And suddenly, our nationally televised stand-up comedy competition has become a comedy pageant, because right off the top, our seven remaining comedians step up to the mic and tell us their names and "hometowns." But it's going to be too late for one of these seven to win our hearts and our votes, because those votes already have been cast and sealed away.
It has been brought to my attention that perhaps the one mistake Last Comic Standing has made this year that didn't seem like a mistake until now, is that they should not have gotten rid of the house. Some of the challenges of seasons past didn't really do justice to the art and life of a comedian, but the very fact that we got plenty of time to see the finalists offstage meant that we also got to find out whether we liked them, and that might have helped some of this year's contestants much more than an edited or scaled-down set of only two to three minutes. If anything, this season has given the most stage time to its three judges, which is great news for Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo — and especially for Kindler, who has (if anyone wants to crunch the numbers and challenge me on this, you'll be wrong) generated the most quips, zingers and audible laughs out of anyone appearing on the show this season. So it's kind of weird that only now, with tonight's episode, that we're getting a little more of a look at our finalists. Note: Some semi-finalists and finalists did get introduced to us from the start with behind-the-scenes human-interest pieces, but of those, only a few remain in the running.
Host Craig Robinson calls our judges "incredibly powerful people," which is, well, obvs, since in Robinson's world, he's "the black Justin Bieber." He asks all seven comedians to step forward, and gives Jonathan Thymius the first proclamation of safety — which, on this show, means buckle up and get ready to do a set. In our backstory for Thymius, we learn that his other business is something called Comedy O' Gram, and with his stand-up so far, we never know when he's setting us up for a fake-out. I mean, look at the sheet of paper as he scribbles out "aniversari" (sic) and replaces it with "anivercrye"! But, well, it appears to be a real thing he's plugging on his site to render Comedy O'Gram services. And here is a short he did that appeared on Funny or Die back in April:
So there's that. What about his actual set for the NBC audience, though? He opens by asking if it's Groundhog Day. Thymius is a weird one, that's for sure. It's almost as if he's not trying to win. I mean, I know from reading his Facebook and seeing his friends help get out the vote that he wants to win and others want him to, too. But still. His slow, absurd style, on a show like this, feels more like anti-comedy. Kindler loves his "lack of energy" and the idea that he would write down "birds" as a joke. Leggero says she thought his cowboy joke was dirty, and says nobody else could get away with doing his material. Giraldo loves that he stays in character all through the set, but feels like he is running out of his A-material. What do you think, America? It's too late to call, but never too late to think.
After the break, Robinson lets us know who is next to perform, and therefore safe for another week. It's Roy Wood Jr. There's something about seeing the looks on their faces, in which they go through a variety of emotions — from shock that they made it, to relief that they made it, to shock that they have to deliver their set in about a minute or so. It's a complete reverse from American Idol results shows. There, the people who are safe can just sit and smile, while it's the person who is eliminated who is expected to shut down all human emotion and perform in that moment. So it's not the greatest psychological situation for a stand-up, but it certainly tests their mettle and fortitude. Meanwhile, in Wood's profile video, we see his mom saying the family had wished he would have gotten "a real job," followed by him saying it took him a couple of years but now his mom is his biggest fan. Just not enough of a fan to fake an injury to win him sympathy votes. As for his material onstage, he is immediately into the act, at a "certain fast-food restaurant" where another man tries to pull him into his drama for only getting four out of his five chicken nuggets. I'm going to put my vote on Wendy's for this one. Am I right, Roy? What do I win? Giraldo is seen smiling as Wood says he's not going to join the "Nugget Coalition." The crowd is on his side, as well. Wood also feels like he needs to have a bunch of kids at once, because then strangers will give him free stuff, because that is the hustle out there. As we see the audience clap and laugh, we also get a glimpse of a countdown clock. Is that better or worse than getting the light? I'd think some comics would see it and perhaps talk too quickly and/or skip a punchline or tag. Wood is OK, though, and the judges think he is more than OK.
After another break — looks like we're getting one comedian per segment now — Robinson asks for applause for "the biggest letters in primetime," as the giant C-O-M-I-C backdrop remains in place from weeks past. Myq Kaplan breathes a big ol' sigh of relief as his name is called, and in his video, he gives us a music video. It's wordy, it's quirky, it's Myq. Onstage, he does what he does in tagging Wood's bit on chicken nuggets, and he sets up his own bit on TV, and then other bits in which the audience laughs and applauds, quick hitters, until he gets to his closing bit about Final Destination. The judges all love him, and Leggero says he would definitely win Last Comedy Writer Standing. That's not what this show is, but you knew that, because you can read the title of this post.
Four comics left, only three spots. Tommy Johnagin claims one of them. Johnagin makes his case that he is from the middle of the country and speaks for America. He shucks corn over an American flag in a wifebeater. What's more American than that? Also, both he and Kaplan were watching videos of themselves in their videos. Onstage, Johnagin explains that he doesn't get a "pregnancy scare." He also isn't scared to say the word Applebee's in his bit about being trained to have a baby — take that Wood! He also talks about a guy who "popped" "his thing," and we all know he is talking about a penis explosion, and no, not that kind of explosion. The bad kind. Oh, wait. His time's already up! Leggero is confused by the penis joke, because she is a lady with lady parts.
Mike DeStefano is up next. We already saw his Bronx buddies, and in our second look at DeStefano, he lets us know that his act is not an act. Which, of course, means he rides his motorcycle to get a mani/pedi, with moral support from his mom. He lets the audience knows he did drugs for 15 years, and has been clean for 12 years. He jokes about not knowing what advice to give kids, because he is on national TV now, and also heroin makes you feel like swimming with puppies (fun fact: his website domain name is puppiesandheroin). He also jokes about kids being full hope, girls worrying about their body image, and a guy who claims he could not live without his BlackBerry. I know he said some of this in his audition showcase, but cannot remember right now if it had made it past editing.
Two comics remain, but only one will remain for more than the next couple of minutes. Rachel Feinstein is eliminated, and her "In Memoriam" thanks the people who did support her. Which means no more ladies, ladies. It also means Felipe Esparza is still in it to win it. We see his mother, and his "East L.A. workout" program. Easy on the carbs, big fella! Onstage, he thanks the audience for voting for him, and he says he has a problem with some of the stereotypes about Latinos, such as that they're hard-workers. A joke about Arizona's immigration law ends with him getting kicked out of a nightclub. Turns out he has a 5-year-old son, but he only sees him on weekends, who apparently wakes him up out of a good dream. As time runs out, he tries to get in a quick one-liner about "gangbangers on the Internet."
So these are your final six, America. Five of these men will make the finals, which means five of these six will have a shot at the title and the cash, and five of these six will make the national theater tour. Which makes this as big a vote as next week's final performance/vote.