NBC's seventh season of Last Comic Standing begins tonight with the first of several episodes in which America gets to decide who moves on and survives past the final 10. Unless, of course, you believe in conspiracy theories and want to figure out who executive producer Barry Katz is managing (but even then, you probably would not "guess" the winner, based on past seasons).

So, since we have left our cynicism behind in the previous paragraph, let us now tell you how LCS 7 will play out.

Tonight: Unlike the previous six seasons, in which finalists cast votes against one another to a challenge in front of a studio audience ("I know I'm funnier than XXX"), all 10 finalists will perform their stand-up routines in this first round. They'll each get a phone number and info for viewers to call/text and cast their votes. So in these senses, it'll be more like American Idol. Your 10 finalists are, in alphabetical order: James Adomian, Mike DeStefano, Felipe Esparza, Rachel Feinstein, Tommy Johnigan, Myq Kaplan, Laurie Kilmartin, Jonathan Thymius, Maronzio Vance and Roy Wood, Jr. But know this: They taped this showcase showdown several weeks ago at the Alex Theater in Glendale, Calif. It's not live. Sets may have been edited or re-arranged. Also: If you really want to vote for your favorites, you better hop to it, because they're cutting two or three each week! Yes. That's right. The bottom three comics will get the boot after this first week.

Monday, July 19: All 10 finalists return to the stage, but only seven will advance and perform that morning for a live audience, for broadcast that evening. America votes after the broadcast.

Monday, July 26: Of the seven remaining, five will advance and perform that morning for a live audience, for broadcast that evening. America votes after the broadcast.

Monday, Aug. 2: The final five will be reduced to an as-yet unknown final group, who will perform that morning for a live audience, for broadcast that evening. America votes after the broadcast.

Monday, Aug. 9: NBC's season finale. A winner is revealed, with a $250,000 prize and a network holding deal. Expect guest sets from each of the judges (Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo) plus other stand-up guests.