Welcome back to Last Comic Standing!

Or, as new host J.B. Smoove proclaimed near the top of Thursday night’s two-hour premiere on NBC: Smoove “I just want everyone to welcome back to a bigger, better, greater Last Comic Standing!” Hold for applause. What’s different now in season eight, four years removed from season seven? Aside from Smoove, we mean? “We invited the best and brightest 100 comics to come here to Hollywood for a chance to be Last Comic Standing.”

Well, obviously not the best and brightest 100 comics. They’re already beyond the next BuzzFeedRollingStoneHuffPost Hottest 100 Comedians You Need To Know List because they already star in their own sitcoms and/or big-screen movie gems. It’s never been the best 100 comedians. More like the most interesting cross-section of stand-up comedians who really could use primetime network TV exposure the most this summer. Whether that’s for landing that future sitcom deal — the winner of Last Comic earns a talent holding deal at NBC and half-hour development prospect with Universal Studios (total estimated prize package worth $250,000) — or just for upping their quoted rate to feature or headline comedy clubs across America.

Last Comic Standing, now in its eighth season, remains a reliable way to make yourself a household name. If not with the millions of viewers in their households watching, then at least, with the industry array of casting agents, booking agents and managers keeping tabs on the “competition.”

I’m ranking and sorting the competitive field on Last Comic Standing each week over at Previously.TV.

Here on The Comic’s Comic, I’ll give you some more notes, quotes and videos to fill out the backstories and behind-the-scenery.

Not that I know when the scene pictured above actually took place! Because it didn’t air during the premiere — no group shots onstage glazed our eyeballs — but if you’re gambling on future episodes, this photo may help you win some side bets. Now. As for the two-hour premiere.

In order of appearance.

Vinnie Brand — owner of The Stress Factory in New Brunswick, N.J. — wins first joke associated with his name on the screen prize, even if he’s not featured in this episode.

How are the judges first introduced to us? Roseanne Barr is called a “trailblazing comedian” and TV star who inspired a generation of comics — cut to her saying “Those are the best buffet jokes ever” to Lachlan Patterson. Really?! Keenen Ivory Wayans, we’re told, is known for creating the Scary Movie franchise, and also In Living Color, which launched Jamie Foxx and Jim Carrey. Cut to him saying “I’ve always wanted to know what I look like as a woman,” to a female comedian. Ominous. Foreshadowing. Russell Peters, meanwhile, is introduced as an “international stand-up sensation” — he’s a sensation, we tells ya! — who earned $21 million last year. There’s also a “dream team of celebrity mentors” promised — Wanda Sykes, Howie Mandel, Cheryl Hines, Amy Schumer, Jeffrey Ross — though we’ll get to them later.

First, it’s “The Invitationals.” Not auditions. Invitationals.

Judges comments/warnings:

  • Wayans: “I’m looking for stage presence and also their point of view”
  • Peters: The most important thing a comic can do “is own the room immediately.” “You’ve got literally 30 seconds or less to win the audience over from the get-go.”
  • Roseanne: “Tt takes really excellent writing,” and if you have that plus “a desire to please and connect, I mean, that’s unstoppable stuff.”

Who’s invited to The Invitationals? And how much of them do we see there?

DAVE LANDAU (FULL SET, JUDGES COMMENTS, POST-SET CONFESSIONAL) “My wife wants kids so we’re going to have them,” he lets us know up top. His first audible reaction, though, came when he turned a joke about showing pictures of your kid all the time into a missing kid gag. Then there’s material about his past drinking — to the point where he had a breathalyzer in his car, and doing so while driving his mother in-law to the airport. It’s 9:07 p.m. Eastern/Pacific (8:07 p.m. Central/Mountain) when he jokes about his brother drunkenly asking a prostitute, “How much for a reacharound?” That’s after throwing cheeseburgers at her from the White Castle drive-through lane. And before the rest of the bit. Roseanne likes him as a “cynic,” Russell says he’s “sarcastic and sharp,” “edgy and clever, which is a hard line to walk” Keenen says “It just got funnier and funnier and darker and darker, you could win the 250!”

