facebook and religious fanatics. Sure, there are dick jokes and local references and social outrage and little girlie voices, but Kent is willing to go all the way out there to take the mundane and the topical and wring something fresh out of both.  (Uproar Entertainment)

***

The countdown continues Wednesday with #7, #6, #5 and #4.

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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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