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June 11, 2008

Norm and Cliff Make Last Comic Standing Rise to New Heights


By Cindy Droog

It’s been a long time since I’ve looked forward to an episode of a reality competition show.


Dancing with the Stars? My husband and I actually turned our car around and drove away from a nice downtown restaurant – where we had reservations – the day that tour came to our city. We simply couldn’t bear the sight of all the people standing in line outside the arena across the street, many of them donning their own “dancing outfits,” without laughing our expensive steaks right out of our noses.


American Idol? I used to love it. But I got over it when they started accepting candidates who’d already had (and blown) professional record deals.


Not to mention, Paula went from slightly off her rocker to completely clearancing her rocker at a yard sale and losing all touch with it. A few times this past season, I found myself – show playing on my TV – doing exactly what my eldest son does when his little brother screams.


He plugs his ears with his fingers and says, “I can’t hear you!” The baby’s scream is about as pleasant as Paula saying (approximately 10 times per episode), “you really connected with the audience” I think she forgot that the word “judge” means discerning, not disoriented.    


Thankfully, I am sure that this upcoming Thursday’s episode of Last Comic Standing will redeem all similar shows for me.


Really, I’m not sure what more a girl could ask for. John Ratzenberger and George Wendt – a.k.a. Cliff Claven and Norm Peterson from Cheers – are this week’s talent scouts. Two of the funniest people ever born, both from my second favorite sitcom of all time.


In fact, I nearly sacrificed my closest friendship just to watch the series finale back in 1993. My college roommate’s boyfriend was on a field operation for the Army, and when he called that night, I was supposed to answer, and keep him on the phone until she got home from class.


I forgot. I let the phone ring. And ring. I was watching Cheers. Oops.


She couldn’t speak with him for another three weeks. In turn, I’m pretty sure she waited about that long to speak with me again, too. And as I’d walk into that dorm room of deafening silence each day, I’d have to remind myself that it was worth it. 


Cliff and Norm. Sitting there together. Making small talk about future funnymen. I can’t wait.


It almost makes me wish that I’d had enough guts to try out myself. Granted, I have no material. But Nashville’s only a 10-hour drive, and I can make a sock puppet along with the best of the losers that show up. I could make him dance. Dress him in a tube top. Call him I.P. Freeley and go from there.


Alas, I’ll have to stick to watching the duo sit behind the judge’s table. 


Yep. This week is going to be great. They’ve already shown the top “Best of the Worst” tryouts, and they’re wrapping things up before the semifinals. So, I’m hoping to see mostly good comedy, and less fluff. They’re also making the season interesting by sending through more “group acts” than ever before, a few of which remind me of classic troupes from Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman.


They’re also sending through more people that are, as I say to my husband, “funny at first sight.” To me, that’s the same as love at first sight. These guys walk up on the stage, and they simply look like they can make you laugh before they even open their mouths. Then, they do. 


So, kudos to Last Comic Standing for what looks to be a summer of great Thursdays. And to John Ratzenberger and George Wendt, who I know have impeccable comic taste and won’t let me down. And to Dave Foley, who still cracks me up and is still completely adorable.


And to all the comics who are much, much braver than I am. May you get a chance to live my dream of bellying up to the bar with Norm and Cliff, and may you be funnier on Thursday than you’ve ever been before.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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