Why certain comics didn't make it through: Things you never knew about Last Comic Standing.
Dan Naturman. That’s a name you will hearing more and more in the future. On Last Comic Standing this week, he was unceremoniously refused a place “in the house” or on the weekly television series. And in doing so, the producers earned him enough respect from professional comedians and fans that he will have a great future.
Not bad for a guy who walked off angry.
Why will the guy who was booted have a brighter career than the folks who continued on LCS? If you don’t already know the answer, let me explain. This wasn’t exactly a level playing field, and none of it matters in the long run. If you haven’t watched the program, a recap at the bottom of this page will bring you up to speed.
Some Comics Had Preferential Tryouts
If you saw analysis of season two contestant’s interviews, you read the January local auditions were completed in two groups. The first wave of tryouts included comics with agents who had appointments, and everyone else who had to stand in line. Wouldn’t it be great to know which of the final 40 comics were part of the “represented” appointment auditions? Especially in the cities where only one or two comedians made it through, I would sure like to know if those winners stood in line in the 3 degree Chicago cold or Boston rain.
If Barry Katz Represents You, You’ll Get into the House
We learned from Drew Carey and Brett Butler about Last Comic Standing’s executive producer, Barry Katz. Katz is what Hollywood calls a hyphenate, or someone who has a dual role on a TV show, like a producer/director.
In this case, Katz is a hyphenate because he is the show’s executive producer and he is also the agent of two of the contestants, Gary Gulman (a tall Jewish guy who the audience believes earned a place on the continuing show) and Ant (a gay man who the audience doesn’t like). Both of these men made it through the tryouts to cast cuts in New York and Las Vegas onto the weekly TV series.
Ant was on the show last year but didn’t make it to the house. After connecting with executive producer (and I mean that figuratively, not sexually), Ant made it to the house for year two. Coincidence? Is there ever a real coincidence? The answer to one of those questions is no.
The Jim Norton Mysteries
We are perplexed by the Jim Norton story. Norton, a regular on Colin Quinn’s Rough Crowd show on Comedy Central, made it through to Las Vegas. Since Quinn was a “celebrity judge” in New York and Norton was one of the twenty selected to go to Las Vegas, many people wondered if there was a conflict of interest. It didn’t matter. Although the previews seemed to place Norton in Las Vegas just before the finals, this week the show’s voiceover announcer said Norton had a “scheduling conflict.” During the episode, producers tried to create drama by showing LCS production assistants attempting to get a replacement, Jim Wiggins, from the Midwest to Las Vegas in time for the comedy contest that evening.
Norton was shown offstage in the New York episode. Several times, he badmouthed the other contestants, not with humor but with hostility. He had been building a negative rapport with the audience. Leaving the show was a good career move.
Do We Care if the Selections were Unfair?
Rule one of 21st century reality television? The only rules are in the producer’s heads. From the dramatic voting structure change in American Idol, to removing audience participation in Big Brother 2, audiences know things don’t have to be fair, consistent, or reliable. Even The Bachelor broke the rules when Jesse chose 16 women the first night instead of 15. The F.C.C. only chooses to regulate quiz shows. Anything else is fair game.
When Stacy Stillman claimed Mark Burnett engineered her “ouster” from Survivor and detailed which contests were fixed, it didn’t stop people from watching Survivor. When Jasmine Trias kept slipping through, week after week on American Idol, anyone who stopped watching came back for the finale.
The truth is, television is comedy starved. With no one watching network reruns, it is hard for TV companies to afford multimillion dollar per episode pricetags for the actors, writers and directors of quality comedy.
The Last Comic Standing is a great show. It’s a contest. It is new jokes we haven’t heard before (mostly). It is people in a contrived situation, people without people skills who are forced to interact, who react to their personal anger, happiness, and frustration with humor.
Yep, we are ticked off that Ant (and maybe Kathleen Madigan) made it into the house instead of the Dans (Naturman and Ahdoot) or DC Benny or Jim Wiggins. We would love to watch those folks all summer. But we can’t.
Why it Won’t Make a Difference for Dan Naturman
If you read the articles from March, then ones where Drew Carey is pissed, you will see that even after the producers read the lame disclaimer to him in front of the rolling TV cameras, Drew Carey still felt the program was unfair. We know this because his publicist continued to repeat Drew’s statements to news reporters days after the Las Vegas competition ended.
