All entries for Saturday 19 July 2008

July 19, 2008

TV Review: Last Comic Standing, Finals Round 1

So here we go, 12 comics left, on a bus going to their house. God’s Pottery try and steal the girls’ room as it’s pink and pretty. Paul Foot is now classed as being from Buckinghamshire, UK and not just “London”. That’s what happens when you make the finals. Fuck knows what the next 15 minutes is about. They dress up for a calendar shoot in weird outfits. First, who the hell buys a Last Comic Standing calendar? Second, 10 minutes into the first episode we dress up our 12 finalists in outfits that render them unrecognisable. Not really a smart choice when most people are struggling to keep up with who’s who. One comic says “Foot’s a freak” and I think we’ll be hearing that a lot more in the next few weeks. His outfit falls off and he has a joke rant about how he’s ruined his chances of winning. But it’s cut with spooky music and out-of-context reaction shots to make it look like he’s actually throwing a hissy-fit. Cute.
Esther Ku
Then they drink eggs, and we reach the immunity challenge. This is fun. There’s a boxing ring, and the comics go head to head throwing insults at each other. In the first round Ron G is up against God’s Pottery, and while they’re warming up the latter talk about how they’re going have some fun and the former seems genuinely pissed off. It occurs to me that as he’s a Christian, there’s a good chance he’s actually genuinely offended by their act. Especially as he now has to live with it 24 hours a day as they really do never break character. God’s Pottery take a different approach, and actually throw compliments at him “Your mother is so terrific she was elected mayor of awesome-ville” “She was! By a landslide”. Ron G appears quite narked off, and it’s understandable, because they’re not playing the game. Which is why they’re so awesome for this show. They turn stuff like this entirely on it’s head. Interestingly Louis Ramey (he who stormed it at the semi-finals and is the clear favourite to win even amongst the other contestants) does a bunch of un-inspired “Your momma’” jokes that are older than he is. The judges clock this and he doesn’t make it past the first round.

Sean Cullen is up against Korean Esther Ku and comes up with “Your mother is so Korean she has a demilitarised zone around her waist, her breasts are ruled by a dictator and she hosted the Olympics in her underpants”. I like this guy. He also has a tendency to fantasise about killing the other contestants in interviews. He’d fit in well on the UK circuit, and is instantly my favourite of the non-UK guys. I was going to say favourite US contestant but he’s Canadian, which I guess makes sense given the large amount of crossover there is between the UK and Canadian comedy scenes, far more so that UK/US.

God’s Pottery win the second round against Adam Hunter who is also pissed off and feels cheated as again, God’s Pottery aren’t playing the game. But they’re still funnier. That said, both their opponents so far haven’t put up much of a fight with some fairly dull put-downs.
Sean Cullen takes on Brit Jim Tavare, and I thought Cullen had won this one but Tavare takes it. Cullen is going to smother him in his sleep. Heh. So we have Jim Tavare versus God’s Pottery in the final, and God’s Pottery get a bit nasty “Hey Jim, tou’re dumber than a ding-dong in a ho-ho factory”. Tavare wins it though. This is interesting. He did a decent job but I didn’t think he was particularly great or imaginative. And that’s why I think he’ll go far in this competition. Because he has the gimmick of performing with his double-bass, but his straight stand-up is extremely traditional, albeit traditionally British. It’s what Americans expect when told the comic is from the UK and so it makes them comfortable and gets the laughs of familiarity while the double-bass makes it memorable. Much like Paul Foot mixes eccentricity with strong writing, Tavare mixes a gimmick with a style that’s instantly recognisable.

So then it’s the vote. Tavare can’t be voted for. They go to a graveyard and cast their votes in a crypt (Paul Foot: “So what happens to the losers? Are they killed?”) and then Bill Bellamy plays back thier voting in front of everyone in a shock twist. It gets a little awkward. Esther Ku gets the most votes by miles. Partly because people find her laugh annoying to live with, but partly because unlike the judges I think the rest of the comics recognise that her act is fairly flimsy and even somewhat one-note, relying very much on the whole Korean heritage thing. She picks God’s Pottery and Iliza to go up against in the comedy showcase.

Here’s my favourite bit of the show. The other comics sit around talking about who might win and commenting on the proceedings. There’s more insight on the nature of comedy here than in the whole show, because these guys know their comedy. Adam Hunter points out that God’s Pottery and hit and miss, and he’s totally right. If they get the crowd on side they’ll win by a landslide, but it’s far more like it’ll go over the heads of the majority and they won’t. Especially as in this round only the winner stays in while the other 2 are eliminated. Plus it’s an audience vote (the live audience, not a phone in) and unlike the showcases in the heats which were held at local comedy clubs, this is a venue that holds thousands of people who got free tickets to a TV show filming. They won’t be voting based on who’s the most original or interesting or innovative, just who makes them laugh the most. As such the writing is on the wall for God’s Pottery. And Esther Ku for that matter.
God’s Pottery do “Team Jesus” and I was going to say that they should have done “Jesus I Need a Drink” as it’s funnier but I don’t think it would have helped. Maybe they’d have made 2nd instead of 3rd but for too many of the audience it just wasn’t their thing.

Iliza Shlesinger storms it with some material that might be quite good but it’s mostly about a US reality show that I haven’t seen so it goes over my head. I do like the irony of a contestant competing on a reality show doing so by mocking reality shows though. She also displays a fine line in physical comedy which is something new, so there’s a few more strings to her bow.

Interestingly half the comics think God’s Pottery are going to win when in fact they’re first out. And Iliza got an incredible 68% of the vote, which means they had 15% at most.

I have to say, with the structure of the show, I find it hard to see how anyone other than Louis Ramey will win. He might not impress the judges much but if it all comes down to an audience vote I can’t see him losing unless he messes up badly. He knows exactly how to work a crowd and the sort of crowds that turn up for this sort of thing are exactly the type he knows how to play to. Unless there’s some twist where one round is elimination-by-judge he must surely have it in the bag. His only real threats are the wild cards: God’s Pottery was one, Jim Tavare is another and Sean Cullen the last. Maybe Paul Foot, probably not. The three are all acts that are somewhat ‘alternative’. They offer a very different style that really is “love or hate”. 95% of the time Ramey will beat them out for laughs and votes with this kind of audience. But that other 5% of the time something clicks with the crowd, they completely storm it and everyone loves them. But that’s rare. Chances are Ramey has this wrapped up. Some think there’s maybe a chance Iliza could beat him at his own game, but I remain unconvinced.

It really is a shame that God’s Pottery are out too, as they do make it a better show, the producers probably felt the same way too, so at least we know it isn’t fixed!

Dean is going to blog the second episode of the finals tomorrow, then will be caught up

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