TRACEY ASHLEY (PREVIEW PROFILE, FULL SET, JUDGES COMMENTS, POST-SET CONFESSIONAL) Namedrops Louis CK as giving her advice: “This is going to be a tough journey. Get on the road and get funny.” Cameras follow her to multiple college gigs and hotel rooms, where she brings her own air mattress and pillow to put atop the hotel bed. Her onstage material lets us know she married a white guy. She’s not in the mood to wear lingerie her mother-in-law bought her, and it’s not good when her niece calls her “Miss Tracey” instead of Aunt Tracey. Because of slavery. Speaking of Lincoln, do you know when he was elected President? That’s not as important as seeing Ashley’s Oprah impersonation if she were leading the Underground Railroad, though. Roseanne says “she’s the real deal.” Russell looks at his binder and “it says you’ve been doing stand-up 15 years and it shows” Keenen says “I thought you were elegant.” Elegant? Keenen. C’mon.

GUY BRANUM (PREVIEW PROFILE, FULL SET, JUDGES COMMENTS) grew up on a rural Northern California almond farm. All farms are rural. Right? Anyhow. His set is about being a big bear, but why? Reality TV is better than sports because you know why they’re fighting. “What is sports? Illiterate adults with accidental children fighting with each other for three hours at a time. I want to watch people fight, too. I just want to understand why. Because you are wearing different colored helmets is not a reason to fight. Because Melissa Gorga did not go to Teresa’s baby’s christening — that is a reason to fight!” Not to oversimplify. But it’s for a joke. Roseanne says she “liked the way you read the riot act to the world, and you earned that right.” Russell just likes boxing and MMA; Guy, too “but for very different reasons!” Keenen wants to know more about Guy, so Guy flirts back: “Take me to dinner, Keenen,” which makes him blush. “I’m hot now!” Oh boy.

DAVID WAITE (partial set) jokes about how his friends want him to go day-drinking. Here’s a bonus joke you didn’t see on TV:

PHOEBE ROBINSON (partial set) jokes about how the real goal of interracial dating is “to make hot Lisa Bonet babies.” Get on that!

ROB CHRISTENSEN (partial set) The DJ wants the crowd to scream like never before? he can do that.

MARK NORMAND (partial set, partial JUDGES COMMENTS) His set includes a strip club visit after clubbing as a metaphor for visiting the aquarium after fishing. Full joke about being a janitor as a day job. “You’re embarrassed? I went to college!” Russell says “for a guy who’s not been doing it very long, you’ve got a lot of promise, a lot of confidence and great material.” Here’s Normand’s full set:

ROD MAN (FULL SET, JUDGES COMMENTS, POST-SET CONFESSIONAL) He notes how we have more and more membership cards on our key chains, but instead of rewards, all he gets is a long receipt from the drug store. Why does the grocery store want us to buy our own bags? And then bag our own groceries? And check them out? This self-checkout bit is overdone already. Roseanne, however, says “I just loved it so much.” “I have thought all that same stuff.” “I love you!” Russell says “it was like watching a boxer about to knock you out…bam with an uppercut and it was good night, Chico” Keenen says “when you come out black on black on black, you were killing the lighting!” Good night, Chico. Here’s his set:

LYNNE KOPLITZ (PREVIEW PROFILE, FULL SET, JUDGES COMMENTS) reveals she previously scored development deals with NBC, Food Network, Sony, to little avail. Now, “you do hit an age where if the public doesn’t know you well, the business isn’t going to take a chance on you. I’m real lucky to have a mentor who’s really kept my head in the game.” That mentor? None other than JOAN RIVERS! “I want Lynne to be good, but not as good as me,” Rivers said. “Of course you should do Last Comic Standing. Your career is in the toilet!” Rivers said if it were her, she’d get down on her knees to please the judges. Koplitz would rather joke about being 46, single with no kids yet. Which makes her a cougar. Or, rather, “a zoo cougar.” And then acts that out from perched on her stool. Keenen says at beginning she sounded like Joan “but you have a good look.” Roseanne calls her “totally relatable…I like the aging woman thing a lot.” Russell likes “her self-deprecating style” — “you hook us and then you take us with you”.

DAVE STONE (PREVIEW PROFILE, FULL SET, JUDGES COMMENTS) lives in his van, uses the gym to shower, and found a lady named Lady. What’s not to love? He went to vocational tech school so he misses out on college reunion nostalgia. Roseanne liked him, thought he was him. Keenen asks where’s his point of view? Russell thought he came out swinging “you are who you are.” Two out of three agree!

