So we begin the sixth season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and already it’s clear they’re still playing from the American Idol of Comedy playbook, what with host Bill Bellamy delivering the introduction…wait for it…turn on the lights…to a large audience! Get it? This is big, people. Anyhow. We’re going to endure plenty of people plucked from the lines for the sole purpose of mocking them because they’re willing to be mocked to get on TV, plus hundreds more who now will be billed in comedy clubs as "as seen on Last Comic Standing," even though you never saw their names and perhaps never heard them deliver a funny joke on the program.

The opening montage, already leaked to the Internets weeks ago, includes Eddie Pepitone, Michelle Buteau, Dwayne Perkins and a bunch of fools. Celebrity judges get billed as NBC talent, even if you’d never link them to NBC. Although Dave Foley delivers a funny line we’ll hear again later this season, after Richard Kind says "Dreams, just crushed," retorting: "You know, then we can make dream juice, and that’s refreshing in the morning." Yes, we will suffer, too, watching the parade of audition rejects before we can get to the actual professional comedians, and yes, just as with Idol, producers will select several acts merely for casting a TV show than for their talents as a comedian. Also, FYI: Jay Mohr still gets a consultant credit this year. Some British lady (Fearne Cotton) is out on the streets near Gotham Comedy Club talking about all of the people who showed up for the open call (as if they’ll ever get picked for this). Cue the montage of people walking into the room. Split-second looks. Hey, that’s a guy with an online comedy radio program. Hey, there’s our judges for New York City, Richard Belzer and Steve Schirripa. Belzer’s comedy career goes back decades, even though he’s more known for being Detective Munch on TV for years. Schirripa, meanwhile, has run a comedy room in Vegas for years, even though he’s known pretty much only for being Bobby on The Sopranos. So keep this in mind. Also, I was at the NYC callbacks and saw Belzer and Schrripa personally talk up a few of the acts, while plenty of others got kicked out prematurely for little or no good reason. Want to see what I saw behind the scenes? Click here.

Anyhow. First up is someone in a half-chicken suit, Buck B’Gak? Montage of awfulness. Louis Ramey, billed as Forest Hills!, does a black guy in Aspen bit and a Detroit is tough bit, and because producers set this up with special camera time, we know he’ll go through. More faces. Baron Vaughn and Ophira Eisenberg get split-second shots, but no talky talk. There’s a "what are you gonna do" montage. Adam Sank is a gay Jew who worked at Fox News, so he gets to come back, although Schrripa makes a bad gay joke in doing so. Esther Ku is 24? That is not something I knew before. Cameras follow her around the city as she talks to her mom on the cell phone. Ku took part in last year’s NBC Stand-Up For Diversity program, so the network knew about her already. And she makes Belzer laugh out loud. Wins them over, anyhow. A montage of freakiness, paused for a few seconds to allow ventriloquist Carla Rhodes to bring out her Keith Richards dummy. God’s Pottery gets some advance billing, performing on the streets and playgrounds of Brooklyn, before cutting to the club audition for their Christian folk duo routine. I saw these guys last year at the Montreal festival and they drew raves. The judges here clearly get it, saying as much. But even now, months afterward, I’m still confused how they’re supposed to compete in a stand-up contest — especially one with challenges and so forth. Speaking of which, after a commercial break, it’s Stone and Stone, identical twin brothers who talk over each other. This is going to be annoying, hilarious, or both. You pick. There’s another montage of folks in a confessional booth of some sort. Then we get the return of Dan Naturman, only the show hasn’t set this up yet, and Naturman’s delivery has the judges confused, but in a good way. Susannah Perlman gets to walk around the sidewalk in different costumes, and we’re led to believe something will come of this, but instead, she’s being set up for a big fall. Comics forgetting their punchlines. There’s a bad baby montage — which we saw coming, but Myq Kaplan didn’t know this when he went onstage with a guitar, and got dismissed before playing said guitar. Gently weeping. Al Jackson gets the reality TV role of guy chasing dreams as his wife gives birth, and his Bush joke gets him a callback. Marc Theobald‘s teeth get a laugh. Dan Curry works in a sex joke around Kevin Bacon. Michelle Buteau gets Facebooked!

