If you knew nothing about comedy and turned on NBC tonight, the first few minutes of Last Comic Standing would not help you discern whether Americans actually have a sense of humor. And the celebrity judges from The Office, Kate Flannery and Brian Baumgartner are not helping matters.

First up at the Acme Comedy Company is Pete Lee, who’s listed as from New York City. Ah, nothing like traveling to another city to audition for a TV show. Kate’s acting as if she knows what she’s talking about. The next guy we see in Minneapolis is Alex Thomas, who hails from…Van Nuys, Calif. Hey! Aren’t there any Midwestern comics representing here? (Psst…there are, but we haven’t seen them yet)

Jared Logan is from Chicago, and does his lesbian joke that I believe I just saw on Live at Gotham on the Comedy Central and those people laughed at it, but Kate and Brian do not feel the same love for Mr. Logan. Sorry about that. He gets lumped in with a loser montage. And then there’s the Amazing Arthur, from Omaha, Nebraska. Um. OK. Whenever you need to put a superlative in your name, we know you have issues. He does juggling and yo-yo tricks, and no actual jokes. So, there’s that. It does fill time?

"Who can follow that?" Kate asks. Dan Cummins. That’s who. He investigates his Norwegian heritage for a funny offstage taped bit. "Please take your hand away from my ass!" sounds so much funnier in Norwegian. Just FYI. His actual jokes hit, too. We’ll see more of him.

Stan Chen! I competed with him 10 years ago in the Seattle comedy competition, and he since has moved to Indiana, and oh, poor Stan. Two problems with this audition. First, Stan calls out celebrity judge Brian, which in very specific circumstances, can work to a comedian’s advantage, but in this case, as they say, not…so…much. Second, you only get two minutes for your first audition, and his routine takes too long to get to laugh lines. In a quick, closed-room audition like this, you really need to make a quick, good impression, then build from there. You can’t try to slow-roll your way to a laugh at the end, because they won’t be waiting with you that long. Sorry, Stan.

Doug Mellard. He’ll work hard for your laughs. He is from Austin, Texas, which is nowhere near Minneapolis. So he makes it to the nighttime showcase.

Tim Harmston actually is listed as from Minneapolis, so hooray for that! They like his "train of thought," whatever that means. Karla Smith takes a phone call onstage. "No, I thought that was comedy I was doing." Alrighty then. Darlene Westgore, from nearby Burnsville (yeah, I know my geography! and also shared a house with three guys from St. Olaf’s once!) is a single mother and brings the requisite cynicism which works with Kate but not Brian…but she is billed as America’s Funniest Mom (hey Nick at Nite!). John Evans from Sherman Oaks, Calif., makes it, too. Tracey Ashley’s big forehead is enough for a callback. Carl Lee, all the way from Medford, Ore., is billed as a guy who has worked the road for seven years and is ready for this…but is he ready? We’ll find out tonight. Er, I mean, later in the show. He apparently has done a Tribble Run. So he gets a point in my book for that, at least.

Showcase time! Harmston gets our first look, Whoopsie, the inappropriate touch clown? He gets in a bee beard world record joke (which touches me personally, from hearing two bee beard jokes during the 50-hour marathon show). Dave Landau from Michigan is getting good editing. Ashley jokes about her mentally ill mom. Thomas jokes about big city people? Cummins wants a squirrelador, which is half-squirrel, half-labrador. In case you were wondering.

And now, Last Comic Driving presents…Eddie Pence. He jokes about pet birds and a woman who has been subjected to passenger seat duty for all of this so far is seen and heard saying, "That’s true." Yes, ma’am. It’s funny because it’s true.

Lee is up next. Jokes about getting out of Fargo. Westgore hates parent-teacher conferences. Mellard’s neighbors need to wipe their paws. Evans jokes about watching porn with his wife. Lee is not violent, but willing to drop pennies on Iraq.

Tickets to the semis go to…Pete Lee?! John Evans! And Dan Cummins!

And now we move on to Nashville with Norm and Cliff…

Bill Bellamy and the British lady are dressed up all country, supposedly, for the Nashville auditions at Zanies, where our judges are John Ratzenberger and George Wendt (aka Cliff and Norm from Cheers). OK. So. Here we go…

Dale Jones had problems with his imaginary girlfriend. His imagination gets rewarded! Oh, character time…cue the montage…

Mary Mack! Hooray! Why she didn’t audition in Minneapolis, I’ll never know until I ask her.

Wait. Their funny booth is now a funny port-a-potty? Jason Dudey is from West Hollywood! Dudey! OK. See you in the showcase. Or not. Pass. Boo. A prop comic, hooray?  It’s Heath Hyche. He somehow sells himself on the guys.

Pat Godwin. He has an issue with Bono from U2. That works for him. Killer Beaz from Mobile, Ala., needs to get stung. He gets a shot with the audience. Why? I don’t know. I’m not producing this show. Stop bothering me. The Brit lady is out on the line again, I suppose so we remember she’s still on the show. Gretchen and Egbert are doing something that I cannot quite place. Ooh, a ventriloquist in Nashville. I know a ventriloquist from Nashville. But this is Taylor Mason.

Erin Jackson is not a singer, merely a plus-size black woman. You dig? Drew Thomas? Sabrina Matthews? We’re not sure why, but OK.

Showcase time! Thomas…Jackson…uh…Mason brought a pig…Hyche knows tae-bo…for what that’s about to be worth…commercial break.

Pat Godwin to the stage. He has a guitar. Drunk jokes and he gets to play his guitar. Good for him. Killer Beaz works his accent…Mary Mack! Yay! Whoa…here’s Keith Alberstadt, and he’s from Nashville. And he’s getting plenty of screen time here. Dale Jones is next. He has lots of energy. Brit lady is kinda cute, in case you’re still paying attention.

Tickets to the semis go to…Heath Hyche! Erin Jackson! Mary Mack! Dale Jones!