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John Heffron: Middle Class Funny
Though it was more of a public relations stunt than even your run of the mill "reality" show, Last Comic Standing at least provided those of us who love stand up comics a chance to sample a wide array of talent over the five years (and six seasons) the show ran. In fact, my wife, who does occasional stand up herself, and I lamented the show's absence this summer. The series, especially in its early seasons hosted by Jay Mohr, was a fun romp for both up and coming and also well established, if not exactly household name, comedians. If the Anthony Clark hosted season was a major embarrassment (at least for Clark, who obviously was ill at ease and fumbled his way through virtually every episode), and the two last seasons with Bill Bellamy seemed even more scripted than usual, the show at least introduced the public at large to some very appealing comedians. Season Two winner John Heffron is one of the best of this bunch, and is well represented in this hour or so special entitled Middle Class Funny.
Heffron plays up his white bread, middle class Detroit suburb upbringing and manages to squeeze a suprising amount of comedy out of everyday, "normal" occurrences. Heffron is only very occasionally profane (he exults at the end of this routine, "I only said 'f***' twice!"), and exhibits a natural, nice guy persona that carries him through his material very ably. A lot of very typical material is mined here, from the battle of the sexes (a recurring gag has Heffron joking about the "performance review" he just received as an anniversary present from his wife) to the dating scene (perhaps a variation on the battle of the sexes, now that I think about it). If there's nothing really remarkable about Heffron's punchlines or even his delivery, that's actually part of his appeal. In a world filled with manic, schtick-filled comics who often can't utter two words without at least one of them being an expletive, Heffron comes off as your slightly goofy next door neighbor who is always pulling your leg about something.
The best bits in this special are Heffron's casual observations about things like his fights with his siblings (his little brother resorted to the dreaded "I can't breathe" if John even got near him) to the vagaries of his wife's online shopping habits (it takes him a moment to realize the Bullet and Rabbit she ordered were not part of some hunting scenario). Heffron delivers it all in a laid back, conversational style that is low key (perhaps too low key for those used to the amped up style of a lot of today's comics) and which sometimes lets the punch lines kind of wander out under the radar so that the audience seems to only figure out they're actually funny a second or two after they're delivered (Heffron's other recurring gag of getting off his "real act" to deliver asides is a good example).
Last Comic Standing may be history at this point, but Heffron seems poised to have a long and successful comedy career. It's not hard to imagine him fronting a sitcom of his own. He has the same easy to take (and relate to) demeanor that aided Ray Romano's television career, and seems to have the same sharp observational skills that defined Everbody Loves Raymond's take on sibling rivalry and marriage.
Middle Class Funny is offered with an enhanced 1.78:1 image that is acceptable if not spectacular. Things are a bit soft in the background and in long shots, but overall the DVD sports above average sharpness for a filmed for television special. Color is excellent throughout, though, as with most of these stand up routines, the stage is not overly bright.
The DD 5.1 surround is kind of silly for this enterprise, but does at least give excellent directionality as Heffron moves about the stage. Surround channels are utilized almost exclusively for audience reaction. Fidelity is excellent throughout the special.
Two appealing, if very brief (just a couple of minutes each) extras are offered, one of the cover photo shoot and another, better one, contrasting interviews with Heffron and his wife Rie. Guess what? They contradict each other. Funny. There are also samples of other Levity DVD product.
Heffron, along with other Last Comic Standing alum like Gary Gulman and Kathleen Madigan, are the direct opposite of the further out comics who also played the show, like Dat Phan, Ralphie May or Josh Blue. Ostensibly "normal," Heffron finds the funny in the small things, delivering the goods in an understated and always enjoyable way. Recommended.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet