What a surprise. I wanted Tommy Johnagin, Myq Kaplan or Roy Wood Jr. to win. I expected Mike DeStefano to take the title. But Felipe Esparza? Huh?
I suppose in hindsight it's not a total shock. Felipe had a very distinct personality and style of joke telling. He was your weird friend who gets a kick out of making you, and himself, laugh. He's a schlub you can feel bad for, and an underdog you can root for when things go well. Even when jokes didn't hit, he'd stand back and smile, patting his belly. How can you hate this guy? He's just so earnest in his aim to please.
Felipe is not a bad comedian. He's decent, but I don't think he's great—at least by competition standards. I didn't see him take many risks. Over the course of however many weeks, Myq Kaplan delved into social commentary, Roy Wood Jr. fully embraced his silly side, and Tommy Johnagin switched his material from rapid-fire zinger to free form storyteller. Felipe stuck with what worked the entire time: gentle self-effacing oddness. Shaggy, too, in more ways than one. If anything, Felipe started running out of his A-material near the end, requiring some jokes that ended prematurely.
But he won because he was so easy to figure out. There's no deep mystery to Felipe Esparza's comedy, no long "journey" you need to take with him. His jokes didn't require much investment. (He seemed like such a nice guy too, right?)
I do have faith, though. Last night's two hour long finale included a performance by Iliza Shlesinger, last year's winner. She's a similar comic to Felipe, in that she comes out of the gate with a very easily definable point of view, and audiences can figure it out immediately. And you know, I really liked her set this time around because of how pointed and confident she was with her punchlines. It started as a simple "here's the thing about men vs. women" type of set, but got way more specific about short girls in heels, and how there are entire spices they don't know about. "Ask them what paprika is," she said, a bizarre take on what could have been a hacky topic, delivered in such a way that she just knew the audience would get on board. It sounds weird to say that Felipe Esparza isn't ready to be the Last Comic Standing, but he will be if given enough time.
As for last night, though, there was a brief moment where I thought Tommy Johnagin had won the whole thing, and I was bummed to see America vote, I guess in hindsight, more predictably. There was also an odd moment where Andy Kindler destroyed, followed by Tom Papa proving as always why he deserves the title of "America's Punching Bag." (He's like the Mike DeStefano of "relationship comedy," only less subtle.) Gloria Gaynor sang with Craig Robinson, Kathy Griffin finally took apart Lindsay Lohan, and Kurt Metzger made a very welcome appearance. Oh, and DeStefano told everyone who didn't vote for him to fuck themselves, and Andy Kindler was so shocked he leaned forward, mouth agape.
And yet, somehow, America moves on. I'm not quite sure how many people followed this season of Last Comic Standing, but it wasn't a lot. We didn't get to know the comedians until it was far too late to really invest, and this hurt the show's cachet. Though at the very least, it exposed some more under-the-radar comics to a larger audience even for a few fleeting moments. And if its mere existence is enough to garner more fans for stand-up comedy in general, dayenu.