EXCLUSIVE: Natasha Leggero Joins the Judges Table of Last Comic Standing
The successful stand up comedian talks about the unique acts on the show, host Craig Robinson and future projects
Natasha Leggero has not only found success on the stand-up comedy stage but in film and TV as well. She has appeared in various roles in Reno 911!, He's Just Not That Into You and she currently voices Callie Maggotbone on the new Comedy Central animated series Ugly Americans along with several appearances as herself on Chelsea Lately. Leggero's latest endeavor puts her behind the judges table for the brand new incarnation of the NBC reality series Last Comic Standing, which debuts with a two-hour premiere on Monday, June 7 at 8 PM ET and next week it debuts in its regular timeslot on Monday nights at 9 PM ET. I recently spoke with Leggero over the phone about her involvement on the show and here's what she had to say.
Can you talk a bit about how this first came to you and if judges Greg Giraldo and Andy Kindler were on board when you were first approached?
Natasha Leggero: Oh yeah. When I was approached, I was told that Craig Robinson, Greg Giraldo and Andy Kindler were all attached so it was kind of a no-brainer for me. I can't say I wouldn't have done it in any other circumstances, but I'm just such a big fan of Craig, Andy and Greg and I was also told that the judges were going to be doing their own thing, being interviewed and we were going to be able to talk to everyone and talk to Craig and have banter. It really made it like a party.
It's been a few years since the show was on the air, since 2008.
Natasha Leggero: Yeah, they took a year off to re-tool itself and the producers really pitched a new show. Now we're only going to New York and L.A., we only want to get amazing comics on the show. In the past there was a lot of pressure to get this really creative cast with interesting people. Some of them had only been doing comedy for a couple of months and I feel like the story would win out over the comedian, like a single mom with three kids, they would let her through before a girl who was a really good comedian. This year, the judges had complete control, which I was shocked at, and we were really able to pick who we thought were the best comics.
I read that there was going to be a mix of more amateur comedians and more seasoned comedians. What does that dynamic bring to the show?
Natasha Leggero: I wouldn't say that there are tons of amateur comedians who make it to the finals. There's an array, some people might have been doing it for 20 years and some people might have been doing it for five years, but definitely, when you watch the show, for every great comedian you see, you'll see about seven that need heavy medication. There are a lot of crazy people, but just in like the first two episodes, like how American Idol does it. You get to see everyone. The people in New York camped out for three days. They brought their own toilets. It was crazy. And they didn't even have an act! They remembered to bring their own toilet, but they didn't bring any jokes. That was always a little sad.
Can you talk a bit about maybe some of the particularly crazy acts that we'll see on the first few episodes? Is there anyone in particular we should look out for?
Natasha Leggero: I don't know if I'm at liberty to say (Laughs). I don't want to ruin it, but I can say that there is some nudity. I think it's fair to say that.
I've never done stand-up before but I have to imagine that part of a comedian's performance deals with playing off the crowd. When these guys come on, they're only performing in front of you three. Would you say that is the ultimate test for a stand-up, to get just three people to laugh?
Natasha Leggero: I definitely think how a crowd reacts to a comic is everything because you can't manufacture that. It has to do with charisma, it has to do with the ability to connect with an audience and all of those things you can't really see in a room with three people. What you can see is that people understand what a punch line is and that's something that we were looking for, almost exclusively, in the first round.
I watched some of the clips from the show and there was an interview with you where you said it would be great to perhaps find the next Bill Hicks on the show. With this being on NBC, isn't that maybe a bit difficult?
Natasha Leggero: Well, I think that if Bill Hicks were alive today, he wouldn't be caught dead in a comedy contest (Laughs). I mean, that's sort of wishful thinking on my part, but, you know, the world has changed a lot. Maybe he would have because it's getting increasingly harder. Everything is so overexposed. There are so many channels, the internet, there's so much streaming towards us all at the same time, so it's hard to get noticed now.
There are so many comedians out there that rely heavily on vulgarity and with this being on NBC, that aspect is taken out of that. Were there a lot of people that you were auditioning that did depend on the use of vulgarity?
Natasha Leggero: Yeah. I think all comics do in a way, unless they're Christian. I mean, stand up comics have become so spoiled because we can just come into these dark rooms and say whatever we want. Stand up comedy was meant to be seen in a dark club but there are different kinds of vulgarity. I mean, people can say the F word a lot, but TV prevents you from making fun of a lot of things. You can't make fun of songs because you can't get the rights so it's very hard to make fun of music. You have to replace funny words with unfunny words, like, even on our pilot, we couldn't say "boner," we had to say "erection" and it's not funny when you say erection. There is a lot of subject matter that is off limits because the network is afraid to offend its viewers. For example, my bit about people giving birth in toilets, which is happening, people get very sensitive about that stuff, even though it's happening all around them. Comedy is supposed to be the sounding board for all that's happening. A comedian is someone that is seeing things in interesting ways and noticing things that other people aren't noticing and telling everyone about it in a funny way. It's hard to do that without being a little dark or edgy sometimes.
What has the overall dynamic been like with Craig, Andy, Greg and yourself so far? I'm a big fan of all of them.
Natasha Leggero: They're all hilarious but sitting between Andy and Greg for days on end, I was just having belly laughs nonstop because they're just so funny. We're all experiencing some of these insane people together so we're really going through a lot together. It was really fun and a great experience. Craig, I've been performing with Craig for a long time. We just performed together on New Year's Eve in San Francisco. I'm a huge fan and he's so original. He's got this musical genius which he adds to the comedy in such an original way. It's just so fun to watch.
I actually did the junket for The Goods and I was in a room with Craig and Ken Jeong in a room together, so you can imagine how insane that was.
Natasha Leggero: Oh, God. I loved that movie.
I did too. It was sad that no one really went to see it.
Natasha Leggero: I loved that movie and I loved Hot Tub Time Machine. I thought they were both really funny.
I saw that you had the auditions back in March and I was curious where in the production schedule you are now?
Natasha Leggero: I think in July we're doing some more tapings. We have filmed the first six episodes.
Yeah, and I know you do the finale live in L.A.
Natasha Leggero: Yeah, in Pasadena actually. They say "live from Hollywood," but it's Pasadena. If you say it's going to be live from Pasadena, it sounds like it's going to be a dog show (Laughs).
You were in a pilot for NBC called The Strip that apparently was the only pilot that they didn't pick up this year. Is there any possibility of shopping it around somewhere else or does NBC own that?
Natasha Leggero: I think (Reno 911! creators) Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant are already working on something else. They said they did that project because NBC said they had wanted a multi-camera comedy and they wanted PEjoUmjsIHHCnl||Thomas Lennon} on their network. They have so much going on, other things in the works, so I think that will just stay at NBC.
Just to wrap up, what would you like to say to old fans of the show or anyone who is curious about tuning in about why they should check out Last Comic Standing on Monday night?
Natasha Leggero: I want to say that if you auditioned and you didn't make it, don't hate me. I got paid a lot of money to do that. But to the audience, we have to do it for the audience because we want to find the funniest people. It truly is going to be a different year than you've ever seen before.
Excellent. That's all I have for you, Natasha. Thanks so much for your time and best of luck with anything else you have coming down the road.
Natasha Leggero: OK awesome, Brian. Maybe I'll see you around. Bye.
You can watch Natasha Leggero along with fellow judges Greg Giraldo and Andy Kindler in the brand new season of Last Comic Standing with new host Craig Robinson, which will premiere on Monday, June 7 at 8 PM ET on NBC.