ERIK RIVERA (shown/quoted backstage, partial set) also jokes about interracial marriage. Trendspotting! With his white in-laws, it’s tricky how to react when his mother-in-law presents him with guacamole.

ANDI SMITH (partial set) jokes about boob jobs as a graduation gift for young women. Maybe for women who didn’t graduate, would be better? “Here’s a couple of Ds, go follow your dreams.”

TIM NORTHERN (partial set) “Found out I can’t eat rat poison,” he joked. “I am rat poison intolerant.” Nice work. They put his profile preview online here:

And his full set!

You’d almost think they wanted him to move on.

AIDA RODRIGUEZ (partial set, JUDGES COMMENTS) She has a 17-year-old daughter who brings home participation prizes. Kids these days. Russell discloses, “Aida and I go way back. She’s opened for me on the road before.” Keenen discloses, “I didn’t hear anything she said.” But wait. There’s more! “you’re a stunning woman, and distraction is a comedian’s enemy. Tone it down a little. You never want your beauty to work against you.” What did Roseanne have to say about this? She chuckled.

JOE MACHI (FULL SET, JUDGES COMMENTS). Big winner, based unscientifically scientifically on people coming to visit The Comic’s Comic immediately after his set. After a joke about how we make ourselves happy by comparing ourselves to more miserable folk, he quips:
“Maybe I’ll try something a little less edgy.” Russell is shown making faces. Machi goes slowly into a bit about black people and white people. Then a joke about the N-word! You know it killed because everyone else is talking about it onstage. Roseanne asks: “Is that how you really talk?” Then adds: “Your shit is next level. It’s good!” Keenen says “I thought, oh boy I’m not going to like this guy,” but he did like him! Russell says “wow, I did not see that coming. You finished the biggest I’ve seen so far.”

We see the judges deliberate and Keenen makes the case that they should pick the comedians they can see building a show around who deserves a network TV contract.

SEMIFINALISTS: They pick? Tracey Ashley, Mark Normand, Dave Landau (“I felt like a unicorn on ecstasy. Like it wasn’t real but it felt really good.”), Aida Rodriguez, Joe Machi (“This last eight years hasn’t been a waste.”) and Rod Man.

LastComic_Season8_First_Semifinalists

***** HOUR TWO *****

ERIN JACKSON (FULL SET, JUDGES COMMENTS, POST-SET CONFESSIONAL) Jokes about her mother learning to text, thinking BTW stands for Booker T. Washington! Such a mom thing to do. She also dishes about online dating and cheap guys. Roseanne says “you’re very likable.” Russell says “you believe in your jokes” Keenen says “I loved everything about you…There was no oh I’m watching a black comedian or I’m watching a female, it was just you sharing with us your experiences, your life, and it was as universal as you can possibly get, even though it was very specific and I loved that. Very very funny.”

JIMMY SHUBERT (PREVIEW PROFILE, FULL SET, JUDGES COMMENTS) He’s from Philly, started at 18 as a doorman at The Comedy Store, and we see a clip from him somewhere onstage way back in 1985! At the Store, he met Sam Kinison and toured with him. But the Store? Isn’t that…yes, here’s Pauly Shore interviewed. “Jimmy has the talent, he just needs the opportunity,” Shore says. “Hopefully this show will give him a shot.” Validation for Shubert? “If not now, then when?” he wonders. His set jokes about chicken omelettes, vegetable hunting and more. Russell says “I’ve been a fan of Jimmy’s actually for a few years..he’s that guy! You’re a force.” Roseanne says he is “great.” Keenen says “I can see your point of view on every single joke.”

LACHLAN PATTERSON (PREVIEW PROFILE, FULL SET, JUDGES COMMENTS) is from Canada? “I walk dogs to pay the rent,” he says in the profile. “Laugh all you want, I’m making 100 bucks today.” People think he’s gay, which means he cannot eat ice cream the way he’d like to — buffets, no problem. That whole bit sounds like something Daniel Tosh would say, and Patterson looks and sounds like Tosh in doing it, too. Roseanne says “your joke construction was really good.” Russell says “you crafted a great show for this show, congratulations!” Keenan says “OK, this guy looks like a store mannequin. What’s he gonna do?”

