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Last Comic Standing – Questions, Accusations, and Answersby Mike DeGeorge -- 06/24/2003
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Ever since Last Comic Standing started two weeks ago, there have been questions and accusations flying. “This isn’t about finding undiscovered talent!” “This guy worked on another show with one of the judges!” “There’s something fishy going on, isn’t there?” I’ve spoken to a number of people, including a couple of professional comedians, a Hollywood writer with experience working on television shows, a few reality show veterans, and even someone associated with LCS. I believe I’ve compiled enough information to answer these questions.
“This isn’t about finding undiscovered talent!” Yeah, well, duh. Dale discussed this in last week’s article, but it deserves repeating: they never SAID this was about finding undiscovered talent. This show is about finding the funniest person in America. If you’re going to disqualify people because they’ve worked on a syndicated radio show, you’re going to get the equivalent of an open-mike night. Also keep in mind that the first two episodes were all the winners from the many regional finals held around the country. It’s only natural that a great number of these winners would be comics with lots of experience.
On the other hand, one could argue that this show IS about finding undiscovered comics! I believe that the comic in the house who has the most experience would be Dave Mordal. Who had heard of him before he appeared on the show? I’d be willing to bet that a very small percentage of the audience had, and those who had heard of them said something like, “Oh, I’m SO glad he’s finally getting a shot!”
Let’s go further: who had heard of George Lopez before his sitcom started two years ago? Listeners of the Bob & Tom radio show had, as he was a regular guest. But the general reaction is that he was an “unknown.” Let’s go one better: did anyone really know who Conan O’Brien was before his NBC show started? Sure, some people knew he was a writer and producer for The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live. But he was an unknown. Tim Allen? Drew Carey? Jerry Seinfeld? All relative unknowns before their big breaks.
The goal of Last Comic Standing, as I understand it, is to find the next Tim Allen, Drew Carey, or Jerry Seinfeld. They’re just doing it on a much larger stage, so that the winning comedian will be very well known to the American viewing public before the new sitcom is announced.
“This guy worked on another show with one of the judges!” This one mostly relates to Ralphie May being an associate producer for Mohr Sports, an ESPN show hosted and executive produced by LCS host and executive producer Jay Mohr. First of all, Mohr has said in the show and in numerous interviews that he has no say in choosing the winner in any stage of the show. So even if Ralphie and Jay were friends before the show, it would mean nothing in the grand scheme of things.
I will agree that it sounds fishy, and I think it’s a shame that if Ralphie wins this competition many will feel his victory would be tarnished by the prior association. But stop for just a second and remember Ralphie’s two performances, his two absolutely hilarious sets and the two standing ovations he received from two separate audiences. Even if there were any fishy antics that got him into the competition (and I quite honestly don’t think there were), it’s very obvious that he deserved to be there and furthermore deserves to be in the house as one of the final ten.
What most people don’t understand is that the comedy business is very very close. One industry professional I spoke to said, “most of the finalists on the show are probably people who have been in the business for years and either personally know, or are one degree of separation from, most of the judges.” So, yes, Ralphie may have known Jay Mohr. Rich Vos may have worked with Colin Quinn, one of the talent scouts. I’d bet the farm that at least 80% of the comedians from the first and second episodes had some sort of background with one of the judges, the host, or a producer. In the immortal words of Bill Murray in Meatballs, “IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!”
There’s something fishy going on, isn’t there? In a word, no. Should the producers of Last Comic Standing have alerted viewers of any potential shenanigans? No, I don’t think so, because there is nothing to talk about. No matter what the reality show, viewers are going to come up with their own conspiracy theories. Why encourage them by bringing it up? The producers have been quiet about the specifics of the judging process thus far, and I give NBC and their legal team the benefit of the doubt in this case. Look at it this way: why would NBC risk such a scandal? It doesn’t add up.
Mike DeGeorge is always glad when he has a chance to quote Bill Murray. You can email Mike at email@example.com.
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