So the Last Comic Standing tour came by our college tonight—the five top comics performed for us, and our Humor Writing professor got the whole class free tickets and a preshow meet-and-greet.
Third place Roy Wood Jr played emcee, but he got to do his own extended set in the beginning. The cheerful black comic, Wood was definitely the right person for hosting—hilarious in his own right, but just laid-back enough to let the others shine. My favorite bit of his had to be about cops doing license checks: he mimed the officer speaking into his shouldercom, did the unintelligible breakneck doubletalk Sierra Tango code, and played the crackling voice on the other end brilliantly. And then the loooooong pause for the troublemaker… priceless. Also great was a bit about feeling inferior to old black men who got scars in the civil rights movement and then imagining the only parallel story he could tell “We had to wait twenty minutes at Applebee’s! We said we don’t need to wait for no white folk, and we pushed ahead! We got the mozzerella poppers, and then they released the dogs—they had… dogs at Applebee’s…”
Fifth place Myq (pronounced Mike) Kaplan was next. He had some good material, but in the end it was just a good batch of jokes delivered by a faceless persona. I can see he’s trying for Quirky Liberal Vegan-But-Straight Thinks-He’s-a-Ladies’-Man (and even the name spelling screams San Francisco geek chic), but in the end it doesn’t make any impact in that direction. A good comic makes you feel like you couldn’t have gotten the experience from anyone else; Myq just seems like any of our more articulate students.
Fourth place Mike DeStefano, meanwhile, had persona galore. The Former Junkie from the Bronx, he relished in being free from censors. He also seemed to be on a mission as he kept shouting at one section of the audience that kept groaning at anything un-PC. “IT’S COMEDY!!!” became his battle-cry as he traded gags about handjobs in subways and dealing with the homeless. If it weren’t for him being hilarious and actually turning out to be pretty sensible in the end, he might not have gotten so far. Instead, he was fourth place, and a fine place it is, too.
Now, the last two, the runner-up and winner, I can’t talk about separately because I’m going to be the guy who says that the voters got it wrong.
No, scratch that: the voters didn’t know any better. There is a difference. Not knowing better is voting wrong because of faulty information. Getting it wrong would be getting the full picture and misvoting anyway.
First: I say “didn’t know better” rather than “got it wrong” partly because I never actually saw the TV show and maybe Felipe Esparza just came off better than Tommy Johnagin on the screen, but mostly because I can imagine only too well that viewers voted, not based on full sets, but based on televised five-minute snippets. And Felipe is grand. For five minutes. But three times later in his set, he repeated jokes, and not Running-Gag repeat but I-Forgot-I-Already-Did-This repeat, Quiet-as-an-Underwater-Church repeat.
Second: Felipe is hilarious, but lyq Myq, I feel the persona lacks. Maybe I’m not immersed enough in the Chicano comedy field, but I can easily imagine Felipe’s material coming from George Lopez (or at least his stooge friend from the sitcom). Which irks me. I can’t imagine Stephen Wright doing an Emo Philips joke, and I can’t imagine Mitch Hedberg showing Demetri Martin drawings. I feel like a winner should be an obvious personality, and Felipe doesn’t add much new to the overweight Mexican field (apart from looking a bit like Hurley from Lost).
Third: I just remember more of Johnagin’s material. Because he had brilliant material. I remember his remark that all his family is made of mistake children. I remember his One-Night-Stand From Hell (“Zipper! ZIPPER!”) I remember his reactions to the bottle-clink in the audience and the man off-stage giving him the three-minute warning. I remember the story where he had to return his ex-fiance’s ring and he was too embarrassed to say they broke up and instead said “She’s dead” but in such an understated way that either he was lying or he killed her.
But most of all, the bit I remember the most vividly, and the bit that, to me, was so awesome that it deserved its own reason designation,
Sometimes when you watch enough standup, you notice that a lot of the sets have the same rhythms. Five-second joke; laugh; joke; laugh; escalating tag; bigger laugh; final tag; applause. Pause. Bonus tag; giggle. You watch enough standup, you start hearing a certain pace.
It’s probably why I remember Roy Wood Jr’s police bit so well—the mime was brilliant, and that long pause as he laughed at the license was brilliant as well as a change of pace.
But that night, Tommy Johnagin took it to the other extreme with his bit about giant babies. He recounted being at a hospital and seeing a ten-pound baby “lookin’ like he works there—Wear a shirt if you’re on the clock!” And then he tried getting into this weird metaphor which could have just ended at “if the baby was a deer, it would have been a thirty-pointer”, but which instead launched into a gigantic unrelenting tangent on the imaginary world of baby-hunting and using spears because guns would leave nothing behind and imagining using a sharpened toothbrush and picturing a booby trap literally where boobies would lower from the treetops and emphasizing that this was all hypothetical and that he even used the word “hypothetical” three times in the same breath and then picturing the lodge where this ten-pound baby would be stuffed and put in a threatening pose maybe attacking a jellybean and not once did he pause not once did he milk a laugh not once did he take a breath in a full two-minute speech about the world of baby-hunting.
And then he stopped.
And the audience died down.
And he reached for his water bottle.
Quietly muttered “Shank a baby” and took a swig to a great laugh.
And then said “So I really want a kid…”
“Not for dinner! That was hypothetical!”
And then the set just continued into the engagement-ring bit, and I can’t quite remember what the gag was, but there was one that could have been called slightly misogynistic, and a woman groaned in the DeStefano Target Corner, and Johnagin said, “We just did five minutes on hunting babies!”
Thank you, you’ve been wonderful, goodnight!
Twice I have bought an album the day it was released. One was the American release of the Fratellis’ Costello Music. Today was Nicole Atkins’s Mondo Amore.
My reactions as I listen:
Overall, this is a keeper for me. My favorites are “Vultures” and “My Baby Don’t Lie” with “You Come to Me” and “The Tower” coming close behind. When Nicole Atkins rocks, she ROCKS.
IMDb and any other official description will make Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris sound like the story of a couple who must “confront the illusion that a life different from their own is better”. This is like describing Twilight as a high school romance of star-crossed lovers. As a description, it’s vague, bland, and doesn’t tell you the real reason anyone would spend two cents for the story. For Twilight, it’s vampirism. For Midnight in Paris, it’s time travel to the 1920s.
The trailer comes closer to the mark by making clear it’s mostly about Gil, an American writer in Paris played by Owen Wilson. He likes his alone time, he goes out walking late every night, and nobody knows why. But it’s still horribly vague, and I wonder why the ad men haven’t advertised the movie’s central premise and main hook. My best explanation is that they want to reel in fans who liked Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers and Zoolander but are afraid these same people won’t see a movie that’s partially based in the Roaring Twenties.
More to come, I’m sure.