Thursday, June 14, 2007

Last Comic Standing

Last Comic Standing is a show I've always been curious about, but never actually watched. I think I saw an episode from late in the first season, then managed to catch the finale last season.

Now, finally, I'm catching the kickoff. The new season premiere apparently aired some time in the last few days, and for the first time since I got TiVo it didn't get beaten out by higher priority programs. I started it up and discovered to my horror that the season premiere is two hours! I hate two hour episodes of reality shows.

The first part of the show is the obligatory American Idol auditions segment, where we get to enjoy the freakshow, with a few worthwhile comics mixed in. I don't think it works as well here though. I'm no singer, but singing a capella to three people sitting at a table judging you seems to make more sense than performing comedy to three people sitting at a table judging you. I don't even know how you could feel like you were performing with a crowd that small. I don't know how anybody could feel funny in that environment, and it certainly seems like it would be hard to judge. With only three people, everything feels like bombing.

I guess you know when someone is bombing because that's when the editors splice in cricket noises. Don't worry, they do it repeatedly.

In any case, this segment of the show is basically like a heavily truncated open-mike night. In some ways, it's a relief to have judges there to shoo the disasters off the stage, but on the other hand, the protracted suffering is an essential part of the experience of watching bad stand-up. You can't really appreciate how bad a comic is unless you're stuck watching with no way out. But whatever, they've got a line of people around the block, so they've got to move it along.

At some point, a middle aged woman from Connecticut with an uncanny resemblance to Nancy Pelosi comes up, and tells the old joke about how same sex marriage is no big deal, because when you're married it's always the same sex. Ugh. It was hacky when Robin Williams used it in Man of the Year, and it's no funnier here. At least the Nancy Pelosi lookalike, unlike Williams' character, isn't trying to pass it off as trenchant straight-shooting campaign trail wisdom, but the fact that the judges are shown laughing uproariously at this and sending her on to the next round is even worse.

At the very end of the audition segment, Arj Barker shows up. He's not the only polished, experienced working comic to be dropped in among the freak parade, but he's the first one I recognize. It feels weird and unfair to watch a comic whose work I respect and enjoy be judged by three past contestants whom I've never heard of and whose taste I'm not sure I trust. The arbitrariness of it really strikes you.

They move on to the next segment, where the selected comics perform for an audience. We glimpse some people we haven't before, and we get a clips just long enough to see each person do about one joke. Arj Barker does his bit about how down vests are useless because you never wake up and find that your torso is freezing but your arms are really hot. Nancy Pelosi does a bit about how white kids in Connecticut listen to rap music. It's implied that this is incongruous, because only black people from the ghetto should ever listen to rap music! She complains about the kids taking her Aretha Franklin and Billy Joel tapes out of the kitchen stereo and replacing them with rap. She demonstrates by sort of performing what seems intended to be a snippet of rap, complete with jerky hip hop gestures. Then, in her own voice she cries: "I'm making a salad!" driving the point home about the inappropriateness of rap to salad-making settings in New England. For this she wins the audience favorite award and the Capitol One No Hassles pass to the next round, and I sit up and say aloud, "What the fuck?"

No one in the second hour (during which the auditions move to other cities) outrages me nearly as much, and there are some good comics in the mix. My main source of outrage is just that watching the show has now taken up a second hour.


1 comment:

C said...

Wow, buzz must have been really low this season. I didn't even know it happened.. and I was a fan of the first seasons...

did Buck Star make an appearance this time? (hi, I'm buck star. this is the buck star show..)