Reality Bites: Last Comic Standing 3 - Episode 1
by Rachel Jaffe
Published: August 31, 2004
Ah, the first episode of Last Comic Standing 3. Why, it seems like just a few weeks ago that we saw the season finale of Last Comic Standing 2.
In fact, it was just a few weeks ago that we saw the season finale of Last Comic Standing 2. But for NBC, Last Comic Standing has been a surprise hit (host Jay Mohr called it "the little summer show that could"). Its first season was nominated for an Emmy, and its second season had even bigger ratings than the first. So NBC rushed the third season from summer to the fall season.
But this rushed schedule has meant that this season's Last Comic Standing is quite different from the previous two seasons. Instead of nationwide auditions to choose ten comics to live in a house and compete with one another, NBC has brought back both sets of ten comics from Seasons One and Two, and pitted them against one another.
If you read my recaps of last season, you'll know that I did a lot of comparing of the first and second season, so the idea of pitting the two casts against each other is an intriguing one to me.
Jay Mohr re-introduced the two casts to us. (Check out my first episode recaps of Season One and Season Two for the brief overview of the comics.) However, one comic from Season Two -- Bonnie McFarlane -- opted not to return to the show. So the Season Two-ers were given a choice from among four comics who had made it to the round of 20 in their season: Marina Franklin, Sue Costello, Jessica Kirson, and Kerri Louise. I loved Marina Franklin, and had been delighted when she was called back to perform in the Season Two Finale, so I eagerly hoped that she would be selected. She was miles above the other three comics.
Instead, the comics selected Jessica Kirson, one of the most grating comics I have ever seen. I watched dumbfounded as ANT, Jay, Tammy, Kathleen (Kathleen?!?) and Todd stated they wanted Jessica Kirson on their team. What the ... ?
Then, with the teams complete, Jay Mohr explained how the show will work at the start of this season. The teams will each select five comics from the other team (sort of the "Red Rover, Red Rover" school of competition) who will perform. America will vote on who their favorite comics are. The individual comic from each team who receives the fewest number of votes will be eliminated. The team which received the most votes will split, this week, $50,000. Ultimately, there will be some sort of individual competition so that NBC can once again bestow the title of Last Comic Standing (and a hefty quarter-million dollar prize).
Time for my second "what the ...?" moment of the night. One of the clever aspects about the previous format -- comics are chosen for possible elimination in a head-to-head competition, but the nominated comic can only choose their challenger from someone who challenged them -- was that there was a disincentive for a tyranny of the weak, since weak performers who targeted a strong one put themselves in danger. However, surely under this format we'd be forced to watch five weak performers, since one team was likely to choose the five weakest performers from the other side.
We were shown a very brief, very scattered selection of shots of each team in their respective "war room," where they selected who they wanted to ask from the other team to perform. Surprisingly, as far as I can tell (these shots were way too short), one strategy discussed was to put up lots of strong comics from the other side, since they knew that one from that group would have to be eliminated. I guess from a long-term perspective -- looking towards the individual competition -- it makes sense, since it gets rid of the biggest competition. But it seems it would be hurtful in terms of the weekly team purse.
Finally, the two teams made their choices. Tere (who, by the way, looked fabulous with her new '20s style haircut) announced the choices of Season One from the Season Two cast: Jessica, Todd, Alonzo, John, Tammy. A strange selection, to my eyes. Alonzo, John and Tammy were all top five, and are likely to be big vote-getters, while Jessica is unknown and an obvious choice for getting the boot (even the war room snippets showed the One-ers contemplating that).
Tammy was the one who announced the Season Two choices from Season One: Rich, Dave, Tess, Corey, and Ralphie. Wow, they selected four of the top five from Season One (except for the ultimate winner, Dat Phan, who, despite his victory, is regarded by many as a weak comic), and Dave Mordal, the most inventive of Season One. They definitely were opting for the long-term giant-killer approach.
So now each comic performed a two-minute set, which, thankfully was shown without the edits that made judging sets in previous seasons so difficult.
Jessica Kirson (Season Two)
Jessica's schtick in the auditions as weird faces and grating voices. She employed that technique to some extent in this set, particularly in a set that focused on the face she used to have when she was high and talking to her mother. Again, that wasn't funny to me. However, I found myself warming up to Jessica personally when she spoke in a more low-key manner, and I liked her high-falutin' yoga teacher voice ("brrrrreathe, Jessica!"). And I thought there was potential in her bit about women who are unattractive but are convinced they're gorgeous. ("Are they pretty? I'm confused!"). Overall grade for Jessica: C.
Cory Kahaney (Season One)
Cory is very accessible, very mainstream, very Seinfeld's-married-sister. She's likable but not threatening. She has some decent lines, like saying being married to a lawyer who's more interested in truth and justice than money is "like I finally got to sleep with a rock star, but he's with a Christian band." However, the accessibility and likeability is a two-edged sword, since it also makes Cory's comedy a bit bland. Overall grade for Cory: B-.
