For the last few weeks, comedians have been invading our fair city. Last weekend was the fourth annual Comedy Festival, and before that the Last Comic Standing Tour visited the House of Blues, where this year’s top five finalists performed live with Louis Ramey as emcee.
The line up for the Last Comic tour included Jim Tavarre, a British comedian who totes his upright bass to gigs and always wears a tux, the weakest link of the show, neon shirt-wearing Jeff Dye, the singularly-named Marcus and headliner Iliza Shlesinger. The winner of this past season, Shlesinger seemed to recycle a lot of material from her performances on the reality show, and though I was really looking forward to hearing her, the highlight of my night turned out to be off stage entirely: being introduced to Adam Hunter.
Another Last Comic Standing alum who didn’t make the cut for the tour because he finished just outside of the top five, Hunter invited me to check out his local show at LA Comedy Club at Planet Hollywood. One of the Vegas’ best comedy venues, the club is perched on the second floor of Trader Vic’s inside the Miracle Mile Shops with a gorgeous view of the Strip and the Bellagio fountains.
Hunter’s act was fresh and entertaining, with very little old material from his Last Comic days. He managed to incorporate the audience in a way that wasn’t overly critical, even complementing an audience member who made a hilarious joke in response to one of Hunter’s questions.
Following his performance, I asked Hunter what it was really like to be in the comedy competition. He pointed out that like any other reality show, directors and editors gave Last Comic an overall vision and more or less created the characters they wanted people to see.
“The hard part about being on a reality show is they can take everything out of context,” he said. “They cast who they want to cast. If they want that guy to be the good guy and that girl to be the good girl and that person to be the one from the broken home, then that’s what they’re going to do. The difference between being on a television show and being on a reality show is that if you play a bad guy on a television show, people think you’re a really good actor, and when you’re portrayed as the bad guy on a reality show, people think you’re really an asshole.”
Through the editor’s magic scissors, Hunter was painted as “the cocky jackass” in the house. Left out were humanizing stories about Hunter volunteering at the Ronald McDonald house for years or how his father was in recovery for substance abuse addiction. Instead, they showed clips that portrayed him as the macho guy, always working out and seemingly arrogant.
Hunter explained, “The producers have it in their heads that we’ve had X, Y and Z win, so why don’t we have this person win this time. It was a little disappointing to me, because it was a TV show first and a comedy competition second.”
The concept of a comedy reality show is troublesome, Hunter noted, because “comics basically try to point out things that are wrong with us and society and make fun of that. So it’s hard to say to viewers, ‘Hey, like me so I can win $250,000.’ It’s kind of juxtaposed to what stand up comedy is really like.”
Hunter points out that “some of the best stand-up comedians like Robin Williams were manic-depressive. Comedy comes from pain, which doesn’t necessarily coincide with a family show.”
Despite the behind-the-scenes politics, Hunter says he appreciated the chance to be on the show, and his appearance has spawned a new gig on Comedy.com. Called Kamikaze Comedy, the show is essentially sneak attack comedy when people aren’t expecting it. Hunter described one stunt in which “they tape some girls who are expecting a stripper for their bachelorette party and instead they get a midget comic telling jokes.”
The format is rooted in Hunter’s early career when he used to do comedy in supermarkets and laundry mats. “It’s kind of like Jackass meets comedy,” Hunter says. Now, that’s reality comedy.