CSI
Last Laugh

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Not a Punchline So Much as a Poison Line

Desultory shots of the Vegas skyline at night. It's a good thing there are so very many big buildings covered in neon, or the people who put together this show wouldn't have anything to start with. We hear an emcee voice-over: "Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for the Comedy Hole's very own Michael Borland," and then we see Michael Borland in backlit profile as he says, "Look, look, the Kennedys killed Marilyn Monroe. I'm pretty sure the gunman on the grassy knoll was either Arthur Miller or Joe DiMaggio: 'Bang my wife, will you?' [pow]" There's polite laughter.

In the alleyway behind what is presumably the Comedy Hole, Jeffrey Ross is shaking slightly as he runs through his routine, telling the brick wall he's facing, "Hey, if you'd have me, I'd ask you to marry me. Hell, somebody's got to clean the apartment."

Inside, the backlit silhouette of Borland is telling a hostile but full house, "Hey, how many of you know the theme to Gilligan's Island?" The crowd raises their hands and whoops. He then asks, "All right. Now how many of you can recite the Bill of Rights?" No hands. I get it, but he's missing a fundamental point: Gilligan's Island is a very catchy tune, so maybe there's the possibility of setting the first ten amendments to Gilligan's Island like so -- Just sit right back and read all these things / that we tacked on the end / like forbidding Congress to tamper with speech / assembly or the press / assembly or the press... -- and teaching it to people that way.

Anyway, this sort of I'm-too-smart-for-you comedy does not appeal to the club rats; they shut up instantly. Recognizing that he's going up in flames, Borland says nonchalantly, "Forget it, guys. It's really not that important. We don't use it anymore." By the way, we can now see Borland, and it's a considerably thinner, grayer, and non-stammering Bobcat Goldthwait. Outside in the alley, Jeffrey Ross is saying, "Heinous. That was her name -- heinous. Her sister's name is horrendous. Her other name is bleccch." Oh, how charming. Jeffrey Ross laughs with delight at his own frat-boy humor, which isn't even good frat-boy humor. You want good frat-boy humor, watch that beer commercial where the folksinger is serenading the wingman. This is just mediocre.

Back in the club, Borland's saying, "I hear people saying, 'If it wasn't for the U.S., the French would be speaking German.' Yeah, well, if it wasn't for the French, you'd be speaking Cherokee." Or adding "u" to "color," "favor," et cetera, but we'll skip the alternate history for now and applaud that joke because it is amusing. We will be the only ones doing so; nobody in the audience appreciates being reminded of things like the history of international relations when there's unquestioning, Dixie Chicks-hatin' "patriotism" to be had instead. As the club manager checks the audience, then checks his watch, Borland says insincerely, "Oh, I'm sorry. Did I hurt your brains?"

We transition back out to Jeffrey Ross telling the wall enthusiastically, "That's my time, everybody. Tip for the night: If you don't know what you're doing, don't do it harder! Good night, everybody!" He cracks himself up, then looks down, commanding, "Zip me up." A ponytailed woman rises. Holy cow, I am still amazed that L. Brent Bozell and the rest of the Parents' Television Council didn't immediately issue a blanket condemnation of CSI after this; I was convinced after their protest of Buffy as anti-Christian because it showed an evil minister during Holy Week (never mind that the minister was anti-woman, which is pretty offensive any week of the year) that the PTC would be all over something so much more explicit like a depiction of someone getting a hummer in a back alley. I guess the PTC was in mourning over the ending of Touched by an Angel, and too depressed to act. The woman asks if there's anything else she can do, and Jeffrey Ross says, "Yeah. Laugh." That won't be too hard; it's not like her mouth was full.

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