Thursday, June 12, 2008

Know your audience

While I don't, in general, watch reality TV, I have to admit a fondness for Last Comic Standing. This is despite the fact that the ultimate results often leave me scratching my head. (e.g. The first or second place finisher last year had basically no act beyond "Hi. I'm morbidly obese.) Not that I'm convinced the results really have a big impact on the comedians' careers either, although it may help in touring.

But there are enough funny people who make it through the auditions to root for. And then there are those who don't make it past that stage. Some are simply hopeless, and the vast majority of them probably don't even show up on camera. Some seem to be punking the talent scouts in a kind of no-punchline metahumor. There's an honorable tradition in this (Andy Kaufman, Sacha Baron Cohen, etc) but understandably it doesn't really play well in this kind of contest.

A few are good comics but make crucial mistakes that stop them short. One guy I saw tonight falls into this category. He did some brash but forward-looking ethnic humor--he was Asian--that seemed like it might play well. Needing a breather in the middle of his act, he turned to one of the judges, Brian Baumgartner from The Office, and said, "Hey Office, eyes up here." Baumgartner is not at all the quasi-simple mouthbreather he plays on that show, and he advised that he didn't like being singled out. Now if the comic had said, "Thanks for telling me, I'll remember that in my future performances," I think he might have gotten a shot at the showcase. Instead he asked if Baumgartner was uncomfortable, in a tone which--accurately or not--came off as condescending. He went home empty handed.

But hopefully somewhat the wiser. Better luck next year.

As for who I'm rooting for, I've liked Jackie Kashian for a while. If she's not the funniest straight woman in America, she's in the running.

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