Who is Drew Carey anyway? Just a few years ago, Carey purportedly had the highest TVQ in television—he was the most popular guy on the small screen. He has power. People want to watch him. He has enough power to successfully pitch and then produce his own TV shows. The first one was Whose Line is it Anyway—the ABC version not the BBC edition. Now he has a new show on the WB called “Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show.” There is a link to get tickets below.
People are aware of Dan Naturman and want him to succeed now. He was the center of the controversy and everyone was watching HIM. Thinking HE is funny. Knowing HE was an underdog. Caring about HIS future. Wanting to see more of HIM.
Is one of those people Drew Carey? We will soon see if Dan Naturman, after he is off contract with NBC (those contracts usually go a year after the person’s last performance), becomes part of Carey’s comedic entourage along with Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops and the gang.
And any publicity is good publicity. For Jim Wiggins. For Dan Ahdoot. They were all unknown before they tried out for the show. Now each of these guys has an audience. And last but not least, this is reality TV. The object is to create a TV show that people watch—the object never had been to create a fair contest. Fair just isn’t interesting and television is now and will continue to be about ratings. Ethics be damned!
“I swear my roaches have military training. I set off a roach bomb, they defused it.” -- Jay London
For those who don’t watch, a recap of Last Comic Standing to date:
1) Season one was just plain funny. Comics selected as the ten finalists had to be new faces. The top ten moved to a house together for several weeks, challenging each other to become the one proclaimed as the funniest. Each week after a comedy challenge, one person left the show.
Several folks on the show were hysterically funny, most acutely Rich Voss, Dave Mordal, and Ralphie May. A new comedian named Dat Phan won and hasn’t been heard from since. Rich and Dave’s banter, practical jokes, and internal vote manipulation (the contestants vote which comic needs to be challenged each week) made the series continually funny and an unexpected hit. I also liked Cory Kahaney and Tess. Ralphie May’s final performance was one of the best things I had ever seen since Dick Shawn on the Tonight Show.
2) The “buzz” for season two was strong and viewers anxiously waited season two.
3) Season two began with open call auditions in January in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Nashville, Chicago, Boston, Tampa, and New York City. Comics slept on the street the night before and lined up for blocks to do a few jokes in front of Tonight Show comedy executives Bob Read and Ross Mark. In Los Angeles and New York, about 12 comics were chosen to continue to New York City to do three minute performances. A maximum of three comics were chosen to continue in the other cities—one or three out of hundreds who tried out. The winners won bus rides to New York.
4) In New York City, 40 comics performed and 20 were chosen to go on to the next venue in this comedy scavenger hunt.
5) In Las Vegas during March, the 20 semi-finalists performed. Three celebrity judges voted for their favorites. The judges were Drew Carey, Brett Butler (the comic not the ball player), and Anthony Clark. One comic who made it through to Las Vegas, Jim Norton, didn’t appear on the stage. He was replaced by an older comedian, Jim Wiggins, who is very funny. Drew Carey and Brett Butler stormed through the Paris Las Vegas Hotel ranting about the voting. The celebrities all voted for Dan Naturman, who was one of maybe three comics of the 20 who had a standing ovation from the audience. Producers didn’t select Naturman for the finals.
List of the ten finalists season two:
John Heffron Todd Glass Gary Gulman Alonzo Bodden
Corey Holcomb Kathleen Madigan Bonnie McFarlane Ant
Jay London Tammy Pescatelli
List of the season two semi-finalists who did not make it “into the house”
Dan Naturman, Jim Wiggins in for Jim Norton Monty Hoffman
Kerri Louise Dan Ahdoot DC Benny Sue Costello
Marina Franklin Jessica Kirson Tim Young.
The list of the ten finalists season one:
Cory Kahaney, Dave Mordal, Dat Phan, Ralphie May
Geoff Brown Rich Vos Rob Cantrell Tere Joyce
Sean Kent Tess Drake
Drew Carey’s comments on the judging
Other stories about the judging controversy
Tammy Pescatelli http://www.starbeacon.com/index.asp?MC=NEWS&NID=1&AID=4700
Story about the San Francisco auditions
Dave Mordal’s show recaps
Tickets for Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show
Review of the show
Kerri Louise’s agent’s ad
Dan Naturman http://www.dannaturman.com/
Jay London’s resume http://www.jaylondon.com/