Last Comic Standing recap: Premiere

Last Comic Standing recap: Premiere

Last night kicked off the eighth season of NBC's standup comedy showdown, Last Comic Standing.

For its first new season in four years, the show features 100 of the best comedians from all over the world competing for $250,000, a television development deal, and all of the prestige that comes from being a reality TV show champion. 

The season premiere kicked off with some notable changes from past seasons, including the elimination of the cheeseball "open auditions" with prop comics and other wacky bros bombing at clubs across the country. This saved us from the oh-so-familiar awkward moments of other reality TV shows (mostly), choosing to jump right into the top 100 comics' performances while giving us more insight into the lives of some of the participants.

Almost immediately, Minnesota made an impact on the show as Acme Comedy Co. original Tracey Ashley was given the full-star treatment, complete with a video package outlining her career, comedy motivations, and germaphobic travel rituals. Once she hit the stage, Tracey crushed the crowd and the panel of celebrity judges with a set that peaked with her impression of Oprah Winfrey holding court on the Underground Railroad. The judges pegged her an early favorite in the competition, with Roseanne going as far as to call her "the real deal." By the end of the episode, we learned that Ashley was the very first comedian chosen for the top 20 finalists moving on to the next round.

Speaking of the judges, it was refreshing to see less emphasis placed on who was going to play each "role" on the panel, with Roseanne, Russell Peters, and Keenan Ivory Wayans all seeming very genuine and supportive, offering a few words of praise after each comedian's set. Likewise, new host JB Smoove was happy to give the comics the spotlight, officially killing any chances of former host Bill Bellamy making a comeback for a late-season revival.

After airing a few more complete sets featuring a number of well-known acts from around the country, LCS went with a montage-style, time-saving rundown, spotlighting just a few brief moments from several of the other comics.

While the judges themselves downplayed their fame, there were a couple of celebrity cameos sprinkled in throughout the two-hour premiere, with Joan Rivers and Pauly Shore making guest appearances in two of the LCS-hopeful's video packages. And even though the show has made great strides in eliminating the sarcastic air quotes associated with most "reality" television, there were still a few moments of weirdness both on and off the stage.

- A guy who lives in his van (and somehow has a girlfriend)? - Check.
- Two dogs humping? - Check.
- Awkward TV blowup? - Double check.

Ah yes, the classic contestant versus judge confrontation. This came in the second hour of the premiere, when comedian Ben Kronberg did a couple of jokes that came off condescending, unfunny, and ultimately unsuccessful. Obviously, editing is everything, so we may not have gotten the full story, but Roseanne unceremoniously telling Kronberg to F-himself didn't exactly endear him to the audience. SPOILER: Kronberg didn't make it to round two.

Sadly, the only other appearance by a Minnesotan was Pat Susmilch, who was packaged into a highlight reel with several other comedians and given only a small sliver of screen time. Still, anytime you can use your moment of televised fame to joke about catheters, it has to be considered a success, despite the fact Susmilch didn't make it into the top 20.

To close out the episode, Smoove revealed 14 of the 20 comedians who have made it to the next round.

Next week's episode promises to be Minnesota-heavy, as Mary Mack, Tim Harmston, Nate Abshire, Tommy Ryman, and Pete Lee (another Minnesota guy who now lives in New York) will all have their moment to impress the Last Comic Standing judges.

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