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Last Comic Standing: Confessions of a “Cha-Cha-Cha” Fanby Dale Sherman -- 07/08/2003
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Dale: My name is Dale, and I want to say... let me take a breath here… OK… I just want to say that Tere Joyce is funny.
Readers: Hi, Dale!
OK, I’m not expecting this column to spark off some type of comedic AA meeting where everyone goes around admitting that they liked Tere, but I do feel that it has to be said. Since the show started a month ago, there has been an unusual amount of dumping on Tere by some viewers (and some Internet reviewers who shall remain nameless). So much so that it is obvious some viewers have let their immediate dislike cloud their judgment on Tere’s talent and on some merits of the show itself.
It all started when people saw 30 seconds of Tere’s routine in the first episode and immediately decided to make her the scapegoat of the program (even more so than Sean). Although she had good material in that 30 seconds – the auditions for the woman with the hole in her throat were classic - because she was animated and said “cha-cha-cha” twice, she suddenly became evil incarnate for some viewers. There was no turning back after that: it didn’t matter that her act was funny, or that she did well in the challenge in Episode Five (and more on this in a moment) - she could not win against the mindset of some viewers.
“Oh, she has wacky hair and says ‘cha-cha-cha’ and we’re supposed to laugh,” seems to be the general attitude of those that resented her being on the show. In doing so, they ignored the fact she built the jokes around her character and that the jokes paid off. If the whole point of the act were just the hair, Tere would not have lasted as a professional stand-up for as many years as she has. To suggest that was the case, one might as well say, “Well, Cory’s whole act is her daughter,” or, “Ralphie just makes fat jokes.” Yes, they use elements of that in their performances, but that is not the thrust of their entire act, and to suggest that Tere’s act is just “cha-cha-cha” or the hair means that people are refusing to listen to her material.
And the material is funny. Even the Statue of Liberty joke in Episode Three – a swerve on the old “Supercuts” joke – worked because Tere managed to pull off the imitation well enough to cap it off. If she had not been able to look like the Statue of Liberty, the joke would have fallen flat. Further proof is the whole “I’m allowed to make mistakes” gag (which was seen in Episode Three and expanded upon in Episode Five). It works because she uses her character to go beyond the simply humorous take on having a breakdown on stage and move it into an abstract zone where it became hilarious (repeating slogans and medicine directions, which had nothing to do with the mantra she was repeating to herself). Even the “cha-cha-cha” thing works because it is recurring self-reference to earlier parts of her act and keeps the laughter of the audience going while bridging material. It is obvious that there is a more to Tere’s performance than what many expected, but people seem to be fixated on what they want to expect instead of what they’re actually seeing and hearing.
The oddest complaints center on seeing Tere cry in Episode Five. The first time occurred when she was alone in the bedroom and being spied on by the hidden camera; the second, when the crew came out to see her as she sat outside (apparently) alone. Each time, she was by herself and had the camera jump on her because the producers knew a dramatic moment when they saw one. And what does Tere get back from the viewers that didn’t like her? “Oh, she’s doing that on purpose,” or, “She can’t handle this.” Which is pure garbage. She got upset over something that happened in a fight and suddenly she’s the bad guy because she wants to take a moment to compose herself? If it had happened onstage or she had done it consistently in every episode, that would have been one thing; but this was offstage and by herself, so where is she wrong? Why is she a horrible person for doing something that most people (including other people in the profession) do at times? Sometimes people just need a moment to pull themselves together, and to think performers don’t have moments where they act like normal human beings is simply foolish.
Of course, people jump on the fact that then she got into an argument with Dat over the fight with Cory. However, that appears to be a case of Tere transferring her emotions over Cory to Dat. After all, Tere appeared to be calming down and wanting to unload some of her thoughts to Dat in order to get her thoughts in order. Instead, Dat tries to push Tere into confiding all of her thoughts to Cory – which, ultimately, Tere did do later in the show – at a time where she wasn’t ready to do so. So she lashed out at Dat. Was it wrong? No doubt Tere looks at it now and thinks it probably was not the best thing to do. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean she is a horrible person for disagreeing with Dat on how to handle the situation when she is not thinking clearly.
Oddly enough, while some viewers continued to hold a grudge against Tere, a few people crossed over into her camp after seeing her in the challenge. In fact, there were some concerns about the whole 80/20 split on the voting. As we mentioned last week, if anyone seemed off during the challenge, it was Cory. Cory was fine, but she didn’t seem to be in proper form that night, as she had problems really getting a rhythm going during her part of the challenge; meanwhile, Tere surprised many people by showing that she was funny and did have a good act. Because of this, when the voting was announced, many found it rather odd. Expectations seemed to be that the split would be more balanced after what home-viewers saw.
And thus, another great conspiracy theory begins. Some have suggested that the voting was rigged in favor of Cory. Others have suggested that the show’s editors sabotaged Cory’s act in order to make her look bad so that Tere would not come off so badly. Of course, the second conspiracy is a fallacy – why make anyone look bad, and why Cory in particular? She seems to be a favorite for the cameras, and has done a lot on the show so far, so why would she be seen as being someone to cut the legs out from under in the editing? Especially when she was up against someone who she beat?
As to the voting, it probably comes down to two things: format and expectations. Although many agree that Tere’s act was good, her material was of a different nature than Cory’s. Cory’s act was strictly standard “sitcom-laced” fare – i.e., “my husband is a sports nut,” “my daughter’s wacky music and slang.” That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good, but it was something that the audience could recognize immediately, while Tere’s material needed to build a bit and may not have connected to the audience quite as readily as Cory’s act. More so, people who did not like Tere from watching the series were expecting a repeat of Dave’s thunderous win over Sean from the previous week. In other words, they expected Cory’s act to blow Tere out of the water. That didn’t happen, and because of that, the expectations of the viewers were that the voting would be more balanced. Yet the audience there at the show didn’t have all that knowledge beforehand to think about before voting. They went with the material that they recognized and could relate to more than the off-center material that Tere was doing. So, although 80/20 does seem a bit lopsided, it is not completely off-based either.
In consideration of the roller-coaster ride her emotions went on, however, Tere was very impressive in her “Comedy Warehouse” challenge against Cory. Here was a person who had gotten torn down emotionally by Cory and then had five members of the house tell her out of the blue that they thought they were funnier than her (and, in the case of Rob, may not have been exactly happy with making that decision). After all that, Tere reacted the way many professionals do at times – she began to doubt her abilities. As she said herself, years in the business were torn away from her at that moment because the majority of the people in the house didn’t think she was funny.
Yet she turned that around. She not only reconciled her feelings with Cory and Dat (before and after the challenge), but also managed to pull off a great set for the crowd. Thus, coming back from what she saw as a huge personal and professional blow, Tere did an incredible job with her final appearance on Last Comic Standing. She may not have won the challenge with that particular audience that night, but she won the challenge within herself to perform on the utmost professional level when called to the stage. And for that, Tere proved herself to be not only funny, but also a true professional.
And no one can take that away from her. Not even the few who continue to gripe about her on the Internet.
You can e-mail Dale about this column or his other projects at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can alsoclick here to buy his book, The Urban Legends of Rock and Roll: You Never Can Tell, or any of his other books.
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