At the callback performance show…Sank opens with Project Runway jokes. God’s Pottery has a song for Jews. Curry sends a text message to the wrong friend and big laughs. Ku is joking backstage with some comic that’s never introduced to us. Her set’s not the best, but she’s cute and confident. Jackson’s wife and newborn get camera time.

During a commercial break, we get…Last Comic Driving? That British lady’s the one driving, though, so it’s Last Comic Shotgun, as, one a time, presumably, we’ll get a comedian trying to tell jokes to hostages in the back seat. That sounds like it’s never going to work. But one comic will win $10,000 somehow??? Online voting. That’s how. Oh. No. Anyhow. Andrew Norelli is up first. He tells jokes about plastic surgery, former models and people who aren’t quite broke. Oh, wait. I get it. The comic who wins this also gets a new car, so he/she will be driving that. Moving on…

Naturman jokes about how no one predicted the Internet, not even Star Trek. Theobald jokes about candles. Ramey plays pranks at tanning salons. Angry Bob is, well, angry. Buteau filled out credit card applications for candy bars? Hello! Stone and Stone are still talking over each other. That’s the act.

The called backs are assembled onstage, and we see Aparna and Costaki and Jon Fisch and that still-unidentified woman, even though we’ve never seen or heard from them on the show yet. Does that even count? Hmmm. Getting red envelopes, at least on camera, are Ramey, the Stone twins, Ku, God’s Pottery and Naturman. Did some people get robbed? Yes. Of course they did. Aparna even vanished from the stage (she got a ticket, only something must have happened).

Next stop: Tempe, Ariz.!

And now onto Tempe, Ariz. and the parking lot of the mall where the
Improv is, where Bellamy and the British lady are landing a hot air
balloon for a stupid joke. Our judges here are Fred Willard and Kathy
Najimy. You know, from Veronica’s Closet! As in NYC, they start
with a ridiculous character, and here it’s a "gladiator" named Dick
Dynamo. "Oh no, make it stop!" Najimy cries. We agree. What follows is
more frightening stuff. A montage and a quick glance, I believe, at
Nick Tarr (known locally as the guy who got arrested by the sheriff for
his Halloween costume one year), and we eventually get to talk to
Marcus, who won the Seattle comedy contest in 2007 with his
impersonations. Willard says he’s a sucker for voices, "even if they’re
not good," and advises Marcus to avoid Bush and go for offbeat voices
at the next round. Chantel Rae jokes about throwing up. Bobby Miyamoto
jokes about unicyclists. Najimy tells us she’s bad at this whole
judging thing, but that confident comics win her over. Good to know.
Adam Hunter has good delivery and energy, they tell him.

Andrea Rosen is in this ad for Kraft Bagel-fuls, so…she’s winning?

Tempe is hot jokes. So not hot. Hey, that’s Josh McDermitt. Didn’t
he get a call back before? Rob Little is very giggly. Christina
Pazsitzky
went to law school, and she’s on roller skates. A guy in an alien suit is making Willard laugh, and that has to count for something, right? Robert Mac schools us in the field about cactus, then Willard says he’ll let the audience decide Mac’s fate. Right. That doesn’t sound promising.

The performance show opens with Mac, who argues a need for more Prince in the world. Hey, there’s Jim McCue, founder of the Boston Comedy Festival! What’s he doing all the way over in Arizona? Getting laughs, that’s what. Rae doesn’t have to pay for drinks but does have to pay for pregnancy tests. Next up: Bryan Kellen, in a suit, dancing like a freak. McDermitt, now billed as from Van Nuys, Calif., oh how we knew ye when. Marcus and the British lady flirt, then Marcus gets by with voices of Capt. Jack Sparrow and Bobcat Goldthwait. I opened for Bobcat on that very stage years ago. Ah, memories.

Hunter cannot go to bars with his girlfriend, and cannot get into one without one. Plus, immigration jokes in Arizona! Pazsitzky on vegans ordering food. Phil Palisoul? Didn’t he get a network TV deal already? Miyamoto had an awkward hotel experience with a girl. Little keeps up his overly energetic giggle routine and shows why he likes black girls dancing. Hey, is that Rocky LaPorte? I’m guessing he doesn’t get a red ticket. Plus, they keep showing Marcus praying right next to Bellamy. Marcus gets a red ticket on camera, as do Palisoul and Hunter. No girls allowed!

Let’s tease upcoming episodes and try not to think about all the funny people who got passed over.