Last Comic Standing
"Last Comic Standing" judges Norm Macdonald, Roseanne Barr and Keenen Ivory Wayans as they watch comedians perform during the invitational rounds of the hit NBC competition series. NBC

NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” is almost finished with its invitational rounds, which means the amount of opportunities to impress the judges are dwindling fast. Now, as we gear up for the final round of comedians this year, the competition sent another eight talented standups through to the semifinals.

As always, the highlight of the night was not so much the comedy in question, but the judges reaction to it. Season 9 of “Last Comic Standing” is helmed by celebrity comedy icons Norm Macdonald, Roseanne Barr and Keenen Ivory Wayans - along with their host, Anthony Jeselnik. These three titans of the industry each cast their vote for who they thought deserved to progress in the 2015 competition and who should work on their material.

So far in Season 9, Macdonald has been the most difficult judge to impress, and Wednesday’s showing was no exception. Time and again, the comedian very politely cut down the performers that he thought needed more work and often gave advice as to how they could be better. He told one performer, Joe List, that he would make a better writer than a performer. As if that wasn’t harsh enough, he told Indian-American comic Priya Prasad that she should quit stand up and try for a career as a comedic actress.

“You don’t need to work on the writing, other people will write great stuff for you,” he said.

However, as we get ready to enter the semifinals, where the judges opinions matter a great deal, Macdonald proved that he’s capable of more than just put-downs. The first comic of the evening, a Jamaican man by the name of Drew Thomas, inspired the 51-year-old judge to draw a comparison to the late, great Patrice O’Neal.

“He had his own truth and he was going to tell it to you, you remind me of him,” he said.

Meanwhile, the night held a bit of a Cinderella story as comedian Sheng Wang returned to the “Last Comic Standing” stage after being eliminated in the first round of last year’s competition. He reminded the viewers that the show is ultimately a game and that his strategy this time around was to put his best jokes forward right out of the box rather than hold them for an upcoming round he might never see. Wayans admitted that while he didn’t quite have it all together last year, this year he came back as a fierce competitor and even more hilarious comedian.

The strategy worked and he, along with Joe List, Dwight Seigel, Drew Thomas, Andi Smith, Amir Gollan, Brad Loekle and MTV’s “Wild ‘n Out” improvisor Shakir Standey advanced to the next round. Together they’ll go head-to-head with the slew of other comedians from the past two weeks as they all compete for the crown of “Last Comic Standing” in 2015. Next week will mark the final invitational round of stand up performers and, when the dust clears, we’ll have our crop of 40 comedians heading through to the next phase of “Last Comic Standing” Season 9.