With judges Russell Peters, Roseanne and Keenen Ivory Wayans and host JB Smoove, Last Comic Standing made its triumphant return last night to NBC. And this time, with the guidance of executive producer Wanda Sykes, Last Comic Standing is being done right. In year’s past NBC went to great lengths in order to perpetuate the idea that all of the comedians participating were “up and coming,” whether they were in the comedy game for three years without a single credit or if they were already a respected national headliner with a list of television appearances. It was a time when NBC held open auditions, giving comedians and viewers the sense that everyone had a fair shot at being crowned Last Comic Standing. The reality is in some cases managers and agents worked behind the scenes to get their clients some face time on primetime network television. And there’s nothing wrong with that— so long as all the players involved know the score.
Well, this year, Last Comic Standing has introduced the concept of an “invitational” and, during their pre-taped spotlights on certain comedians, were incredibly transparent about who the contestants are, how long they’ve been in the game and what successes they’ve already achieved. For example, we saw the well-respected Jimmy Shubert talk about the many television gigs he’s had and we saw Lynne Koplitz – a regular Comedy Cellar dweller – talk about the handful of development deals and on-screen gigs she’s scored. Judge Russell Peters even admitted he was a fan of Shubert’s and explained that another contestant, Aida Rodriguez, has opened for him on the road.
By the end of this season of Last Comic Standing, viewers will be exposed to 100 comedians. And we saw a great deal of them last night during the back-to-back hour-long episodes. NBC is able to get through so many comics because they toggle between featuring longer comedians sets and a series of seconds-long appearances presented rapid-fire.
We even got a payoff last night—two sets of semi-finalists were announced. The first group consisted of Tracey Ashley, Mark Normand, Dave Landau, Aida Rodriguez, Joe Machi and Rod Man. The second group of semi-finalists are Dana Eagle, Nick Guerra, Erin Jackson, Mike Vecchione, Jasper Redd, Lachlan Patterson, Tyree Elaine (pictured above) and Jimmy Shubert. What’s at stake for these semi-finalists and future semi-finalists is $250,000 and an NBC development deal.
We’ll be tuning in next Thursday at 9 pm ET to follow how Last Comic Standing progresses. I’ll also be live-tweeting, just like I did last night. So if you’re into that, follow along! If you watched last night, let us know what you thought of the first two episodes of Last Comic Standing!