August 5, 2003

Dat Phan, you not funny
Arrgh! Reality TV is not reality. If you watched the last episode of Last Comic Standing: The Search For The Funniest Person In America, you know that they didn't achieve the goal of the show. In reality, here's how the top five should have gone:
Not in the top 5 - Dat Phan - couldn't even find new material for his last appearance, and half the jokes he tells are unintelligible. The only thing that carried him was his underdog status... he was actually "the funniest person in America that people feel sorry for because he got picked on." A telling thing - Dat said, "I got into comedy because I like to make people laugh," not "because I am an inherently funny person that enjoys using that ability for entertainment." Dat engineers his jokes unabashedly, and he seems to have run out of ideas. It will be interesting to see if his Tonight Show appearance has any originality.

5. Tess - Always funny, and like the talent scouts said, you can pinpoint her "character" immediately, but a one-joke kind of comic.

3(tie). Rich Vos - Consistently original material, and able to make a joke out of almost any situation (that's why he'd be great at a situation comedy, duh.)

3(tie). Cory Kahaney - Although her material centers on her daughter most of the time, she has a very dry wit and, kind of like Rich, can play off of situational ideas.

2. DAVE MORDAL - the second funniest person in America and the victim of a Southern California crowd who had never heard Dat Phan's limited catalog of jokes. Dave never hit a dud, even in the final show. His self-depracating style allows him to simultaneously toss off entertaining ironies and at the same time make the audience (somewhat subliminally) think, "gee... maybe my life isn't so bad." That combination makes for entertainment that is both pervasive and enduring. I would drive three states away to watch his stand-up routine.

1. Ralphie May - Ralphie takes advantage of so many dichotomies that he can constantly play off of - fat man living in a small man world, white guy living in "da hood," issues of male/female body perception, living among different races... the list goes on and on. The world that he creates is intriguing and original to the majority of America that does not deal with the inner city or "large person" issues that are his core launching points. The themes that he uses are universal. Additionally, Ralphie has a wealth of material: I don't think he used the same joke twice in "competition." Had he gone against Dat early on, Dat would have gone down hard.

All that to say, provided there is a "Last Comic Standing #2," NBC will need to work on their presentation... and future contestants will be reticent to be as "comic" for fear of turning popular opinion to an underdog. Dat's success is tied to his portrayal. Fair or not, it affected the outcome.

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