NBC is, once again, bringing stand up back to TV with the premiere of Season 9 of its on-again-off-again hit “Last Comic Standing.” The first night of comedy kicked off with a super-sized invitational round that saw dozens of comedians battle for one of 14 spots in the semifinals.
“Last Comic Standing” returned Wednesday night with new host, former Comedy Central roast master, Anthony Jeselnik, along with judges Rosanne Barr, Keenen Ivory Wayans and newest member Norm MacDonald. Together they’ll watch and critique all 100 comedians vying to be the only one remaining after the eight-episode season concludes.
The premiere began the first of the invitational auditions. NBC and the producers narrowed a list of 2,500 comedians down to 100. Of that hundred, the judges will send 40 through to the semifinals. From there, those 40 will be narrowed to the top 10, then compete head-to-head with each other until only five remain. From that five, one will be crowned the "Last Comic Standing."
The first round of invitational auditions kicked off strong with comedian Ryan Connor bringing a different perspective on race to the stage. Growing up in a mixed race household, he had a unique insight into the racial divide in America that each judge found refreshing for different reasons.
All three judges seemed to put a high premium on comics bringing a different perspective to the stage, particularly MacDonald and Wayans, who have seen a great deal of comedy throughout their very long careers. Luckily, the judges differing sensibilities didn’t butt heads during the first hour of the night as they mostly agreed on the first eight comics they wanted to send through to the next round.
The first comedians moving on to the semifinals of “Last Comic Standing” Season 9 include: Taylor Tomlinson, Ian Bagg, Ryan Conner, Ms. Pat, Mehran Khaghani, Moses Storm, DC Ervin and K-Von. All eight of these fantastic performers managed to edge out the others who performed during the first hour of the premiere to move to the next round of the 2015 competition.
It wasn’t until the second hour of the night that the judges started to hit their critiquing stride and some controversy came out. The biggest moment came when comedian Amy Miller took the stage with her unique brand of dark humor. She walked a fine line with a joke about black people being shot by police in the United States, which caused MacDonald, Wayans and Barr to argue over whether or not the young comic’s persona was too disjointed. MacDonald even went as far as to say that only a black comedian should do a joke like that, to which Wayans seemed to take particular offense.
In the end, MacDonald came around and Miller was sent through along with the next batch of semifinalists. The show closed with a set from the hilarious, and physical, comedian Bryan Kellen, who proved that the era of slapstick silly comedians has not yet succumbed to more high-brow monologists.
Ambrose Jones, Esther Povitsky, Crystian Ramirez, Bryan Kellen, Kevin Bozeman and Amy Miller join the previous crop of eight comics moving to the semifinals. “Last Comic Standing” will continue next week with another round of invitational auditions until it has 40 members ready to compete for the Top 10. Tune in Wednesday at 9 p.m. EDT to see which up and coming comedians make it to the next rounds.