As a concept, Last Comic Standing has always seemed like a fool-proof formula for great TV. While other reality competitions offer mostly vicarious pleasures (whether it’s admiring your favorite player’s perfect soufflé or giddily watching their rival’s collapse), a good stand-up set can be enjoyed outright. Unfortunately, Last Comic has consistently compensated for this advantage by mediating the actual comedy through the blandest production possible. Probably the most notorious by-product of this laziness was the questionably open “open audition” process of past seasons, heavily stacked with professionally-represented comics and intentionally awful plants.
Thankfully, the latest iteration of the show has at least done away with that aspect, opting for more honest but equally exclusionary system of insider recommendations. The downside to this is that the performers in the opening round have been both uniformly talented and uniformly conventional, making it hard to have much of an opinion at all about them. This week’s “oddball” comic was something like a PG-rated Zach Galifianakis, which was certainly an entertaining persona but not exactly the avant garde, next level shit it was made out to be. After he finished his audition, the main observations from judge Roseanne were “you look funny” and “you’re odd,” the kind of incisive commentary that could only come from anybody’s mom.
That brings me to the much larger problem with this season, which is the supportive but not particularly insightful judges’ comments. Legends they are, Roseanne Barr and Keenen Ivory Wayans are more comedian emeriti than anything else, giving notes that amount to “stick with it, kid.” Some of this can be attributed to editing sure, but when their observations weren’t obvious (“you’re tall and bald”) they were downright counterfactual, with toothless material on standard topics repeatedly and inexplicably identified as “edgy” and “fresh.”
It’s almost a shame to spend this many space on the show’s flaws, because, like I said, the stand-ups themselves were universally solid, but there isn’t much to say at this point other than that. A 100-act highlight reel is pretty hard to critique, so hopefully in the future I can talk more about their individual acts. This week’s comedians making it to the semi-finals are Chloe Hilliard, Alingon Mitra, Gerald Kelly, Zainab Johnson, DC Benny, Emily Galati, and Rocky LaPorte. I can’t wait to find out who these comics really are.