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The Greg Giraldo Show Pilot Taping 4/7/05 - Sony Studios


It was like old times. Take the Babylon line into Penn, hop into a cab, and get dropped off on W 53rd between 9th & 10th. Stand outside Sony Studios and check in with someone wearing headsets and holding a clipboard with your name on it. Be handed a ticket and have a creepy bald man with a metal detector grope your pockets. Stand by the stage door until you're strategically seated in small groups.

Sadly you look over to the right and don't see the pool table, the framed picture of Manny Dworman, the end tables covered in candy & fresh grapes, or Colin Quinn's face on a poster with the words "Tough Crowd" in bold print next to it.

Instead we see the same old NYC skyline facade, placed behind a small bar area, atop a familiar, yet barren wood floor. The old plasma TV looms in the background, displaying an animated, circular graphic with the words "The Greg Giraldo Show" spinning around like a clock dial. Look over to the left and you see a mini bar fashioned with opened beer bottles, crushed peanuts, and napkins perfectly crinkled to give the illusion you're sitting in your favorite, old school NYC watering hole.

You're seated in new, highly uncomfortable wooden chairs, longing for the soft cushioned seats your ass adorned while watching guys like Patrice O'Neal & Jim Norton spar over current events. You see the same old production people & stagehands tweaking everything from the lighting to the cameras. You even see Ken Ober, Colin's right hand man, sitting at that small black table still placed to the right of the grandstand.

A balding gentleman with a microphone warms up the crowd. His name is Pete Dominick, an up & coming NYC comedian with razor sharp comebacks and an angry outlook on life. No longer can you sing the theme song to the "Fresh Prince Of Bel Aire" in order to be handed a cheaply made Tough Crowd t-shirt or hat from the hand of Quentin Heggs. Damn how I miss seeing people stump him by having him sing the theme song to the awful 80's sitcom, "Small Wonder," or guessing his age (which I believe was 43.)

Dominick deals with an energetic, Dr. Ruth looking, mature woman, who's hell-bent on stealing his spotlight and steps over his lines constantly. After silencing her and poking fun at his physical afflictions, he introduces the host of tonight's show, Greg Giraldo.

Dressed in all black, with his patented "messy yet neat" hairstyle, Greg grabs the mic and points out familiar faces from the past scattered all throughout the audience. Giraldo opens up his diatribe by explaining just what the hell is going on here today. He blurts out the words "Tough Crowd" and is met with a genuine round of applause. Greg goes on about how this is just a pilot taping and if the show is picked up there will be a new look & feel to the set. He looks over in my direction and blurts out something to the effect of "I don't want to read on Cringe Humor that this is just a second rate Tough Crowd."

Giraldo wraps up, and Pete Dominick emerges in time to introduce tonight's panel of 3 comedians. Lewis Black enters to a huge ovation, also dressed in all black and looking rather sickly. Mind you this is the first time I've had the chance to actually see Lewis in person, so I'm sure he always comes off that way.

The lovely Lynne Koplitz is up next, wearing a revealing green top, matching pants, and sexy high heels. You can sense all of the men (myself included) zeroing in on her supermodel, MILF-like looks, which are highly accentuated thanks to a generous amount of cleavage being displayed.

Our final panelist, Patton Oswalt, also receives a huge ovation. Greg went out and got the big guns for tonight - two Comedy Central legends, and a gorgeous comedienne to help break up what would otherwise be a sausage fest.

An ominous, familiar voice emerges from the speakers above & below, and a countdown commences. 5 seconds later Greg, enters the set from a huge green door and stands behind the aforementioned bar area. He begins his monologue and proceeds to pick apart topics such as Terri Schiavo, the Pope's death, and more. Greg delivers everything in his trademark intelligent & smarmy manner. The audience eats it up and replies with huge amounts of laughter. Greg wraps up and literally runs to his perch, another bar like structure that holds 4 people. His 3 panelists are directly seated to his right, the setup resembling a cafeteria lunch table. Greg introduces each individual and barrels into tonight's first topic.

Nostalgia begins to set in as the plasma displays a graphic of Spongebob Squarepants and his buddy Patrick The Starfish, standing side by side. The first debate is over homosexual undertones in children's entertainment. Greg starts the segment off with his own, rather lengthy twist on the topic at hand, and hands it over to Lewis Black. It goes down the line as each comedian gets in a line or 2. Long gone are the days of Patrice stepping over your lines & hijacking the show. Everyone let the other person speak and we were treated to clean & crisp comedic gems. Watching Lewis Black in person for the first time is remarkable. His hands & head shake like someone stricken with advanced Parkinson's, while his mind processes hilarious thoughts that his mouth delivers in an agitated, annoyed fashion.

