Author: Sean L. McCarthy

I know this Last Comic Standing

Well, what do you know? I know John Heffron, the winner of NBC’s second edition of Last Comic Standing. John is a fine fellow and great comic who has been in my car, and whom I’ve driven to the hotel (and other sordid places in which money gets spent and dignity gets lost) after some crazy times (see previous parenthetical thought) in Arizona. If he’s in or near your town, go see him...

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Mitch Hedberg, calling from Big Bear

Life is funnier when you hear about it from Mitch Hedberg. A lot of comedians say performing stand-up is the closest they can get to being a rock star. Hedberg comes closer to that ideal than most. When I caught up with him at his Southern California home, Hedberg was trying to enjoy his first couple of days off in more than four months. And he was beside himself. "When I finally get off the road, if I’m not doing comedy or onstage, I don’t know what to do with myself," he said. "I need to get a hobby." Most audiences probably think otherwise, that Hedberg’s life is too full of fun, that perhaps he lives the comic’s version of the rock star mantra: sex, drugs and stand-up comedy. That, however, is a simplistic reading of his performance style. "A new (comic) thought that," Hedberg said. "But then he saw me. … I think people are just misconceived." He recalled: "It was more I had to get over some stage fright, and the material I was doing wasn’t getting a lot of laughs." So he improvised. And in doing so, he found his voice. "I remember one week in particular in Denver, I had been doing (stand-up) for 7 1/2 years and it all sort of came together for me." Even now, after multiple appearances on The Late Show...

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Caroline Rhea balances TV with stand-up

Caroline Rhea has fond memories of Arizona. The Montreal native’s father lives in Tucson, and Rhea spent some of her proverbial formative years there attending the University of Arizona in the mid-1980s. She had yet to learn about "those giant cardboard sunglasses you put in the front of the car," and she emerged from her car a little, well, sticky. "I looked like I had the Franklin Mint tattooed on my thigh," Rhea said. By then, she already knew she was going to become a comedian. Heck, she knew that when she was 6 or 7. "I’d watch Carol Burnett and say, ‘I want to be her,’ " Rhea said. Rhea has since established her own TV presence — after several years as Aunt Hilda on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, many appearances on Hollywood Squares and now in her first year hosting daytime talker The Caroline Rhea Show. And she’s managed to meet her idol, Burnett, more than a few times. "Each time, I freak out and tell her how much I worship her," Rhea said. When Rhea hits the stand-up circuit these days, she now has her own set of fans to freak her out. Her act is not all that different from when she started in 1989. She might have new things to talk about. Her upcoming wedding already provides plenty of fodder for skits on her...

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Jerry Seinfeld, at the Dodge Theatre

Two things might have caught the eye of patrons to comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s show Friday night at the new Dodge Theatre in Phoenix, Ariz. On a nearby sidewalk, people were scalping tickets (Seinfeld has two more sold-out shows tonight, four in all) while country station KNIX-FM (102.5) was broadcasting live outside the theater in downtown Phoenix. At least the scalping made sense. Once inside, Seinfeld’s graceful onstage style won over the crowd, even one in as cavernous as the indoor amphitheater that is Dodge Theatre. People in the balcony probably wished the Dodge had video screens so they could identify him. Seinfeld began his act with morsels of topical humor before delving into the meat, focusing on the evolution of relationships, including his own. On dating: "Twenty-six years of dating. Do you realize how much pretending to act fascinated that is?" On big weddings: "Nobody cares about your wedding. Why is it necessary to ruin the day of 150 of your friends?" On babies: "Let us make no mistake about why these babies are here. They have come to replace us." He stepped back onstage for a brief question and answer period, hearing the usual requests for his favorite episode from his show (they’re all his favorites) and favorite TV moments ("stealing the rye bread from the old lady") to his love of cars and the chances for a...

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Doug Stanhope, on embracing outrageousness

When the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival put together a "Sick & Twisted" show for its annual gathering this month in Aspen, Colo., there really was only one stand-up comedian who could headline the gig: Doug Stanhope. This is a guy who was planning his birthday bash earlier this week with a comedy show in Las Vegas, followed by marriage to his girlfriend, Renee Morrison, with scheduled performances by Extreme Elvis and other debauchery. "We are considering running a pool on what time Renee’s grandmother walks out in horror," he wrote on his Web site (www.dougstanhope.com), which is not for children or the easily offended. Stanhope first tried his hand at comedy at an open mike in Vegas, but his career began in Phoenix at the now-defunct Comedy Cove as the house emcee in the early 1990s. He hit the road, and has barely stopped moving since. He won the prestigious San Francisco Comedy Competition in 1995 and made multiple appearances at the comedy world’s biggest festivals, Just for Laughs in Montreal and the Aspen shindig. No, you’re not likely to see a sitcom anytime soon revolve around a guy who is known for heavy drinking, public nudity and bits that include a troublesome encounter with a transvestite prostitute in Phoenix. Too many comics think raunchy material makes them funnier. But Stanhope transcends the mediocrity that pervades much stand-up, as...

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