Reality Bites: Last Comic Standing 2 - House Episode 1
by Rachel Jaffe
Published: June 23, 2004
Welcome to the second season of Last Comic Standing. Last season, it proved to be a strange but wonderful combination of Survivor, Big Brother, and American Idol.
As before, after a series of auditions, 10 comics were chosen to move into one house together, with each week, one finalist being eliminated. However, unlike before, the early auditions have skewed more toward the strange than the wonderful side. Celebrity judges Brett Butler and Drew Carey, who participated in the final round of auditions selecting the 10 finalists, have publicly voiced their disagreement with and disapproval of the final ten. For my part, I was dumbfounded that several comics that I was excited about in early auditions -- especially Dan Ahdoot, Will Durst, Jim Wiggins, and Paul Varghese -- that I was sure would be in the house did not make the final cut, and in some cases did not even make the final auditions.
Who did make the cut? Here's a list of the ten finalists entering the house:
1. Alonzo Bodden: A suave black comedian from New York -- think comedic Avery Brooks.
2. ANT: A gay comedian. Well, half right. And it's not the second half. I can't lie.
3. Todd Glass: Is it possible to be a grown-up enfante terrible? That'd be Todd, from Philly.
4. Gary Gulman: A tall, gorgeous, and Jewish comedian from Boston.
5. John Heffron: Gen X comic, just starting to grow up, from Detroit.
6. Corey Holcomb: A schlubbier black comedian (than Alonzo, anyway) from Chicago.
7. Jay London: Self-proclaimed "fourth guy from the left on the evolutionary chart" and schtick comic, from Los Angeles.
8. Kathleen Madigan: Wry comic from St. Louis.
9. Bonnie McFarlane: Single gal comic from Los Angeles.
10. Tammy Pescatelli: Sicilian comedian from Cleveland.
Of course, that list will be shorter by one name next week. For those who didn't see last season, this is how eliminations work. Each comic goes, one by one, into a mock photo booth and tells the camera "I know I'm funnier than [one of the other contestants]." In that way, they nominate -- or vote, or challenge, or whatever you want to call it -- someone for elimination. The person who receives the most nominations will have to do a head-to-head comedy competition with another comic before a live audience. But who is the other comic? The nominee gets their choice of anyone who nominated them. (So if someone says "I know I'm funnier than ____," they'd better be prepared to back it up.) After the two comics perform, the audience votes, and the one who receives the fewest votes must leave.
Entering the House
This year's house is huge. Corey described as a "Scooby-Dooby House." Really, though it's more of a castle, complete with a moat. (ANT, of course, had to chime in that "every queen needs a castle.") For Kathleen, it was "kind of like a '70s Brady-Bunch castle."
A grim foreshadowing of the season was provided by the pairing of ANT and Corey in a room. "They put me in a room with Corey Holcomb," ANT whined, "who is probably the most homophobic person I've ever met." Then, my dear ANT, you should thank your lucky stars. Not that Corey seems to be a flag-bearer for PFlag, with his reaction of "I don't want ANT looking at me, 'cause I don't like that. I feel uncomfortable with that. 'Cause I'm sexy, you know what I mean?" However, that's a pretty low level of homophobia. Compared to homophobic reactions such as the one on the WB's High School Reunion show, where a guy refused to room with a gay classmate and changed rooms without even talking to the classmate first, Corey's comment (which I suspect was half schtick) was mild to be indicative of "the most homophobic person" ANT has met.
Washed Up Before They Start?
Yay! The mechanical carnival fortune teller from Season 1 is back. Host Jay Mohr explains to the comics that they will get assignments and messages from the fortune teller. In fact, there's one now! "Leave the Castle and Go Entertain the Unwashed Masses." What this message meant was that the comics were to head to Lucy's Laundromart (open 24 hours!) and try to make people laugh.
This was a rough crowd for the comics. Todd bombed, and gave up. Alonzo admitted the ridiculousness of the situation by telling people, "The only thing you're going to learn tonight is stay in school. Entertainment is not what you want to go into. They told us we'd be TV stars, and I'm working the floor at a laundromat." Tammy choked ... literally. She lost her voice and had to give up.
