And we’re back for another round of auditions for the semi-finals. The eager-sounding voiceover reminds us that these comics are ready to compete tonight for comedy’s biggest prize. Comedy’s second biggest prize? A week headlining at Mr. Chucklepants’ Comedy Hut, a Pizza Inn coupon, and a hotel bed that isn’t full of dead moths.
Bill Bellamy saunters back out, still wearing the aluminum foil suit and unaware that he looks like the damn Tin Man. Accompanying him are–HOLY SHIT! CELEBRITY MIDGETS!
There is a Gene Simmons midget, an Elvis, and a Marilyn Monroe. I want to collect all three and let them stand in my garden. We have the same judges as we did last week, Richard “Tartar Buildup” Belzer and Steve “Where’s My Neck” Schirrippa. Let’s just go ahead and assume that both auditions were filmed in the same evening. Our first comic of the night is Marcus, who only goes by one name like Madonna or Gonzo or Jesus. He’s cracked open his Dane Cook starter kit, complete with unshaven scruff, spiky hair, and exaggerated gestures. His whole three minutes–which to me, felt like 30–was based on how Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is the scariest movie to ever show an 8 year old. He did Johnny Depp impressions, sang an Oompa Loompa song, and then he got a standing ovation. When the judges expressed some skepticism, he replied in a Christopher Walken voice and got another big O from the Vegas crowd who loves him more than anything this side of the 99 Cent Shrimp Buffett.
Next up is Dan Cummings, whose wife asked him what he thought was sexy. He said “Asian cheerleaders”, even though the correct answer was “Bangs.” He also asked if you have a “Trespassers will be shot on sight” sign, does that make murder legal in your yard? Although I didn’t think this set was quite as sharp as his audition, I still like him, his writing, and his Renaissance Faire hairstyle.
Iliza Shlesinger has two X chromosomes and a fondness for V-neck shirts. She is also stellar. Her set started around the premise that you never wake up from a night of drinking to realize that it was a good idea; instead you have 14 calls from a stripper named Desiree you don’t remember bonding with. She made Richard Belzer smile, which is terrifying in a Scar-from-The-Lion-King kind of way. She started a bit about dating a shorter guy so she’d feel like a model but was cut off by the LCS music like she was thanking too many people during her Oscar speech. I like you, Iliza even though your name is impossible to shorten into an A-Rod-like nickname. Il-Sles just doesn’t work.
Eddie Pepitone is insanely loud. He talked about his designated eating shirt, how he watches True Crime shows so he’ll feel better about himself, and had an entertaining bit about what it would be like if hecklers knew him as well as he knew himself, shouting his secrets out during his set. I’d like to see him make it. There’s something both likeable and troubling about him, like if he doesn’t win he’ll go on a four-day bender that ends with a drifter stuffed in his car trunk.
Papa CJ is Indian (The call center and magic carpet kind) so he focuses on that for every joke, punctuating each punchline with very theatrical gestures. He’s likeable enough–and he did say “boobies”–but after he’s covered reincarnation, cobras, and the Kama Sutra, how many more stereotypes does he have left to riff on?
Stone & Stone sounds like a law firm, but they’re actually identical twins with identical suits and identical underbites. They talk over each other and finish each other’s sentences and their schtick was well-rehearsed, well done, and well funny (I was going for a theme there) for the first 2 minutes, before they had a long setup for a Governor McGreevey joke that fell flat. Tonight’s show has been solid so far…
…and then Mary Mack minces onstage and ruins it. I’m not sure what her set was about because her shrill voice liquidated my eardrums after she shrieked something about being from Wisconsin. To her credit, her head did great job starring as the Crystal Skull in the new Indiana Jones movie.
If you missed Bob Biggerstaff‘s 180 seconds, think about Papa CJ’s set but replace all of the Indian punchlines to fat guy jokes. That’s right, swap Delhi for Deli. Hey-OOOOH!
