In a sea of talent competition shows, Last Comic Standing has had difficulty finding its footing. The idea seems simple enough: Assemble a group of rising and established stand-up comics, and have audiences and judges pick the funniest. But after 13 years on the air—with only nine seasons in that time—and a slew of format changes, the show has gone through ups and downs trying to figure out how to work its best asset, laughter.
No matter the changes, it’s hard to deny the cultural impact the show has had, which is perhaps why NBC brought it back from cancellation in 2006. Whether it’s giving newer comics a greater edge by helping them bypass years of work on the road, or exposing viewers to names they might not otherwise learn about, has provided a different way to find talented comedians. Among the big names who have appeared on the show, but who haven’t won, are Amy Schumer, James Adomian, Nikki Glaser, Rachel Feinstein, Doug Benson and Gabriel Iglesias.
The winners haven’t always leapt from the competition to immediate stardom, but those who exhibit enough pluck, work ethic and determination have certainly carved out a space for themselves alongside their more established colleagues. Here are the nine LSC winners, ranked from our least favorite to our favorite.