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Who is the funniest person in America? Is it a seasoned professional or a person with just a funny story to tell? Find out as Jay Mohr invites some of the funniest people to take the stage in competition for a contract with NBC and a special on Comedy Central.

Recaps by Gordon Pepper, GSNN


FACT FILE:
Host:
Jay Mohr
Scouts: Bob Read and Ross Mark
EP: Peter Engel, Barry Katz, Jay Mohr, Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz
Packager: Peter Engel Productions, Giraffe Productions, NBC Studios
Airs: Tuesdays at 9:00pm ET on NBC


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Episode 2.1 - June 8

This show has had so many questions to it long before the show actually has aired. Last year's winner, Dat Phan, has had virtually no press whatsoever (except performing at business parties in the corporate world) while contenders Ralphie May, Rich Vos and Corey Kahaney and Dave Mordal have toured the country and have gotten strong fan bases. Will we actually see a comedian (vs. a likeable person who doesn't come close in terms of comedic talent) win this edition?

Then there's this - comedians Drew Carey and Brett Butler have accused NBC of using nepotism to get the comedians that they wanted into the final house - instead of the ones who they and the audience thought were funny. That specific episode will be airing later on this season - and we can be our own judge there.

So just from the press alone, this looks to be a fascinating season. Let's see if this happens to be a GOOD one...

We start with Dat Phan, who says that he's been touring around the country - which he has been (for the corporate world). We see some segments as he says that he has done work for The West Wing, and shooting the movie "Cellular" with Kim Basinger - which isn't bad considering that we really haven't seen him for the past year.

Jay reminds us what's as stake - a developmental contract with NBC, a special on Comedy Central, and the ability to "walk through doors only reserved for the truly talented... and Paris Hilton."

Bob Read and Ross Mark, the nepotism...I mean talent scouts, are the people who determine who gets on the Jay Leno show. They also determine which 40 comics get past the first episode, where we do the traditional American Idol-esque funny and not funny route.

Starting us off is Las Angeles, where you would expect to find a lot of comics. You would also expect to find a lot of bad ones, which include Nick Dao, 'The Vietnamese Cowboy.' If we get yet another Dat Phan, I'm going to scream. Fortunately, we don't. "Nick, I hope you don't take this the wrong way - you were so bad, you were funny."

Bob and Ross tell people that the auditioners have to be ready - and sure enough, we get a montage of people reading notes and being... well... awful. Buck Star talks about puberty, and promptly gets booted. Joe Hursley has been sleeping in his van - and inexplicably, the first comedian who gets a callback is incredibly unfunny. This isn't looking too good...

...until Monty Hoffman shows up. "I came to do interpretive dancing - am I at the wrong audition?... Last time I was in front of this many people, I was found guilty." He gets a callback and he was pretty good.

Bob and Ross say that this time around, the bar has been raised because there are many 'A' list comedians that they have booked that will also be in this year's competition. Gee, I wonder how THAT happened? One of those people, Todd Glass, talks about a vibrating horse for his niece. He's decidedly unfunny, but Bob and Ross want him back and I am getting a very sick feeling about this show already only 8 minutes in...

Kathleen Madigan, who talks about Suzy Colbert (and who is also not very funny) gets in, but Joe and JR get stopped when the ventriloquist moves his mouth while the dummy is talking. Well, I am glad that there is some sort of line between having everyone come back for a callback...

Trianna Gamaza is a stripper - and she talks about porn. The judges don't know if she's funny, but they invite her down. Sigh. Then there's ANT, who was on the show last year and who was decisively awful. He starts his shtick and he is awful again, ad the judges decide to let him back in anyway. This is simply not a good start and it's real easy to understand why the 'A' level talent were invited... I mean decided to enter the competition.

With that being said, we go to the callback stage, where the comedians have to perform in front of a live audience. We start with ANT, who calls himself the Susan Lucci of Last Comic standing. He uses the EXACT same sketch that he used last year ("I can put a lisp in the word cracker..." if you want to see exactly what he did, go to LCS season one) and look at it and he was just as awful now as he was then. How are you saying that you are raising the bar when you are profiling someone who didn't even get into the house last year?

There were some good comedians - Bonnie McFarlane had a good cop joke, and Todd Glass and Monty Hoffman (who looks like the guy on the Operation game) were also good. Pablo Francisco busts on Latin DJ's, and he was good. Jay London, who did shtick, wasn't as funny - and the crowd seems to be happy Kathleen Madigan accuses Oprah of being a shape shifter and Alonzo Boden talks about white men - who are good because they have breed white women. Eh.