The next topic is brought up by Greg in the same fashion, and you can't help but notice how much uninterrupted time Greg uses to set it up, and then insert his own hilarious twists. Almost double the time Colin would take...It's apparent who the star of the new show is. Greg hands it off to Patton first, who replies with a deadpan "Thank you, Colin" one liner that the crowd immediately ate up and applauded for - a tribute to the man who paved the way for today's event. Not skipping a beat, Giraldo fires back with a "Thank you, Janeane" zinger once Patton shut up.

The debates go on smoothly, nothing hectic, wild, or too unpredictable occurs. I miss that. I miss seeing Judy Gold getting groped after uncomfortably pointing out how Colin can't father children. I miss Colin getting pelted in the face with a grape after flubbing a line. I miss the mean, below the belt, inside joke insults Norton, Keith, DiPaolo, and even Greg himself would hurl towards one another.

Everything went down too smoothly, a testament to Greg's well documented & almost obsessive preparation. You sit there & finally realize this isn't Tough Crowd anymore, this is Tough Crowd Lite. The funny is still there, but the excess has been trimmed away.

Could it be because of the panel? All 3 performers are well groomed comics who aren't known for attacking one another. Would this go down if t was the old show regulars? Theres grumbling around the comedy circuit that the old Tough Crowd regulars want nothing to do with Greg's new show, which is apparent by the lineup for the 2 tapings. Can the same concept survive without the same vibe? More on that later on.

The first commercial break happens and the monitors show an artsy rendition of Greg walking down an NYC street. The show logo spins around in the corner while an instrumental portion of "Black Betty" blares loudly. Pete Dominick comes back with awful "Drawn Together" t-shirts draped over his shoulder, looking to hand them out to select audience members. Before Pete is able to do so, he is told "we're coming back" and quickly exits. Black Betty blares again and this time we see a graphic of Greg sitting at bar before fading into a live shot of the set.

Act 2 starts with some news story about these religious, refugee Mexicans raising a ruckus. I honestly don't remember the story exactly, so feel free to correct me. Anyways, each time Greg went to start, there was a technical glitch in the production and the ominous voice from above would halt the progress. After a 4th attempt, Greg eeked through the opening set up and segued a video of him talking to some random Mexicans on the street about it (in his native Spanish.) The men's replies were fabricated via subtitles, and pretty much expressed how they love America and it's women. The panel then tackled it with their own, funny perspectives and more, smooth comedy occurred.

The next topic is steroids in baseball. Once again we're treated to a video with Greg, this time in a local gym talking to an admitted steroid user. Greg picks apart the beefcake's thought process on the positives of using steroids, and the video ends with a funny homosexual embrace between the 2 men in the locker room. I can sense the women in the audience getting tingly in the crotch after seeing Greg topless. More hilarious, safe banter ensued and it was time for another break.

Now we get to old act 3. Instead of a poorly executed sketch, we were treated to a game titled "Skeletons." Basically a random audience member (or a production assistant I should say) would sit at the end of the panel and have a dirty secret written down on a huge cue card. Only the 3 panelists and the audience members know what the secret is. The 3 panelists would then feed Greg a clue, which they read off of their own index cards. Greg would then get a guess and ask the audience member a question in which they would reply with a simple yes or no.

The first contestant's secret was that her gyno tried setting her up on a date with his son. Each panelist had a funny one line clue, with Lewis Black having the best line - "She was smeared, and I'm not talking about her reputation." Greg came close to guessing it correctly but just fell short. Contestant # 2's secret was that he banged a woman the first night she was out of jail. Greg once again fell short, but seeing him come up with funny shit on the fly saved an otherwise lackluster segment.

For act 4, each comedian brought in their own news items and were allowed to pick it apart & riff on it. As many of you who read my shit know by now, I have the memory of a goldfish and can't remember what each panelist contributed. Of course it all ended well, and each comic got their laughs. End show.

So now we're left with more questions:

Will Comedy Central pick it up?

- I certainly hope so. In my worthless opinion the show would be best done once a week (broadcasted on a Friday night) and should be an hour long.

Will it capture the same vibe as Tough Crowd?

- Even though there are similar elements, I don't see it happening. The show has an odd West Coast vibe about it. Everything is just too rehearsed & pristine. It probably came off that way, because after all, it was a pilot that's being sold to the network. Everything had to be perfect as people's jobs are on the line. The beauty of Colin's show was the unpredictable element presented when you had 2-3 buddies in comedy interacting with timid outsiders. Seeing the old regulars harass the outsiders & one another is what myself and the majority of the CH fan base loved seeing. You never saw that realism on a show before. It can never be captured again.

Final verdict:

- With some grooming and slight changes, The Greg Giraldo Show can be a success. It won't beak any ground, or explode like a Chappelle's Show or The Daily Show (mainly because the scumbags at Comedy Central won't allow that to EVER happen) but it can be a nice regular series that once again captures what the network should be about...Comedians being funny.




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