Last Comic Standing Tour – The Hanover Theater (Worchester, MA), 9/27/14

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I am not a huge fan of reality television; I’ve tried out the odd show here and there in the past, but I generally abandon such programs after a few seasons once they become formulaic or the people on the show just become unbearable. American Idol, Survivor, Real Housewives of New Jersey, Real World, Project Runway, Top Chef, Big Brother, The Voice, The Apprentice, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, The Amazing Race – at some point I’ve watched all these shows. I’m not saying that I’m above questionable TV choices, but I’m pretty proud that I’ve never seen an episode of The Bachelor or any of its spinoff programming. Reality TV to me really seems like programming that is meant to be consumed with other people so that you can comment on and ridicule what you are watching; my former roommate Chris and I were known to get pretty snarky while watching Joe Millionaire back in the day. But with so many other pop culture items on my plate, reality TV just doesn’t make a ton of sense for my schedule – I don’t enjoy it and I’ve got too many other things to do to waste my time on stuff that I’m not interested in.

But summer time can be a boring time for TV and a junkie needs her fix, so when I heard that NBC was bringing back Last Comic Standing my interest was piqued. I had never watched the earlier seasons of the show, but after the fact I found out that a lot of comedians that I enjoy had appeared on the show in its previous incarnations. I’d never heard of any of the past winners, which was suspect, but I do love stand-up comedy and am always looking for new comics to follow. The fact that they were hyping a reformatting of the show was also intriguing, as was the fact that the panel of judges would include Roseanne. She’s a very funny lady – her sitcom totally stands up nearly twenty years later – but she’s also a bit of a loose cannon. She seemed like a good fit for a reality show; even if the comics were less than stellar, the possibility that she’d do something interesting was there. I figured I’d give the show a few episodes to see how it was and I could bail if it was boring or if the comedians weren’t my cup of tea. My expectations were pretty low and my investment was pretty minimal. Had the show been on almost any other time of year, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance.

I wound up really enjoying the show and discovering some great comic that I probably wouldn’t have heard from before. I started following a number of them on Twitter so that I could keep up with their tour dates and fortunately the comics that I liked the most wound up going pretty far in the competition. This worked out well for me, not only because I got to spend more time with them on the show, but because it was announced that the top five finalists would go out on tour together once the series was completed. This made things ridiculously easy for me – now I would only have to go to one show to see all of the comics that I enjoyed. If the tour had come to Albany, that would have made things even easier, but I don’t mind a good road trip so I snatched up tickets for the Last Comic Standing tour when it rolled into Worcester, Massachusetts. After a very long week at work, I hoped in the car and was ready to laugh. Three of the five finalists were my favorites on the show and I was curious whether they would be able to deliver while out on the road.

I had planned enough time for dinner at a brew pub in Worcester before the show, but an inexplicable traffic jam on the Mass Pike ate up a lot of time and the place look crowded so I decided to throw the car in the parking garage and find other dining alternatives closer to the theater. Surely there would be some other options, even if they were less the sit down dinner variety and more the grab a quick bite variety. As I drove around Worcester, I passed multiple police cars and a guy in handcuffs. This was my first clue that I probably should have investigated the city more before this trip. Once I parked the car I discovered downtown Worcester was pretty much a ghost town; pretty much nothing was open and there were no restaurants to be found within several blocks of the venue. Even the CVS was closed. It was looking pretty bleak, but I found a pizza place that had limited options; it was a steak and cheese pizza or bust. Mental note – next time, stop in another city for dinner.

Thankfully, the Hanover Theater was much nicer than the surrounding area and they had snacks available for purchase. A black and white cookie did a lot to make up for the subpar dinner and I was back in the mood to have a good time. The theater reminded me of some of the beautiful old theaters that we have in Albany. I was curious as to the order of the performers that evening; I assumed that Rod Man, the winner of the season, would be the “headliner” but I wasn’t sure if the other comedians would appear in the order in which they had been eliminated from the show or not. My hope was that the comedians would do mostly new material rather than rehash the sets that they used during the competition.

Lachlan Patterson kicked the evening off, which meant that the comics were not going in the order that the left the show as Lachlan was one of the final three. He was definitely one of my favorites during the season and I was pleased that he did what appeared to be all new material. He hit on a lot of topics that he’d never covered before; I wasn’t expecting him to make jokes about microwaves and the George Foreman Grill that were as funny as they were. Those aren’t necessarily cutting edge or modern topics, but a well-crafted joke is a well-crafted joke and his jokes all really worked for me. Plus he’s right – that George Foreman Grill really should have an on-off button. So simple, yet so very funny.