Tammy Pescatelly is 100% Sicilian, and she is funny. "If you're a whore, we call you my brother's wife." Corey Holcomb - "This is the ghetto portion of the show... I have two 6 year olds, and they ain't twins."

Joe Hursley, who was living in the van, will be sent back to the van after his dynamic - yet unfunny - act. Jimmy Dore equates comedy to riding a bike - hard to make a living. Jimmy fell off the bike. Trianna the stripper is looking not to fall off anything - and she was pretty good. "I hear the same thing from people who break up from me... I love my wife, I don't want to traumatize my kids, I can't lose this election." That was pretty good, actually.

Mark Cohen pumps up his microphone in order to have sex, while Retha Jones talks about infidelity with a joke I've heard before - but the punch line is good.

The comedians are done, and it's time to see which comics move on. The first one is...ANT. Groooooan. Joining him is Monty Hoffman, Alonzo Boden, Todd Glass, Bonnie McFarlane, Kathleen Madigan, Jimmy Dore, Jay London, Pablo Francisco, Tammy Pescatelly, Corey Holcomb, Retha Jones, and.... Trianna the stripper! "The 15 hours that I spent outside all of a sudden didn't seem like that big of a deal."

So what did I think of the choices? Well, I can't really complain. I do think that ANT, Jay and Alonzo shouldn't have gotten a call back, but there was no one there that got left out that shouldn't have, so I will give Bob and Ross the thumbs up for this round.

Next up - the place where ANT really should have been auditioning from - San Francisco. It's a little chillier here, as we see shivering comedians. Roger Blair does...an auction skit. No. Earle Monroe joins him in the Suck Pond, as does Neil. Mother Divine wins a church skit, and she thinks she's good at comedy... uh... .no. "Mother Divine, the ambulance is here to take you." Also ready for the ambulance is Buck Star, who did come from the L.A. auditions, and who is going to get cut here too.

Vladimir Khylynn is the Russian Dat Phan, who lives with a single mom with 5 kids. He gets the call back and I can only tremble.

That's all we get before we see the call backs in San Francisco, and opening the evening is political comedian Will Durst. Should the name sound familiar to you? Well, he is a friend of Dave Mordal - but he also cost a NYC comedian $500,000 in Millionaire. Well, it's his turn to face the TV set, and the judges seem to like him.

Next up - Scott Capurro, who goes after a drunk black guy in the audience. "Don't worry, I can't turn anybody gay...but you're not just anybody, are you?" Chris Voth is looking to improve his waiter career - and he will with his sketch on young teenage girls. Creepy.

Yayne Aebba is from Ethiopia - and the full-bodied woman has a cute weight sketch. "Apparently my metabolism was only meant to handle a cupful of water and a handful of lentils."

Vladimir tells the audience that his mom tells him that he is just like his dad - so he slapped her and found a new woman. He can team up with Chris Voth and be the creepy/crawly hour. He's ok - but not ready yet.

Will the judges agree with me? They invite back Will Durst, Chris Voth... and Vladimir Khylynn. That's it. They didn't really do much here, so I can't argue, but why bring Vladimir and leave Yayne, who was not only good, but who brought some multiculturalism with her?

So we leave the comedians in San Francisco and now move over to Dallas. We start with a half naked Fred Bothwell, an overweight man who needs to put some clothes. Next up is Paul Verghese, who talks about his father collecting crosses - even the burning ones from the KKK. Eh. They bring him back - with a promise that he will bring more material with him.

Chris Dowell, Joel Decker, Jared Keith and Lewis Chambers all go in a group together to audition - and only Lewis gets in due to the strength of the joke of his wife being like Pamela Anderson - fake boobs and full of hepatitis.

Also returning is Buck Star - who doesn't get in but can't wait to see them in New York. Is that a promise or a threat? The half naked Bothwell is back talking about Baby Jesus - and he gets a pass to the call backs.

Klaus is doing a German/Nazi impersonation - which is as funny as it sounds - but he does give a cute "I don't want to pay $40 for 50 Cent." Then we get a usual montage of bad Dallas comedians who don't even get a name tag attached to them.

Tommy Drake uses his head and gives his impression of the people leaving the audition. "Of course I froze up. I didn't want to do anything dirty so I gave my impression of fat chicks, which they didn't like at all." He gets in - and so does Leah Chaney, who's not a fat chick but who has a cute skit in majoring in procrastination and procreation.

