House of Ha-Ha

Salt Lake City Weekly | June 17, 2004
House of Ha-Ha

NBC’s Last Comic Standing isn’t necessarily better reality than comedy.


Funny is subjective. Believe it or not, even though it’s obviously a scholarly and deadly serious weekly analysis of televised entertainment and its impact on popular culture, some people think The Only TV Column That Matters™ is funny. Others see True TV as “an intellectual vacuum” (Hey, Editor!), “a waste of perfectly good ad space” (Hola, sales team!) and “a month or so of college flushed right down the crapper” (Hi, Mom!). Really, who’s to say who’s right?

One thing can easily be agreed upon by all as unequivocally funny: The “outrage” over the “discovery” that circumstances of a TV reality show have been shaped by producers and network suits. The rest of us got the memo that “unscripted” shows are every bit as manipulated behind the scenes as any drama or sitcom, but Drew Carey and Brett Butler were apparently out visiting their careers in 1995 when it made the rounds.

As seen on the Las Vegas finals of the new Last Comic Standing (NBC, Tuesdays) last week, Carey and Butler threw a hissyfit because some of their scoring as celebrity judges (they were actually referred to as “talent scouts” on the show) was overruled by The Man in order to cast a more interesting mix of comedians to live together and compete for real for the LCS title. “We were both surprised and disappointed by the results,” Butler later said, “and we had nothing to do with them.” Sounds like every home-pregnancy test I’ve ever been associated with—ba-dum-bump! Thanks, I’ll be here till the end of the column; tip your bartender.

While the 10 comics—who’ll be eliminated one-by-one weekly via popular audience votes from here on out—bunking together this year are a younger and prettier (read: reality-TV gold) lot than the finalists of the first season of Last Comic Standing, the funny ratio is also higher. From LSC1, only Rich Vos, Dave Mordal and Ralphie May are snagging any high-profile gigs these days; the quickly forgotten rest of ‘em could be opening for Brett Butler at the ChuckleHut in Pasadena for all we know. Those three were the genuine talents of the house, even first Last Comic Standing winner Dat Phan (NBC: “He’s working, really!”) will cop to that. The new batch? Waaay more potential.

Well, maybe not all of them: The inclusion of Jay London is a real head-scratcher, and not because you feel like you’re getting lice through the TV screen just looking at him. The hairy troll might make a passable reality houseguest, but comedy geeks know full well that castoffs like Irina Franklin (that would have made three black people in the house—this is NBC, not UPN), Kerri Louise (attractive, but far-too-happily married to that other loser comic) and Dan Naturman (the worst injustice of all—just ask him) were funnier.

And LCS1 reject Anthony “Ant” Kalloniatis? Not to incur the wrath of the Gay Greek Mafia, but Ant’s one-note I’m the Homo! routine reportedly fell flatter than a Michelob Ultra onstage in Vegas, but was punched-up in editing for air to make his inclusion in the house seem less curious. No drama without a queen, apparently.

Of course, one of them should have been eliminated by the time you read this, because I’d like to believe that Last Comic Standing will redeem itself this season with a funny winner, an Anti-Dat. Either Alonzo Bodden (the Samuel L. Jackson of stand-up) or Bonnie McFarlane (ballsier than most male comics) would be great, but Todd Glass (goofy, gruff) or John Heffron (small, stoned) would do. Gary Gulman (he’s hot and Jewish—that’s pretty much the act) or Tammy Pescatelli (she’s hot and Sicilian—ditto), still in the ballpark. The Other Black Guy or the Soccer Mom (the names didn’t stick), acceptable at the very least.

Then again, just award the LCS prize to Ant and host/producer Jay Mohr jointly—it’s more effective than the Witness Protection Program. Ba-dum-bump! Thanks, that’s my time!

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