I suppose I got my wish. Ten comics performed, zero judges interrupted, no yellow weirdos from Despicable Me showed up. Yet, again, the rebooted show felt like some parts failed to load properly. For starters, nobody looks good when in extreme close-up with a number below them, host Craig Robinson repeating the call-in information in the exact same tone of voice and wording each time. And for a host, Craig Robinson sure did very little. Even the Ent-like Bill Bellamy got a few jokes in each episode. But there's not much to complain about, because, for the first time, straight up stand-up comedy was the focus of an entire hour.
But given all the previous weeks' squandering of the talent, I didn't feel particularly connected to any of the comics except for Myq Kaplan and James Adomian, who I've met before. It's nice to see hints of the comedians' real personalities, and most have used the little non-stage time they've had to do bits. I don't need to know, like, the defining moment they had in kindergarten, but it still feels like most of the contestants plopped out of nowhere and are now being used for our entertainment. As much as I disliked watching the comics hang out in a graveyard, as they did that one time in an old season, at least it gave me a sense of who those people were. It's a delicate balance, what with me clamoring for more stand-up and producers desperate to find a star "America" can relate to. I think that balance is achievable, but for now Last Comic Standing feels, for lack of a better word, disposable.
That's to say nothing of the comics themselves. I gotta say, other than one or two glaring omissions who didn't make it past the semi-finals, I think the roster is solid. If the opportunity for money and exposure is the same for these guys as it always has in the past, then by golly, I suppose it's time to let the show be.
On to the sets themselves, which fell into one of two categories: those still getting comfortable with performing on a stilted reality show, and those who were more comfortable with performing on a stilted reality show. Laurie Kilmartin and Roy Wood Jr. rushed through many of their jokes, which hurt Laurie because she relies on pauses and "amiright?" moments with the audience, and hurt Roy because, well, his jokes didn't really have punchlines. He'd throw in one unexpected quip, like about how an angry sports fan thought his Izod shirt was a Florida Gators one, and just when I thought he was about to get to the real meat of the premise, he was done. Coupled with nervous energy and it wasn't my favorite set he's done.
Felipe Esparza and Maronzio Vance are both guys I like—they have such an odd perspective on mundane things—and seemed fairly comfortable on TV except for the length of their sets. Both cut short, I imagine because they got the "light" and weren't really done yet. Felipe was just getting to some fun stuff about border checking in Mexico, and Maronzio was in the middle of an extended super hero bit just begging for that grand button ending. Then…plop, it was over. Rachel Feinstein fell into this category, mostly because I really warmed up to her tonight. She stuck with her "rapper mom" thing to fruition, and I was all set for her to do the same with her well-acted grandma bit when she had to hurry the ending. Ah well, noble effort.
The rest of the comics succeeded in showcasing an accurate rendition of what it is they bring to the table. I still don't really get Jonathan Thymius, whose anti-comedy antics had him confusing his life with The Brady Bunch and doing a juggling act by asking if anyone has juggling balls. With that kind of act, you have to be either very focused on one kind of thing (aka, Neil Hamburger) or truly all over the place so it becomes a wild ride. He's still sort of in between. Mike DeStefano is certainly comfortable going on about chubby white girls and why he so desperately wants to be black, but I don't feel like his persona has deepened more than, "I'm this brassy guy who says things you wouldn't believe!" (He was subject to the worst cutaway gag of all time, though: He mentioned chubby white girls and the camera cut to a very slender girl. That, my friends, is how people develop eating disorders.)
Tommy Johnagin, Myq Kaplan, and James Adomian were the stand-outs. Johnagin kicked things off with the strongest line of the night (his mom called him and said, "How long does cocaine stay in your hair?"), then proceeded to poke fun at his senile-ish grandparents and ugly strippers—one asked what she should take off next, to which Johnagin replied, "My glasses." Myq Kaplan started with his familiar, "Let's have another round of applause…when I'm done," but quickly delved into unfamiliar ground (for Last Comic Standing at least) about his affinity for tests and veganism. It was polished and comfortably delivered, a good way to end the night. James Adomian was the most memorable of the night with his takedown of Aesop's fables and killer Paul Giamatti impression, though the latter part went on a little too long. I'm fine with impressions as long as the impression itself isn't the entire joke, and Adomian pulled that off well. But we all got it quickly—Giamatti as John Adams cribbing from his other movies—and I didn't need as many tags at the end as he provided.
Memorable, though, is a huge step up. And the more people who are sadly eliminated, the more time the comics will get. At the end we'll know one person really well. It'll be like he or she performed at a bajillion Medieval Times'.