A Laughable Proposal

Jun 26, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The funniest 10 or 15 minutes on TV in all of last week-heck, in all of this month-were tucked in NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.”

It was “Comic’s” first-ever “heckle challenge.” The contestants were paired off. In the first round, one would do stand-up while the other heckled from the audience. In the second round, they switched roles.

There were two winners, one for comedy and one for heckling. The heckling frequently was funnier than the comedy, and The Insider doesn’t mean that as a put-down, because a great or inspired heckle often raises the level of the comic’s game.

The Insider laughed so hard her constant companion of the last 14 years, an Abyssinian feline named Bob Cat, took cover much the same as he does during a thunderstorm or holiday fireworks.

Even taunts or exchanges that would not have worked as pure comedy were, in this context, laugh-out-loud funny-and The Insider only laughs out loud for David Letterman, Craig Ferguson and “Two and a Half Men.” And, of course, for Chuck Lorre’s wondrous, fun-drous “Two and a Half Men” end credit vanity cards that are archived at Chucklorre.com, where a good time can be had by all who have a sense of humor and at least a passing sense of what’s happening in the mainstream world.

But The Insider digresses from her theme for the day, which is that the heckle-off was inspired and unique to the contestants’ dream of thriving, or at least surviving, in comedy.

Those moments provided a bit of the special brand of magic that Bravo’s “Project Runway” conjures up by showing the aspiring designers at work as well as made-for-TV mischief. On “Comic” we don’t get to see much of the contestants’ creative processes.

What also makes “Project Runway” so special is that it doesn’t ape any of the affectations and rituals of “Survivor” and doesn’t cling to a rigid format and script that have nothing to do with its subject.

Whenever “Comic” falls into the “Survivor” trap-which works well on “Survivor,” not on “The Apprentice”-it bombs bigger than a joke about Heather Mills McCartney not having a leg to stand on against Paul McCartney in the court of public opinion. The camera follows each contestant slowly navigating a gangway in what appears to be the bowels of the Queen Mary in order to vote fellow contestants out.

But The Insider digresses from her suggestion of the day: Someone should organize heckle-offs between teams representing sitcoms, past and present.

It could turn into this generation’s “Battle of the Network Stars.” Imagine! Writers and cast members of, say, “Happy Days,” trying to out-heckle and out-joke counterparts from, say, “My Name Is Earl.”

It’s trash sports with laugh tracks!

Include teams from the late-night shows, and trash sport becomes blood sport.