A couple of jokes were okay. I enjoyed Jay London's laundry joke: "I dropped off my wash today. The lady said my wash was nine pounds, eight ounces. I said, 'As long as it's a healthy wash.'" As you can tell, I have no love for ANT, so, while I didn't enjoy ANT once again trotting out his "my accent is ... from San Francisco" joke, I did enjoy the rolling-eyes reaction shot from a young girl in the laundromat.
After all the comics performed, it was revealed that one of the women doing laundry was actually Debbie Drimmer, a talent executive for HBO. She was there to choose one of the comics to go to the Aspen comedy festival. In interview, she said she was looking for someone who was adaptable in this new environment ... and of course funny.
I imagine the pickings were slim, but she chose Corey, who'd used a "laundry lizard" routine, both pickin' up on the chicks and mocking them for being there on a Friday night. He informed the women that if they had a washer-dryer in their house, their men would still be there with them. "I don't care!" he protested to possible negative response, and the followed it up with "but I'm still willing to leave with you after the show." Eh ... I have to admit, I snorted in laughter some too. It's not that his material is that good, but he's got a wink in his delivery, knowing that he's crossing the line.
Once selected, he had to choose someone to go with him to Aspen. Corey chose Kathleen Madigan, saying that he always appreciated how nice she was to him on the road during his early years.
Things Heat Up At The House
Last season, there were alliances, and particularly an inner cabal of Rich Vos, Dave Mordal, Corey Kahaney, and Ralphie May. This season, the big alliance is ... ANT, Tammy, Alonzo, and Jay. Huh? What? Tammy and ANT makes a weird sense, simply because we'd seen them hang out together at the auditions. But Alonzo? Jay? Why are they here?
Particularly since it looks like ANT is the ringleader. Perhaps realizing how weak his comedic chops are, he is taking the competition politics very seriously. But he also wanted to control the internal environment of the house. "We're not voting just on who we think is funny or not. It's also who's irritating us the most because they're acting like a 12-year-old."
Most likely, that little comment was directed towards Todd Glass, who pulls tricks like singing, "I want attention! That's why I wrote this song! Because every time I sing it, I get attention!"
Todd, of course, was not in the little ANT cabal. According to John Heffron, the house could be divided into the gossipers (ANT cabal) and the people who don't care (the others). Todd was high on the hit list of the gossipers. But when ANT told Tammy that he wanted Todd gone, Tammy advised holding back. Todd was strong, but if some of his friends were knocked out, it would rattle him and he'd be easier to take out on stage. "Let some other people go before him, and it'll rattle him." She followed that up by saying, "You want to know Mafia strategy? You don't kill the guy -- you kill his family around him, because he knows eventually you're going to come knock him off. You kill his whole family around him, and let him suffer for his whole life. That's what you do."
Perhaps Tammy's advice was influenced by the fact that she herself had a big feud with Bonnie. Before the show, Tammy had sent around cards wishing the others well. Over dinner one night, for some reason, Bonnie said, "I know I didn't give y'all cards ...." Tammy immediately took umbrage, swearing at Bonnie. In interview, Tammy said, "Some people are so demented they took kindness for weakness."
Tammy became even more upset that Bonnie told ANT that Tammy had "choked" in the laundromat, not just physically but breaking under pressure. ANT, of course, told Tammy, and Tammy went ballistic. In interview, she said, "It's pretty apparent to me that Bonnie's going to vote for me, and I'm just not going to roll over." She was shown pacing the room, swearing and muttering.
And I'm thinking -- good heavens, lady, is it worth it to get this upset over possibly performing? Isn't it a plus to perform, to be seen? Last season Ralphie May couldn't wait to "rock the mike". From auditions, Tammy had solid material. No way should she be this scared at the idea of a vote.