It's call back time - Paul Varghese talks about his dad being more afraid of the monsters in the closet than he is. Lewis Chambers was also good "They say that Syphilis lasts forever - now that's good news to me, because I'm glad to see that something in my first marriage is going to last forever." Tommy Drake sort of falls flat, while Leah does deliver stuff well - but I've heard it before.

Jon Wessling, who we didn't see earlier, talks about spanking and scars. 'I will never forget to not sneak up behind a Vietnamese Veteran'. Bothwell is back, and talks about building a wall to divide Texas and Arkansas and having Mexican people build the wall. He is funny - but controversial.

Apparently, Bob and Ross weren't as impressed, because they only bring in 2 people - John Wessling and Paul Varghese. NOW you will be getting me on the soapbox, because Lewis Chambers and Fred Bothwell should have been joining them. They cut them and kept ANT, Jay London and Corey Holcomb? Wha?

Next up - NYC. Jodi Tucker is the first person in the line of shivering comedians in the sub 20 degree weather - and she will go back there after Ross and Mark tell her that she doesn't have an act. Ouch. Kenny Ortega freezes up as he is told to get some funny jokes. Sugar comes in, and if you can imagine a 200 + pound woman in a pink string bikini, well there you go. Paul Ravitz has a TV set on a guy and is speaking through the TV. Uhhh.... yeah.

We have a montage of ridiculously bad comedians - and a set of bad Michael Jackson and Arnold Schwarzenegger montage. William Dziekanowski starts off well - until he does an Arnold impression and is shows the door. Right after him is Buck Star, who gets a montage who gets $40 for lunch.

Jessica Kirson is pretty good with voice impersonations and facial impersonations - she reminds me of a female Sam Kinison (C-Note: Obviously she hasn't changed much since her "Can You Tell" days). Ross and Mark are on the fence - but they invite her back. "I'll give you a lap dance you will never forget - I'll break all of your knees." Also joining her is Dan Ahdoot, who is part Lebanese and part Jewish. "The thing that was missing from (LCS 1) was a member of the Axis of Evil. I think it would be important for a little Axis of Evil action."

Will he advance to the next round? Sounds like it, as he rants about how his dad hates him. Robert Kelly does an ok skit that really doesn't do anything for me. Terri Louise and Tom Kotter are husband and wife comedians. Terri does an okay sketch - but Tom was good with a politically correct impression of the homeless - outdoorsmen.

Sue Costello does a cute sketch on love and aging. We get some one liners from Tim Young and a cute facial sketch from Marina Franklin, we get DC Benny, who's a Jew with a German Shepherd. "He's always thinking about the good old days." Eddie Ift does a sketch on staying with sister.

Jessica Kirson is ready for the next level - and she does a cute kid screaming skit. Dan Naturman does an ok Chicago skit on pop and pot and coke - and that wraps up the NYC Comedians.

Who gets to move on? The judges decide that Louis Raines, DC Benny, Tim Young, Sue Costello, Tom Kotter (who's happy but wants to see if the wife gets in), Dan Naturman, Dan Ahdoot, Marina Franklin, Eddie Ifft, Jessica Kirson and.... Kerri Louise. So the husband and wife gets in - as well as the two Jews. Go Jews!

I'll say the same thing here as I did in CA - no complaints on who they didn't pick - but maybe they picked too many people here and not enough in the smaller areas. Robert Kelly has his own opinion, as he curses around 8 or 9 times into the camera.

Next up - Boston, where it's been a comedy rich city, but Jimmy Sullivan starts us up on a sour note as he curses off the show. Ross - "I'm not going to tell him he's hot." Thanks for sharing, Ross.

Domenic Fig thinks that they want him - but not as much as he wants himself. We get an incontinent rap on top of this, but Mary Beth Cowen steers us out of this with some cute secretary jokes. 'On a good day, I type 95 words per minute, on a bad day I show up drunk in my pajamas.'

William Ford gets in by relating an acid hit with singing "Stairway to Heaven" to a raccoon. On the other end of the spectrum, Buck Star is back. The critics reaction - "Ever been to Tennessee?"

Justin McKinney has been a cop in Maine for 7 years - and he leads off the callback competition. He was good - and so was Mary Beth, who talks about her boyfriend and speed dialing. Frank Santorelli, who's been a comedy fixture since 1981, does a cute thing with a crazy straw.

