Lewis Jacobs/NBC
TV Show
Reality ,
June 23, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

It has been four years since Sanjaya, err, graced the stage of American Idol, but he’s still apparently one of the greatest punch lines for the comics warming up the crowds at reality show singing competitions. Take last night at the live, semi-finals round of NBC’s The Voice, where warm-up comic Bill was pumping up the crowd before the competition. “Cee Lo is performing tonight!” he roared to the crowds inside Stage 16 on Warner Bros.’s Burbank lot, in an attempt to get the masses enthusiastic.

And then he added: “Sanjaya is performing! No, I wouldn’t do that to you…” When he said that, I found myself flashing back to the multiple times during my evenings in the American Idol studio, when the warm-up comic for Fox’s karaoke behemoth would use the very same joke. Ba-domp-ching! Sanjaya! To that I say: C’mon, give Sanjaya a break, folks! It has been four years — get a new joke!

But alas, Sanjaya was far from the only excitement inside The Voice dome last night, as the top eight contestants were whittled down to just four — one from the team of coaches Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, and Blake Shelton. What else happened on the inside that you might not have seen on screen? Well, since it was only an hour-long show, it was a short evening, but here’s what I spied for you all:

Welcome Your…Coaches! Carson introduced the coaches to the screaming throngs as they walked out to the stage to take their seats in their big red chairs. “Save your applause,” he said, after he got huge cheers himself, “for the celebs who are about to walk out!” And then proceeded to give a little commentary on each coach. “Sorry girls, he shoots squirrels,” Daly said while introducing Blake. His pithy comments about Adam, unfortunately, were so drowned out by the screaming girls in the crowd that this reporter couldn’t hear them. Of Cee Lo, Daly said without irony: “He’s the spiritual center of The Voice for all of us.” And he went into platitude mode for Miss Christina’s entrance, referring to her as “the greatest artist of our generation.”

A Presidential Delay President Barack Obama’s address to the nation pushed the live show back a bit, just about 15 minutes to be exact. But since The Voice is live to the east coast, everyone involved had to be ready and waiting, so that the show could begin just as soon as the president signed off. With everyone in place and not much to do, audience-centric antics began. First up: A screaming contest, led by warm-up comic Bill, where the crowd would yell for “Team Adam” or “Team Cee Lo” or “Team Blake” or “Team Christina.” Even Adam played into the game, encouraging the crowd, “Let’s hear it for Team Adam again!” And without fail, his team certainly got the most volume from the audience.

Christina Leaves Her Mark Amid the madness before the show went live, warm-up comic Bill encouraged the audience to ask questions of the coaches. No one, of course, had any questions — their requests, instead, were things like, “Can I give Adam a hug?” Bill kept telling one guy in the crowd that, No, Christina would not come over and sign his arm. But you know what? That seemed to inspire her to do just that — she dramatically marched over to the fan after grabbing a pen from a production person, and signed the guy’s arm. What a gal! And then, of course, came the requisite comment from warm-up comic Bill: “She signed it Britney Spears! That’s a cruel joke!” Christina, however, gave no response to the silly remark from the warm-up comic.

Blake’s Turn Not satisfied with letting Christina steal the pre-show, Blake took a microphone and began singing the lyrics to “Lady Marmalade,” to the delight of the lady coach to his right. Added warm-up comic Bill: “I said he could sing the Golden Girls theme song — because that’s his favorite show!”

Hot, Hot Balls of Fire During that opening number by the eight finalists, you no doubt saw the balls of fire blasting up from the back of the stage. Let me just tell you: Those things were hot, hot, hot! I was sitting in my regular spot five rows behind, and to the left of, Blake — which was quite a ways from the balls of fire — and I could seriously feel the heat. The coaches didn’t seem to react to the heat at all! And I didn’t notice any singed eyebrows in the rest of the crowd that was closer than me.

Cee Lo’s Special Treatment Of course, during most commercial breaks, the coaches’ hair and makeup teams come out to freshen them up. (Blake apparently uses hairspray!) Tonight — and maybe it was because of those hot fireballs I just mentioned or because of the general warmth in the studio — Cee Lo’s team kept patting his shaved head down repeatedly. Shine, in this case, clearly is not a good thing.

Cee Lo’s Post-Performance Salute As Cee Lo waltzed off the stage after singing “Bright Lights, Bigger City,” he passed right by my section of the crowd. He began stripping his clothes off (he seemed to be wearing several layers!), and then I saw it: He stuck his tongue out at the crowd. At no one in particular, but it was a pretty cheeky move.

Frenchie’s Super Confidence Frenchie is confident, we all know that for sure. But I watched as her and Beverly McCellan stood off to the side of the stage, as they waited to walk up and hear their fates. When it was time, Frenchie walked with a purpose — quickly taking her stride up next to Carson. As for Beverly? Well, she seemed a little more reluctant. I guess it worked out for her in the end, though, as it was Frenchie who eventually got the ol’ heave ho.

Post-Show Party As soon as the cameras went to black, members of The Voice‘s production staff wheeled out a huge birthday cake, lit up with candles. Apparently, it was Carson Daly’s birthday! (And Blake Shelton’s was last week, the powers that be told us.) It was a cute moment, seeing all the staff, the contestants, as well as the studio audience, singing “Happy Birthday” to Carson and Co. Happy Birthday, indeed.

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

Read more:

‘The Voice’ Central

‘Voice’ coaches Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine have collaborated on a new single

A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.
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