GLORIA BIGELOW (shown/quoted backstage, then partial set) jokes that people don’t use “ghetto” in proper context, like her white friend Becky — carrots and crudite? “That’s not ghetto! Ghetto would be if she named her child Crudite!” Here is her full set:

PATRICK SUSMILCH (partial set) jokes about home catheters for women, finally? “Glass ceiling shattered!” Here is his full set:

SHAKIR STANDLEY (partial set, partial JUDGES COMMENTS) He opens with one of those lines we hear too often: “Oh, I know what you’re thinking.” Churros, churros, churros. Roseanne says “you’re unique, you’re different.” Here’s more of his stand-up so you can form your own opinion:

MIKE VECCHIONE (shown/quoted backstage, partial set, JUDGES, POST-SET CONFESSIONAL) jokes about how he looks too much like a police officer, and how he eventually took classes to become a private detective online. Which may have given him his first case! Here is his full performance:

JASPER REDD (FULL SET, JUDGES COMMENTS) Redd doesn’t want to drink 1800 tequila because it wasn’t a good year for black folk, also why “I don’t eat cotton candy.” Never seen Roots? “It’s like Star Wars for black folks. It’s a rite of passage. Except we don’t have the conventions.” Russell says “the audience has spoken,” but wonders if 1992 was such a good year if it included the L.A. Riots? “Depends upon which side you were on” Redd retorts, which wins over Keenan. Roseanne likes how he “brings the pain.” Hey, that’s Chris Rock!

BEN KRONBERG (partial set, JUDGES COMMENTS) Kronberg boldly uses most of his time on the first set-up. Roseanne says “I think you wasted a lot of time up there.” There’s a back-and-forth that escalates both through editing and the fact that Roseanne is being much more serious about this than Kronberg is, or at least that’s the impression we’re given. Keenen offers: “Here’s what I have to say: I think what annoyed Roseanne was the fact that what you did was a little gimmicky.” (Kronberg off-camera says he replied that this show is gimmicky) Russell says: “Here’s the thing, Ben, about the first joke. You spent a lot of time setting it up, but the problem is, is that it’s an old joke.” Roseanne counters with this: “You know, you had some funny things but it was kind of like I didn’t feel like you were really respecting the people in front of you. You didn’t respect your audience.” Kronberg appeals to the audience, to no avail. Serious or joking? He does get Roseanne to blurt: “You know, go fuck yourself!”

DANA EAGLE (FULL SET, JUDGES COMMENTS) She jokes, “I like girls,” but she needs to settle down and marry, too. Her father’s advice is like finding mall parking. Bipolar, she says, and talks about mental illness, medications. Also an atheist who thinks meeting her maker is the best customer service opportunity to complain. Russell says “so that is your real voice, so that is good,” and wants to hear her next five minutes, Roseanne also wants to hear more about what made her a comic. Keenen thought: “Aw, she’s like a female Woody Allen.” He wants to hear more, too.

PAT REGAN (shown/quoted backstage, partial set) Guitar act! “Facebook stalking my most successful friends.” Here is the full song:

BOB KUBOTA (partial set) Wonders if he has to apologize for being Japanese and not Asian-American. Here is his full set:

CHASE BERNSTEIN (partial set) Funny bit about a Groupon offer for the Museum of Tolerance? For when you care about social justice, but not at full price.

MICHAEL SOMERVILLE (partial set) Jokes about how he’s not manly enough to fix his girlfriend’s flat tire.

TYREE ELAINE (partial set, partial JUDGES COMMENTS) Jokes about miscommunications when she attends a white church.

NICK GUERRA (FULL SET, JUDGES COMMENTS) Introduced as “our last comic of the night” by Smoove. Picture Dane Cook when he was 10-15 younger, with long hair, joking about getting cockblocked at the nightclub by the woman and her friends. “Every single girl has her role” in the bar, and Guerra will act them all out for you, closing with the short smack-talker. Keenen says “there really is no critique.” After all, he thinks it’s fun to relive the perspective of a young guy in the clubs. Roseanne says: “We knew who you were right away…I want to hear a lot more from you.” Russell says: “Your last name means war in Spanish, and that’s what you did, you went to war tonight, and you won that war.”

SEMIFINALISTS: Dana Eagle, Nick Guerra, Erin Jackson, Mike Vecchione, Jasper Redd, Lachlan Patterson, Tyree Elaine, Jimmy Shubert.

That makes 14 in the semis so far out of 31.

Not seen: The other 69 comedians?! Tune in next Thursday. Check out the full list of the Top 100. “The Invitationals continue” next week.