Guys in gorilla suits can be really funny -- especially when they show up in unexpected places. So when a tuxedo-clad gorilla stomped onstage during last night's fifth season premiere of Last Comic Standing, I thought it was a great visual gag.
Then he opened his mouth.
Calling murdered primatologist Dian Fossey a whore set the tone for the rest of his act, a series of "monkey jokes" that the judges seemed to find hilarious.
The comedian billed as "Mel Silverback" (get it?), describes himself as half Jewish, half mountain gorilla. His act was half Unknown Comic and half Curious George. You remember George, the beloved character of children's literature, who was described in every book as "a good little monkey" despite the fact that he has no tail and is obviously a chimpanzee?
Silverback suffers a similar identity crisis. One backstage clip showed him announcing that he hoped no one had any chimp material because there was only room in the show for one monkey. Later he pronounced his intentions to become the first primate to win the title of Last Comic Standing (Note to Silverback: all the previous winners are primates). He wailed of Fossey's leaving him for the dominant male, oblivious to the fact that if he's a silverback, he is the dominant male.
While I don't care whether the other comics can tell a chimpanzee from a chihuahua, I'd think a guy who makes his living (or is that being too kind?) inhabiting a gorilla character would at least do a minute's worth of research. Gorillas are apes, not monkeys. Humans, along apes and monkeys, are classified in the primate order. According to his website "Silverback" has been doing his simian shtick for a while--he didn't just grab a banana and improvise -- so he's had time to learn, for instance, that orangutans aren't from Africa, one of his many misinformed morsels.
But far more annoying than his complete lack of knowledge about his purported species was the fact that there was nothing to his act beyond the primate puns. If he'd been a funny guy in a gorilla suit, I wouldn't have cried foul when he was selected to advance to the next stage. Only three finalists were chosen from the Canadian tryouts, and a handful of the rejects were quite good, while Silverback the one-shtick pony will get more airtime.
Half Jewish, half mountain gorilla ... one big bore.