John Heffron (Season Two)
John, the winner of Last Comic Standing 2, centers a lot of his act around a "bad little boy" persona, and he followed that lead tonight, doing almost his entire set on video games. He was not as frenetic in his performance as he has been in the past, which I consider a plus. I chuckled at the part where he scolded a nephew for complaining that a game was hard. "You kids with video games don't know hard. In my day, we had to run uphill both ways, jumping over barrels, to save the princess from Donkey Kong." Overall grade: B.
Tess (Season One)
At the start of the show, Tess remarked in interview that she wanted to take more chances this season. Her set didn't show it, though. She went back to her material about being a big and sexy woman. In terms of charisma, Tess comes out strong. Her opening remark was "I'm back representin' for the juicy girls." But her material itself was not focused. Overall grade: C.
Tammy Pescatelli (Season Two)
Tammy was criticized last season for relying too heavily on Sicilian stereotypes. Tonight, Tammy directly addressed that criticism. For her, satisfying; for the audience, not so much. She also talked about the joys of having a dumb friend -- no matter how bad your day, you feel better about yourself after talking to your dumb friend. Hmmmm ... seen in that light, maybe Tammy's set wasn't so bad. Overall grade: C+.
Ralphie May (Season One)
Ralphie came out with a very subdued demeanor, and said, "My father's name is Winston May, and yesterday he died from cancer. So tonight I'm going to do my best to honor him, and I'm going to tell some of his favorite jokes." Given Ralphie's history political incorrectness, I have to admit I wondered if this was some sort of set up (if so, it was a hell of an acting job). However, by the time he finished, and having seen my tape again, I think that he was serious. Ralphie, my condolences on your loss. In terms of comedy -- the jokes were old, but they were competently told, and they were funny in a Reader's Digest sort of way (the old guy who had a beautiful young wife and all the sex he wanted ... but was crying because he couldn't remember where he lived). Overall grade: B.
Todd Glass (Season Two)
If John Heffron has a "bad little boy" persona, Todd Glass just plain is a bad little boy. Or high-spirited, as I'm sure his mom would say. Todd spent most of his time mocking people -- people who wear fanny packs, a guy who peeled out in his car, etc. And he made random comments. Definitely not Reader's Digest humor, but also not terribly funny. Overall grade: D+.
Rich Vos (Season One)
Rich was the Godfather, or "the Don" of his season, orchestrating voting strategy for his own comedy Mafia. But on stage, he tends not to be as masterful. I snerked at his description of the mannequins at Marshalls: "They got one eye. Missing a hand. Shooting heroin." But jokes about how lame New Jersey is as a vacation spot? Blah. Overall grade: C-.
Alonzo Bodden (Season Two)
Alonzo put together a good set. It was themed on the Olympics, and a little topicality is always nice. The best part was the opening, talking about how during the Olympics you become an expert on sports you've never seen before in your life -- it's funny, 'cause it's true! My only quibble was his saying that he didn't know he was a pedophile until after the Women's Gymnastics. Maybe the joke worked for Olympics past, but now the girls are at least 16, a fair number of them in their 20s, and while you may be a dirty old man for lusting after a 16-year-old, I don't think it's pedophile territory. Overall grade: B.
Dave Mordal (Season One)
Dave was one of the most eccentric and one of the brightest lights of Last Comic Standing 1. Once again, he brought his skewed viewpoint and wry delivery. He mocked animal rights advocates for suggesting that we shouldn't eat farm animals. "Do you realize that if we didn't eat cows, there wouldn't even be cows? Have you noticed that they don't grow in the wild?" The delivery of that last line even made me suspend my rejoinder of "but what about the milk?" I also enjoyed his story about his uncle, the slow learner. One year the cornpicker jammed, so instead of turning off the machine, he just reached right in there ... and it tore off his hook .... Overall grade: B+ (okay, I couldn't quite get over the "what about the milk" aspect).
Final Thoughts: No house? I don't know about this new format. The best part of Season One was seeing them in the house. However, I do appreciate being able to see sets that aren't chopped up. I also am not too sure about this plan to automatically pick off one person from each team. I think it would have been better if it had been two eliminations, and if they're both from the same team, oh well. Or head-to-head competitions -- that might have been fun. As for tonight's competitors -- my choices for elimination would be Tess from Season One (she's charming, but she didn't bring the funny), and Todd from Season Two. I can't believe I'm giving Jessica another week, but, based on these performances, I enjoyed Todd even less than Jessica.
Tonight, we have another episode of Last Comic Standing, with the results and performances from the ten comics who haven't performed it.
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