In the early 90s, two cultural/entertainment movements had me in awe, itching to be a part of something bigger than myself. One of them was the Beatnick Renaissance, a revival of coffeehouse poetry readings all across America. I’ve been writing poetry since I could pick up a pen, so I longed to be one of those hip-cool cats. The other revolution was stand-up comedy.
I spent weekend nights sitting in the basement of the house of the people I babysat for, playing around, again in awe, of the high-tech picture-in-picture-pause-the-screen-if-you-want-to television. I had a television routine—watch An Evening At The Improv, followed by Comic Strip Live, followed by whatever other comedy stand-up was on. I was inspired and again in awe of comics because they had the nerve to get up in front of lots of people and try to make them laugh. And that’s no easy task. Being funny is hard. There were a lot of comics that kept me entertained up until three or four in the morning, when the parents finally came home completely inibrieated, but not so much as to not give me a lift home.
Comedy never went away. It did, however, become banished from broadcast channels where it was once on heavy rotation. MTV dabbled in stand-up for a while with its Half Hour Comedy Hour. VH1 offered the same type show. That’s where Rosie O’Donnell got her big break. Then Comedy Central became the hub for all things comedy while sketch comedy and improve shows like SNL, MAD TV, and Whose Line Is It Anyway? became the mainstream comedy entertainment.
Enter Jay Mohr (who I used to be ferociously in love with from when he was on that lip syncing show on MTV—wow, a straight man I had a crush on—but then I stopped having a crush on him for no explainable reason and my friends always accuse me of abandonment). Enter Last Comic Standing. The first season was small but included the likes of Colin Quinn (also someone I used to love love love since his Remote Control on MTV days and I apparently watch way too much MTV) and Buddy Hackett (surprisingly, no crush there). The second season took off like wildfire. The third was huge huge huge.
However, I noticed something a bit quirky in the third season. While we were supposed to be seeing the best new comics, I recognized a whole lot of the entertainers. I didn’t remember all their names but I knew their routines. I totally could speak along with the woman who was talking about her wedding and how, instead of a traditional bridal party, she would have gay bridesmen and her name in lights and they would dance around her as she came up the aisle. And John Heffron? Yeah, I’d seen him before too. I chalked it up to my years of babysitting in the early nineties—there probably wasn’t a comic out there who’s performed in the last twelve years who I haven’t glimpsed for five seconds.
But now that season four has come around, it’s not just me. As our fantabulous recapper Heather pointed out in her Last Comic Standing recap, there’s a whole lot of comics who already have comedy careers popping up on the show. And if you haven’t read Heather’s recap, you need to because even the title is pure genius. Some of them have been on all the I Love The 80s/70s/90s/Toys countdowns doing regular commentary. Some have been on Best Week Ever. Some have been on both. And if not on VH1, they’re on E! doing one of those 101 Celebrity countdowns. And Skippy from Family Ties who’s been in the business and WAS ALREADY ON A TELEVISION SITCOM for years also shows up at the auditions. Yeah, even though Family Ties faded away and that was your only claim to fame as you faded away, we STILL know who you are Mark Price. And you’ll still be Skippy to most of us.
Then this old guy Uncle Sal or something popped up as did Jim Pardo and I know I know them from stand-up all those years ago. And people who have auditioned before and made it through auditioned again. Who do they think they are? Daniel Magic Fingers from Project Runway?
But I don’t mind seeing these faces much when I realize that most of them don’t get through to the next round. HAHAHAHHAHAAAAA. Now THAT’S comedy. See ya on the Family Ties reunion special, Mark Skippy Price. Go back to L. A. Mr. Pardo, who, by the way, looks kinda like the Conga Line guy whateverhisnameis Keaton. You know who I’m talking about.
The only recurring auditioner I don’t mind so much is Buckstar of the Buckstar show. He’s the guy who follows our fearless comedian judges from city to city, auditioning wherever he goes. However completed scripted it is, it still has its charm. I mean, the producers don’t have to let the guy in each time. There are hundreds of comics who we never see. We don’t have to see him. So he’s become a gimmick. Plus, although at the beginning he was not funny at all, now he is actually funnier than some of the people they say yes to. So they prolong it on purpose until they give him a shot to perform at night in front of a crowd. Maybe next year, they’ll give him a plane ticket to the next round.
But the best part about the show is, much like American Idol, the crappy auditions. The ones here make me cringe even more because when you bomb at comedy, it’s the most awkward thing in the world. Take Rogor, who can spell his name the same way backwards and forwards. Yeah, that’s not funny at all although he thinks it is. Then there’s the woman who dyed her hair specifically for the audition and she jokes that the color is called divorce. Umm, why would that be funny? Because it’s not. And why are comedians tripping or falling off the stage? It’s not as if a lot of coordination is involved as in So You Think You Can Dance (COMPLETE SIDENOTE—Did you see the girl who danced and then threw up on stage this week? HOW FRIGGIN AWESOME WAS THAT?!?!?! THAT was the best thing I’ve seen on reality tv in a very, very long time!). Yet people are falling off the stage. And Judge Ross says, There’s no way you can win last comic STANDING. Ha! Get it? Because she fell. That, too, is comedy, my friends.
Finally, we come to the host. No more Jay Mohr. Instead, we have the bane of my existence. Anthony Clark. Much like recapper Heather, I couldn’t stand “Yes, Dear.” As a matter of fact, I don’t know one person who actually enjoyed that show. Everyone I talk to about it says it was horrible. I mean, how was this show on for so long when no one liked it? It was probably one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen. I watched it twice—once when one of the characters tried to be on Big Brother and that was Hil. Air. Eee. Us. because the actual BB cast was on the show. Then I watched part of an episode when Bret Michaels of Poison was on because I’m in love with all the guys in Poison. Seriously. In love. Apparently I’m in love with a lot of people who will always be completely unavailable to me for one reason or another. Such is my life. Moving on.
Anyway, the very unfunny Anthony Clark is hosting. But the BEST part about that this week was that we didn’t really see him at all. So hooray for Last Comic Standing in easing your way into Anthony Clark usage.
Aside from all the comics I already knew and aside from Skippy and aside from Yes Dear Doofus, I laughed. A lot. In a reality tv existence that relies on bickering and conspiring, Last Comic Standing offers an alternative. At least for now.
[b]And THIS is why I love reality tv[/b]: Laughter is the best medicine. We can always laugh at others, but usually we shouldn’t. But with reality tv, we have real people who say, “Look at me! Look at me!” And when they put themselves out there, it’s free game for the rest of us.
I mean, sure, I’ll still make fun of people on the street, but not out loud anymore. Now I’ll laugh out loud only to the real people on the screen.