But no, apparently this season, getting a vote is the worst thing that can happen to you. ANT put the pressure on John, threatening him that "if you vote against the herd, you're out there by yourself. You're next."
Life In Aspen
Corey and Kathleen had a great time in Aspen. Corey was a little nervous about performing in front of the big leagues, but his "I'm-so-ghetto" routine, coupled with the sly horndog comments, seemed to go over well. "I guess that would be one of the biggest shows I've ever worked," he admitted afterwards.
This Week's Nominees
Battle lines had been drawn, but how would things play out? Here's the list of nominations:
- ANT nominated Bonnie (and then had the nerve to give her a kiss on the shoulder after the nomination tape was shown).
- Alonzo nominated Bonnie (who started getting nervous).
- Todd nominated Tammy.
- Gary nominated Jay London (and finished his nomination with an imitation of Jay's trademark "thank you").
- Bonnie nominated Corey.
- Corey nominated ANT (who gave him the look of death).
- Jay nominated Bonnie.
- Kathleen nominated Bonnie.
- Tammy nominated Bonnie.
- John nominated Bonnie.
Bonnie then had to choose her competitor. She dismissed both ANT and Tammy as being too easy to be worth selecting, Kathleen as unbeatable, so she chose John. (No mention of Alonzo or Jay.) She explained to Jay that she didn't want to choose Tammy because she didn't want to challenge a girl. "It seems catty." Tammy commented, "It's funny that you choose now to not be catty." Bonnie protested that she hadn't even picked Tammy, and now Tammy still wanted to come after her!
As John got ready to leave for competition, he was freaking out. He explained in interview that he'd voted for Bonnie purely out of strategy, and it had backfired. He'd hoped that if he voted with the crowd, Bonnie would select someone else (and, I guess, he wouldn't feel he'd put a target on his back by voting against the group). Strategywise, it comes out as very wimpy, and again, this distress at having to perform and compete is unsettling. He wouldn't have lasted two weeks in last season's house.
First Comic Falling
While last season we saw all the comics head to the club for the competition, this season it's only the two competitors. It will come as no shock, after having read the drift of this column, that I miss the bus ride. (Is there anything I like better this season than last? Not so far.)
The first competitor was Bonnie. She gave a low-key performance, and, while it's hard to tell with the editing they do, the jokes seemed to move in a disjointed manner. I was not terribly amused by jokes of anorexia as "hot" and "something to strive for, ladies." But I did like her delivery, and I enjoyed the bit about being unable to forget one of her exes, who was the greatest guy to walk the earth -- a hypnotist. "You know what I miss most? Just going over to his place, doing his laundry naked and acting like a chicken."
Next up was John, whose performance was the opposite of Bonnie's. It was loud, frenetic, and he was talking way too fast. He looked desperate. On the other hand, his material seemed to have much smoother transitions than Bonnie's, going easily from I'm-getting-old to when-I-was-a-kid, from forgetting-who-you-call to cellphones. Cellphones got a great response, and I giggled at the bit about in-house roaming: "I got 800 living room minutes and 1200 bedroom minutes." He also finished on a high note, with a joke sequence about how much he like X-Box, and how he'd never expected to be having the same conversation 20 years later with a different woman than he'd had as a kid: "Hold on, I'll be in in a second. Just let me get past this level!"
Personally, I think I would have voted for Bonnie. However, the crowd overwhelmingly voted for John -- by 94%! Why so lopsided? I think that he benefitted greatly by being the second performer. With no outstanding performances, the audience went with who they remembered -- the guy who just left the stage.
Holy cats, what happened to the house? Where was the gentle kidding, the wacky humor, the competitive spirit? Why is there so much rancor already? What happened to the grown-ups, for cryin' out loud?
Well, maybe this week was a wake-up call for John Heffron. Maybe he'll grow a spine. Maybe Alonzo and Jay will wake up and disengage from ANT and Tammy.
Better yet -- maybe the people unfairly denied from the show will move into the house next door, and we can just swing the cameras over!
Last Comic Standing is on Tuesdays at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on NBC.
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