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How to Improve 'Last Comic Standing': Bring Back The House!

by Ryan McKee, posted Jul 19th 2010 4:00PM
Last Comic Standing
'The Baltimore Sun' called the first round of this season of 'Last Comic Standing' "open-mike night." 'A.V. Club' said the show "failed to load properly." And there is talk around the TV Squad offices that this is the weakest group of 'LCS' finalists yet.

While I agree the first round of the finals fell flat for the most part, I know it's not a problem with the comedians' level of talent. I've performed on shows with almost all of the finalists (and most of the semi-finalists). This group is as strong as any other in American stand-up comedy at this level (well, the strongest NBC prime time will allow due to network standards and practices and focus groups).

The problem lays in this season's format. 'Last Comic Standing' has retooled every season, trying to find the right recipe, and this time they're short on personality.

I'm not saying these finalists do not have personality. They don't have enough screen time to show it. You could argue their acts should be enough. However, there is more to stand-up comedy than jokes -- otherwise, the form would be as obsolete as slam poetry because every joke has already been written .

What keeps stand-up alive is comedians' ability to draw an audience into their world. It's the same reason books are still relevant. Audiences like to escape their heads for a while and get caught in someone else's, thus gaining perspective on their own life.

By this point in the season, most of the finalists have burned through their material that's clean and relatable enough for network TV. That's the stuff they'd do during a set on 'Live at Gotham' or 'The Tonight Show.' That burnout would have happened every season, but we got to see the comedians more off stage: interacting with each other, stressing about the competition and dealing with daily life. This helped us relate to them and see things through their eyes, making their material more relevant.

In a comedy club, a comic has the space to connect with the audience. They can stop, address things happening in the room, interact with people, and establish a rhythm. On 'Last Comic Standing', they can only rapid fire their perspective for a couple minutes. This is entertaining for a few episodes, until they sound like interchangeable typecasts: The Mother, The Tough Guy, The Minority Who Talks About Being a Minority, The Attractive Twenty-Something Female, The Eccentric, The African-American With Life Experience, The Nerdy White Guy, etc.

Behind-the-scenes footage builds the rapport a comic has the freedom to do in a comedy club or during a longer TV set. When Mike DeStefano mentioned being a former drug counselor, it becomes more interesting if you known he's a recovering heroin addict whose lived with HIV for over 20 years. When Myq Kaplan said he's a tough guy like DeStefano, it's more relevant if you know DeStefano almost kicked Kaplan's ass offstage during the semifinals. When James Adomian performs, it's more exciting if you know he could be the first gay comic to win 'LCS.' Wait, you didn't even know he's gay? My point exactly. Bring back the house.

Do you think 'Last Comic Standing' has been sub-par this season? If so, how could it be improved? Check out the latest full episode below and tell us what you think.

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Mr. Bungle

I agree with Paul Little. This season of LCS is the best one in my opinion. Craig Ferguson is a great host and the judges are great! The house sucked. The stupid little challenges they had like "Make the deal or no deal girls laugh" was lame. This season is what its all about, being up on stage and making the people laugh.

July 20 2010 at 7:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Mr. Bungle's comment
Mr. Bungle

Craig Robinson I mean!

July 20 2010 at 7:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can see how you confused Craig Robinson and Craig Ferguson...they're really quite similar. Well, I've never seen Craig Robinson use puppets, but I'll bet that they're coming soon.

July 21 2010 at 3:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One way to improve it - let the judges pick the winner - all the way they get to have a 50% say and AMERICA has 50% say. Also, they should be able to save one person like Idol does it. Sometimes America is just DUMB - like last night when they got rid of the Queertracker-

Take your pick...




July 20 2010 at 3:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is the best season of Last Comic Standing so far, for no other reason than the actual COMEDY is taking center stage.

Maybe it's just that I don't like "reality shows" in general, and care about the show only because it features comedians (and comedy is something I'm very passionate about). And while there were good comedians who didn't make it past the audition round or the semi-finals, out of the Top 10, there were only 2 TRULY BAD stand-ups, a couple mediocre ones, and at least 5 or 6 who are really solid comics.

I don't care about if a stand-up is gay or not as long as his jokes are solid. I don't care if he's a former heroin addict unless it pertains to his jokes. I don't care who almost beat up whom in their personal time. I care about solid jokes and great delivery. I care about the stand-up comedy.

Admittedly, things don't seem to be working as well with the audience that likes to clap and cheer for set-ups, throwing off the timing and making the viewing experience a bit odd. But it's damn nice to see GOOD comics making it far.

(Plus, they had the best judges BY FAR for this show this season. I could watch Andy Kindler in ANYTHING and enjoy myself. He's one of the top stand-ups in the world.)

July 20 2010 at 1:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Man, what is it with the "reporters" on this site? "When Mike DeStefano mentioned being a former drug counselor, it becomes more interesting if you known he's a recovering heroin addict whose lived with HIV for over 20 years." Seriously? "...it becomes more interesting if you" KNEW THAT "he's a recovering heroin addict" WHO'S "lived with HIV for over 20 years." Whose is not a contraction for "who has."

Grammatical mistakes aside, I don't think that it really makes it any more interesting. I don't think you need a comedian's life history in order to appreciate their jokes.

There are only about four of the 10 remaining comedians that are really any good. The rest really can't compare even to people that I've seen at local comedy clubs. What's sad is that they eliminated some funnier comedians earlier in the show.

I'm sure that the comics are somewhat hamstrung by what can be said on broadcast TV, but if you can't be funny without saying R-rated words then you're not really funny.

July 20 2010 at 12:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Poppa Nutt

Being a comedian myself, I was disappointed in the whole way they went about doing this show. Those that should have been there are long gone and those that never should have, I'll just say, may still be on the stage.

My biggest disappointment in the whole show was the house being gone. It takes away from the show completely. I write about it as well on my blog over atStand-Up Comedians.com and complain in vain of course. The one thing that irritates me more than the house being gone is that I didn't go to the auditions. If these are the best, then I may have likely made the final seven myself.

But as you said...the Jay Leno $#@! would have been used up a few shows back.

Great article...I enjoyed it!

Poppa Nutt

July 20 2010 at 12:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

While I agree that the house made for some good moments, I hated the stunt "challenges." They were mostly ridiculous and typically had absolutely nothing to do with stand up comedy.

A lot of my favorite moments from previous seasons happened in the house. I wasn't a big fan of Rich Vos's stand up, but his bits with Dave Mordal in season 1 were incredibly funny.

I think some interesting challenges could be developed around actual stand up to keep the comedians busy in the house. Having to craft a bit around a random topic, somewhat like the recipe challenges on Top Chef, would be compelling. Seeing how the comedians wrap their heads around a concept would be interesting.

July 19 2010 at 9:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bring back the house. What makes a good comedian great is one who is quick with a joke. I found the house segments and the goofy task portions funnier than the bit the comedians do. It was always interesting to see that some of the comedians hate each other, but put on the act when they'd do the set that they were friends.

July 19 2010 at 9:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It has definitely been sub-par and I think that you hit the nail on the head about the house. I thought that they had a good formula with the house and goofy assignments. It let you see the comic's personality and humor off the stage and more off the cuff. I think the producers decided that it needed to be more like American Idol this year so they modeled it after that with a slight LCS twist. Bad move in my opinion, especially since AI is going downhill. They should continue to make their own way. I have not connected with any one comedian the way I had in previous seasons.

July 19 2010 at 6:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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