12 August, 2008

Iliza Scheslinger

I wrote about the awesome God's Pottery being knocked out of Last Comic Standing by Iliza Schlesinger in an earlier round and thought I wouldn't bother watching any more episodes but I did and Schlesinger ended up the deserved winner, getting better week on week.

I say "deserved" although my favourite was actually Louis Ramey. Both the theater audience and the presenters were shocked that he came bottom of the home audience vote. But Schlesinger worked her socks off and is a proper hardcore comic. Most of the other comedians just re-hashed the same material each week but she wrote new material. In the latter stages she always took the braver choice of trying new gags out for the first time rather than using her tried and tested stuff.

After the God's Pottery knock out, Schlesinger K.O.'d another favourite of mine, Papa CJ, but he shocked me by doing more or less the same set as he did in previous weeks and he deserved to lose. We all know comedians who make a good living by doing the same 20 minute set for several years - and good luck to them - but they shouldn't really win major competitions. (Although maybe Papa CJ shouldn't be put in that category if the explanation on his website regarding the repeated material is to be believed. )

Schlesinger happens to be the first woman winner of the contest and the host Bill Bellamy asked her what she thought about doing it for all the "girls" and the "ladies" out there and she was flummoxed at the dated thinking. Eventually she said, diplomatically, gender has nothing to do with it and it's about the comedy.

We actually had a set from last year's winner as part of the finale and it was just humourless hackery from a nice bloke. The fact that Iliza is a bird shouldn't detract from the fact that she is better than any of the previous male winners. Previously when people argued that "women aren't funny", I would give them a history lesson on women' s comedy from Mae West to Sarah Silverman - with slides - now I just give them a slap.

Schlesinger was technically very good and mixed up her set with clever gags and mime and used the stage well. I felt Ramey was cleverer and - more importantly - more accessible. The problem with nostalgia and observational humour is that it has to be fairly universal. As a limey, I didn't have a clue what she was going on about sometimes but then neither did much of the audience.

I hate the hackyness of, for instance, "Do you remember Spangles?" and then pausing for a nostalgic recognition laugh from the audience. Where's the fracking gag? Thankfully, Schlesinger didn't rely on that sort of thing too much, she was on much safer territory with her sharp character observation.

Here's a nice early set:

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