Tag Archives: Rachel Feinstein

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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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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