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Lachlan would be the only comic that did completely new material; the remaining four comics to varying all recycled material from the show. This was disappointing, though not all together unexpected. The comics that made it deep in the competition had to burn through a lot of material over the course of the season, especially if they had to participate in head-to-head battles to avoid elimination. Since these are not particularly well-known comics, they may have felt the need to rely on material that audiences would be familiar with as well. But I assume that most of the people in the audience were also fans of the show, so it would have be nice to reward the crowd with jokes that they had not already heard. It wasn’t a complete deal breaker for me, but when you are spoiled by comedians like Louis CK and Seinfeld that do a new hour every time they go out on tour, it’s kind of a bummer that these comics trying to prove themselves couldn’t even do 20 new minutes. If anything, this only managed to make me more impressed with Lachlan.

Even though they relied on old material, the remaining four comedians were still funny. Joe Machi was just as delightfully awkward and weird as I hoped, though he didn’t call the audience “gang” or “team.” I was actually more upset about that than hearing the same joke. If anything, he was even more awkward than on TV, which made me wonder if the show had edited some of his sets down. He was still solidly funny, though I don’t know that the audience 100% got him, which was odd since they should have known his delivery style. I think people just didn’t know the right reaction.

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Rocky Laporte got a much bigger reaction from the crowd than I would have anticipated. Of the five, I think he used the most material that we were already familiar with, but since he had been off the show the longest it wasn’t as fresh in our minds. His delivery also seemed improved from when he was on the show; a lot of his jokes have to do with him not being all that bright and he’s learned the right tempo for those jokes to have the most impact. He didn’t impress me all that much on the show, so his set was a pleasant surprise.

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Nikki Carr was the most uneven of the five in my opinion; she got some of the biggest laughs of the night but I also thought that she got sidetracked and rambled a bit. I had the same inclinations about her when she was on the show, but it was magnified seeing her live. Definitely had some funny stuff, but the force of her personality occasionally gets in her way. Her material was definitely the edgiest of the bunch as it focused a lot on sex, which wasn’t a problem for me but was more of a surprise. Watching someone on a network show and then seeing them in person, you become very aware of the limitations of their comedy on the former. I think some people in the audience were not prepared for her material; it wasn’t really vulgar and I’ve definitely heard much racier and filthy stuff, but I go to a lot of comedy shows.

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As expected, Rod Man ended the evening as the season eight champion. To the victor go the spoils. I’d say about half of his material had been used during the run of Last Comic Standing, but I’ll be damned if his delivery isn’t so interesting and unique that I couldn’t help but laugh even when I knew the punch line that was coming. Though I liked Joe Machi and Lachlan Patterson more personally, I couldn’t argue at all with Rod Man winning the competition. He was easily the most consistent of the performers and of all the comedians he was the one that I could see most easily being dropped into an NBC sitcom, one of the potential perks of winning. He really does have a unique stand-up style and I look forward to hearing more from him in the future. I don’t know if he’ll ever crack the upper echelons of comedy, but I think he’ll do well for himself down the road.

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I didn’t stick around long after the show, but at least some of the comics made an appearance at the merchandise table and posed for photos with fan; Nikki Carr was out there as I filed passed, but since I had a two hour drive back it didn’t seem wise to delay my departure. Besides, I find meet and greets to be a weird experience; I don’t have much to say and I’m convinced that most performers don’t really care – not necessarily out of apathy, but out of the tedium of hearing the same comments and questions over and over. The good ones don’t show it, but I guarantee the majority of people who are meeting and greeting fans find it pretty tedious. That is why there will never be an As Heather’s World Turns meet and greet – not that anyone is demanding such a thing. 🙂

The Last Comic Standing Tour certainly didn’t crack my top stand-up comedy experiences, but I really didn’t expect it to; though most of the performers have been working stand-up comedians for a while, they have never been on as large a stage and there is bound to be a learning curve. A better mix of old and new material would have made the evening better, but despite my familiarity with a lot of the bits it was still a solid night of comedy. I’ll be interested to see where the performers on the tour go from here and I wouldn’t rule out seeing any of them again sometime in the future. And I’ll almost certainly be checking out the new season of Last Comic Standing when it debuts. Roseanne wasn’t nearly as wacky as I hoped this season, but she’s bound to crack eventually.

The Last Comic Standing tour runs through November; the 9th season of Last Comic Standing will debut in the summer of 2015.

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