Louis Ramey‘s joke-per-minute ratio is the highest of anyone who’s auditioned so far. His material skews from the original (Bringing a taser on a first date because “I need a guarantee”) to the clichÃ© (“Once you go black, you can’t get credit.”) He’s good at building a comedy pyramid, stacking punch on top of punch on top of punch, especially in his bit about, um, tickling his own Elmo IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.
Canada’s own Sean Cullen is next. He describes Vegas as “where dreams come true if your dream is to lose money, marry a stranger, and get drunk.” Dude, that’s not even a joke. I think that’s what they tell you at the Visitor’s Center. He also sang a song about porn that provided fewer laughs than this month’s J. Crew catalog. Sorry Sean, but men who wear madras shorts are HILARIOUS. You are not.
John Evans did this bit about how he looks like Count Chocula and followed it up by talking about when his mother wrote the President it was “cute in a child’s letter to Santa kind of way”. He then threw in a dig about Prez Bush that got a mixed reaction. Regardless, I think he’s a good writer, very original, and I would pay to see his show, especially if he would introduce me to Frankenberry.
Heath Hyche‘s entire set–with its costumes and silly voices–is made of the kind of goofy shit you do when it’s Friday night and you’re drunk and talking to yourself in the mirror. He does an impression of a World War 2 movie, complete with airplane sounds, a leather helmet, and A JAPANESE MASK WITH SLANTED EYES.
Yes, Heath, let’s celebrate racism. Richard Belzer tears into him for dredging up “1940′s ethnic stereotypes” and Judge Steve says he would kill himself if he had to watch Heath for 45 minutes. Wow. That’s going to leave a mark.
I’m sure the very Asian Esther Ku appreciated Heath’s set, even though she makes essentially the same jokes without the racist-looking mask. She says that even Koreans think all Koreans look alike and mentions that “a lot of guys want to buy me dinner”. Of course they do, Esther. You dress like Chun Li from “Street Fighter 2″.
I didn’t think she was funny, but this is the same show that unleashed Dat “LET ME REMIND YOU THAT I’M VIETNAMESE AND SO IS MY MOTHER” Phan on the world, so she’ll probably end up winning. Richard points out that Esther’s jokes are totally PC because “it’s legal for a member of an ethnic group to make fun of that same ethnic group.” It’s legal? Someone please tell Richard that he’s not really a cop.
Next is Jackie Kashian, whose audition set remains my favorite of the year. Her opener was hilarious, a line about her hometown inventing the plastic bag that covers your dry cleaning so their motto is “This is Not a Toy”. But then she detoured into a bit about her parents that wasn’t quite as top shelf. She was still good, but seemed way more relaxed in the first rounds.
In his pre-show interview, Pete Lee described himself as “adorable”. Yes, he is. I want to invite him over to bake some gluten-free cookies and then talk about Oprah’s book club. What I don’t want to is hear him make fun of his own name for a minute. He says he teases his sports loving friends about baseball catchers flirting with the pitchers during the game and does an impression of this interaction for twice as long as he should have. It’s OK, Pete, we can still be friends. And make out a little.
When Jim Tavare said that Anne Boleyn died “when her head fell off”, he became my favorite. He was also fantastic in Powder.
The lights dim and Bill uses his dramatic voice to announce tonight’s finalists. They are Marcus, Jim Tavare, ESTHER EFFING KU, PAPA CJ (here is where I paused to throw the remote across the room), SEAN CULLEN (and I made another dent when I winged one of my shoes against the wall), Iliza Shlesinger and Louis Ramey.
Way to go, LCS. They wasted at least two of those slots (Sean and Papa CJ, I’m giving you both a very mean look) if not three (this means you, Esther, and your ridiculous giraffe barettes). I also don’t understand why they selected 5 finalists last week but 7 this week. This show is like the neighborhood kid who would always make up his own rules for the games you’d play in the backyard. LCS, you’re essentially saying “Sorry, you can’t tag me if I shout a name of a Wham! song when you touch me!”. And that makes me stabby.
Bill steps carefully around the dropped jaws of the competitors and thanks the audience on behalf of America and I really can’t sign off any better than that.