Will a Canadian be the “Last Comic Standing”?
The odds are good heading into the Aug. 14 season finale with Vancouver native Lachlan Patterson among the final contestants.
Patterson was at the NBC Television Critics Association press tour party last month in Los Angeles along with fellow contestant Rod Man. The two standup comedians talked about the return of NBC’s Thursday night comedy franchise, revived this year after being off the air since 2010.
The talent search series, which now boasts Wanda Sykes among the producers, has benefited this season from an all-star lineup of comedy judges: Roseanne Barr, Keenen Ivory Wayans and Brampton, Ont.-born Russell Peters. JB Smoove hosts with Jay Leno, Amy Schumer and Sykes all appearing at various times as mentors. NBC has already ordered a ninth season.
This season started with 100 comedians in the running. Patterson and Rod Man are thrilled they made it this far and prefer being judged by professional peers as opposed to viewers at home. “With an audience it becomes more of a popularity contest,” says Patterson. These judges “know comedy,” adds Rod Man, “so you’re in good hands.”
At stake is a $250,000 top prize as well as an NBC comedy development deal.
Canadians have been among the top laugh getters in the past. “Mr. D” star Gerry Dee got a big boost from the series in 2007, finishing third ahead of Schumer, arguably the hottest standup in the business at the moment. Sean Cullen and Debra DiGiovanni have also placed in the Top 10.
Rod Man is no stranger to Canadian comedy show audiences. The Georgia-born comedian was a headliner on the 2005 Just For Laughs comedy tour and has played in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and New Brunswick.
“I’m big in Canada!” booms the comedian, who counts Shaun Majumder and Ryan Belleville among his Canadian comedy pals.
Both Rod Man and Patterson are seasoned comedy club veterans. Patterson, who has performed twice at Montreal’s Just for Laughs comedy festival, says he knew he was in for a tough challenge as soon as he heard Rod Man was a competitor.
“He’s really good,” says Patterson, who also had praise for finalists Joe Machi and Rocky Laporte. “Rocky’s funny, because he’s a 55-year-old man, but he spends more time on his phone than a 17-year-old girl.”
The lanky, laid-back comedian got his start in the Vancouver comedy clubs.
“I would say that the pool of comedians in Vancouver is at least as strong as the pool of any other city.” Vancouver, however, is such a beautiful city, “the comics usually don’t leave,” he says. “When times get tough down here and you know there’s arguably the most beautiful city in the world to go home to, it’s hard.”
Patterson moved to Los Angeles in 2007 and has weathered several rounds of pilot auditions, an experience he’s not anxious to repeat.
“I feel like if I’d never done any pilot seasons, I would probably be better off than I am now,” he says. “If you aren’t ready, they just say, ‘All right, I don’t ever want to see that guy again.’”
“Rejection!” echoes Rod Man.
There’s been less rejection lately, with appearances on “Tosh.0,” Leno’s “Tonight Show” and FX’s “Legit.”
Patterson says Norm Macdonald has been a big influence and gave the younger comedian a leg up by booking him as an opening act on several occasions. He’s also blown away by the support he’s received on the show.
“I mean, to hear Russell Peters say he’s been watching me — that’s pretty good.” Praise from Barr and Wayans has also been a boost. “I can tell Keenen is fighting for me,” says Patterson.
Wayans, of course, worked with another Canadian — Jim Carrey — on “In Living Color.” Patterson has been told he reminds folks of Carrey, which he considers the ultimate compliment. “Who doesn’t love Jim Carrey?”
Asked how his life would change if he won “Last Comic Standing,” Patterson says, “There’d be a lot of hate.” Comedians are supportive of each other — to a point.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” he says. “A lot of people watching the show will always think someone else should have won.”
As a Canadian, he feels he’s an underdog. Coming third would not be a disgrace, he says. After all, “that’s the Canadian Gold.”
By Bill Brioux
THE CANADIAN PRESS—LOS ANGELES