Now that I’ve had a chance to rest and gather my thoughts, a few things still left to be said about The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas.
For one thing, I’m still not really sure what Ellen DeGeneres was trying to accomplish with "Ellen’s Really Big Show" at Caesars Palace. They say you shouldn’t critique a TV taping, because it all looks much better once it’s edited for broadcast, but really…this show was a really big dud. DeGeneres had talked up this special as an attempt to rejuvenate the variety show. Only the variety show doesn’t need rejuvenating. Her guests included jugglers, acrobats, and the quick-change artists who had already made a splash on America’s Got Talent. And that show isn’t going anywhere, considering its relatively high TV ratings and the ongoing Writers Guild strike. DeGeneres also included a nod to Ed Sullivan. But isn’t David Letterman doing something similar with his odd assortment of guests with their stupid human tricks every night (when not on strike)?
Frank Caliendo impresses you much more in person doing stand-up than on his fledgling TV show, which only makes me question Barry Katz (his show’s executive producer) that much more.
One thing you often hear about The Comedy Festival is how it’s built for headlining acts and not for showcasing up-and-coming talent. But I saw plenty of industry people and tourists checking out the so-called smaller shows such as "Unprotected Sketch!" and Broadband Theatre. And any chance for Kurt Braunohler, Kristen Schaal and Reggie Watts to perform before new audiences is a good thing. The Broadband show, which included performances by Pete & Brian, the folks from Blerds.com, Chelsea Peretti, GarageComedy.com — featuring the talents of Brody Stevens (whom I still fondly remember from his days in Seattle when Jews and Samoans would take over the world, or at least your cable access TV), and a new Funny or Die video (see below).
Another fun festival fact: Comedy industry lounges attract all sorts, and in Vegas, they bring out the other comedians performing on the Strip, including Carrot Top (cover of that week’s Las Vegas Weekly) and George Wallace (performing across the street from Caesars), plus other comedians who may or may not have coincidentally scheduled gigs in Vegas that weekend. Oh, really? There are agents and casting directors in town? Who knew?
Jon Stewart and Katt Williams were down the Strip for the opening of Planet Hollywood Resort, but didn’t make it over to Caesars.
And finally, kudos also should go to the HBO comedy festival staff, who managed to maintain solid morale under difficult working circumstances — whomever thought it’d be a great idea to announce that HBO would be streamlining its comedy operations before the festival?! I wholly sympathize with their situation, particularly since the festival represented a turning point in my own career as well. Good luck to us all. May we meet again under happier conditions.