William Ford does a bizarre skit with refrigerator hunting for a new Jeffrey Dahmer movie, while Gary Guhlmer does a funny routine with 'The Pill'.

Some of the skits were too bizarre, because Mark and Ross only invite 3 people. The first one is Justin McKinney, the second one is Gary Gulman and the third one is... Frank Santorelli. He feels like it's his time to win, which is all well and good, but Mary Beth and Frank should have come too...

...and maybe taken some less people from Nashville, which they say that they now know why it's called the home of music. Ryan Archer and Steve Armstead lead off the montage of misery.

John Heffron is the first person to make them laugh - but with him doing with his 16 year old kid kinking up his air hose, that spells trouble. This could be so bad that even Buck Star would have a shot to advance...uh....not with body humor. 'You ever been to Chicago before?'

Tanyalee Davis is a short person who makes money off of comedy - and she advances without us seeing any part of her. Bert Kreischer makes $13,000 a year - and he starts off the callbacks by talking about white power in a subway full of black people. John does a turning 30 skit and Tanyalee does a cute ephedra skit. Cute - but not funny. Buck may have had a shot here.

Two comics advance here. Those two are Bert Kreischer and John Heffron. Tanyalee goes out to have drinks while John, to celebrate his soon to be famousness, decides to go out and get a drug addiction. Of course, they have the 2 comedian minimum quota, but this could have been one of those cities where Bob and Ross say, sorry, you all suck, and just walked out.

That certainly won't happen in Chicago, one of the major comedian metropolitans, right? Not when an act consists of people cutting their hair and paste it on their face and we have comedians talk so much that their head could explode. We get a montage of Ross saying "I've seen enough."

He has certainly seen enough of Buck Star - but Ross hasn't because he wants him to come down to Florida (and we get a bleeped f#ck from Buck). Bob Blevins is a senior high school student who wants to prove himself and he does a sort-of lame kissing disease segment - but he gets in. On the other side of the spectrum, there's 62 year old Jim Wiggins, who is happy that he won't die in his 50's. He does his bar stool act and I like him - and so do Mark and Ross.

Bob continues his scene - and he's better this time. 'The last time I made contact with a vagina I was sliding feet first out of your sister's crotch.'. Jason McNeil talks about how shaving your chest defines muscle and fat, while Mr. Wiggins talks about his wife in a pretty cute segment.

Despite the three comedians, only one person gets the invite - which is too bad, because there should be two people going. The person going is...Jim Wiggins, who would have been who I picked, but Bob should be going, too.

The last stand for the remaining comics is Tampa, Florida, and that will also be the last stand for Buck Star. But before him, we go to Jim Norton, "We talked about our romantic problems. She gave me Viagra, I got her a tread mill." He was good, Brian Imson-Brandon wasn't... "My New Year's resolution - I thought I could go one year without being..." Mark - "Funny?"

'Grandma' Lee Strong had a new concept to Time Out - Sudden Death. She gets in - and following her is Buck Star."The best thing about having sex with a homeless woman is that afterwards, you can drop her off anywhere - and she doesn't care." Ross and Mark still don't like him - but they do change their mind and let him perform on stage that night. Regardless of what happens, it's the right thing to do. He calls his dad and thanks for supporting him, and he says that he has a great dad and starts welling up. AwwwwBarf.

It's the final callbacks. Happy Cole starts first. "My kids are mixed. My ex-wife is from... Hell. My kids are half black and half possessed." Jim says that he has the sex appeal of leukemia, while 'Grandma' says that she'd do the contestants - again. "I'd ride them like a bunch of wild ponies." We finally get to see Buck - and he wasn't half bad. "I've chased them further than I've chased the finest piece of ass...that makes me wonder if I'm gay, and if so, do I like the little guy - or the big guy." Buck, who thinks that he's not getting in, says "It was totally an amazing experience."

This time around, there is only room for one person - and that person is... Jim Norton. Grandma was disappointed, but happy she got this far, while Buck Star says that he will go out of his way to be a great comic. I'm really glad for Buck, I think he should keep it up.

So my take? Well, they gave out too many invites in NY and CA, and not enough anywhere else. There should be much more of an equal balance. Why so many? Well, you could say that there were plenty of Superstars, or you could say that some of those people had, ahem... byes to get in. Let's play the angel care and say that it was a legit selection. So far, I can't disagree with the choices, based on what was there.

Will I feel that way after the second set of auditions? We'll find that out in 24 hours...

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