Bring The Funny is no Last Comic Standing. Nor is it America’s Got Talent.
So what is Bring The Funny?
The newest NBC talent competition is open to all sorts of funny people, from solo acts to groups, from stand-ups to characters to musical duos to prop acts to ventriloquists to sketch groups. “There’s only one simple rule: You need to bring the funny,” says host Amanda Seales.
No audition rounds, so nobody gets buzzed nor heckled nor hooked off stage. We just jump right into night one of four weeks of rounds called “The Open Mic,” in which 10 comedy acts vie for six spots. The judges (Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson, model-turned-Twitter-turned-Celebrity-Lip-Sync’s Chrissy Teigen, and stand-up Jeff Foxworthy) decide who advances each week. Eventually, American viewers decide the winner of the $250,000 grand prize?
An hour of network TV is 44 minutes without the ads, so hardly enough time to get to know or laugh about 10 different comedy acts. So yeah, a bit of a rush. The premiere episode spent the first half of the hour on only three acts, so if you guessed they’d all advance, you win the at-home prize of nothing unless you bet your friends!
From a Deadline interview with the show’s director, Carrie Havel, about diversity in directing “unscripted” TV, Havel revealed that the shooting schedule was equally rushed: “Bring the Funny was 10 total days, five rehearsals, five tape days for an entire season except for the finale.”
On the plus side, the show quickly clues you into each act’s social media handles (mostly Instagram, sometimes Twitter), so you can find them easily during or after the episode. Also, skipping the audition process means we don’t have to suffer through a bunch of bad comedy. These must be the best 40 comedy acts in America, then, right? Well…
We actually have no idea, since Bring the Funny skipped auditions and didn’t really offer us an explanation, why we’re seeing these acts. Some are fresh faces, and some most definitely are not. Matt Rife says he’s only 23, while the Frangela duo have been on our TVs since at least Best Week Ever, which was a VH1 or Rife lifetime ago. So why these 40? Are they all acts that could be, should be the next big thing? Or just a nice assortment of different kinds of comedy we currently can find across the country? It seems kind of random, just from the first episode.
Which six acts advanced out of the first episode?
Rife, based in LA but from Columbus, Ohio, has appeared on MTV’s Wild N Out and on The Challenge: Champs vs. Stars in 2017. Everything about this tried to convince us that he’s so handsome, Teigen might leave her famous husband John Legend for him. His act hinged on him going to prison but falling in love.
(Frances Callier and Angela V. Shelton) regularly appeared on Best Week Ever. They also previously performed on NBC as contestants in 2009’s reality series, I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! This 2019 performance finds them watching a horror movie and offering play-by-play commentary.
Fell is a comedy magician from New Zealand. For his first trick, he kept pickpocketing an audience volunteer right in front of our eyes.
Harry & Chris
Harry and Chris are a musical comedy duo from England. They didn’t get much screen time but enough to advance, according to the judges (and producers).
A sketch group from Provo, Utah — Mallory Everton, Matt Meese, Jason Gray, Natalie Madsen, Jeremy Warner, Stacey Harkey — met in college. As you may guess from their location (home to Brigham Young University), they’re focused on family-friendly entertainment. Their first sketch on NBC took that quite literally with the premise of making TV for kids, only a last-minute cast replacement goes horribly wrong with conspiracy theories.
A stand-up comedian from the Dominican Republic who grew up in Miami and now lives in Southern California. He’s also guested on my podcast before, while promoting his recent half-hour special on HBO. The judges loved his first set, and he essentially headlined the first episode of Bring The Funny.
Tune in next Tuesday to see another crop of 10 comedy acts quickly winnowed to 6.