If there's one thing NBC knows how to do, it's make a hit reality TV competition, something it's doing once again with Season 9 of "Last Comic Standing." In the second installment of its eight episode 2015 run Wednesday night, another crop of talented comedians left some of their best material on stage in the hopes of advancing to the semifinals.
Once again, host Anthony Jeselnik joined judges Roseanne Barr, Norm Macdonald and Keenen Ivory Wayans as they sat through a tight set of more than 20 comedians all vying for a chance to impress them enough to be among the nine sent through to the next round. As fans learned last week, "Last Comic Standing" is a rare TV competition show in that the viewers have no say in who does and does not go through. Instead, it's all left up to the will of the three judges, and this episode proved that Macdonald will be the toughest nut to crack in Season 9.
If the newest episode had a theme, it was ethnic comedians. While comedy in the 1990s made jokes about race very well-tread territory, most of the comedians in Wednesday's episode were commended by all three of the judges for finding a way to modernize the topic for an audience that's heard it all before.
For example, Asian-American comedian KT Tatara, had a great set in which he talked about the difficulties of living with his heritage and the ways that the public often perceives him. At one point, he told a joke about Asian-Americans and math. When his set was finished, he received shining endorsements from Wayans and Barr, but Macdonald felt obligated to correct the logic of his final joke.
"Oh, I see what you're saying, change it so that it's tighter," Tatara said, accepting the note in stride.
"No, to make it correct," Macdonald countered.
Throughout the episode, while the other judges watered down any criticism they might have had, Macdonald kept things spicey by not only letting some performers know when he disliked their set, but suggested really inventive ways to improve them. On three occasions he even pitched alternate jokes to the comics. In other words, Macdonald is more of an abrasive mentor than a Simon Cowell-type figure.
In the end, only nine could go through to the semifinals. Those nine were comedians: Andy Erikson, Greg Warren, Dominique, Tony Baker, Francisco Ramos, Cyrus McQueen, KT Tatara, Alycia Cooper, Sammy Obeid.
Together, they'll join the previous 14 comedians who moved on from episode one to compete in the semifinals. The 40 chosen comedians will then perform again for a shot at joining the top 10. After that, they'll engage in a head-to-head round of standup comedy that will ultimately determine who will be the last comic standing.
"Last Comic Standing" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EDT on NBC.