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Last Comic Standing 9: Semifinals (Part One)

Pictured: (l-r)  Ms. Pat-- (Photo by:Ben Cohen/NBC)

We've reached the semifinal stages of Last Comic Standing, which means we have only a couple of hours to get the field of stand-up comedians narrowed down from 41 to our 10 finalists for Season 9.

Actually, we only have this hour to cut 15 from 20 to make up the first five finalists for Last Comic Standing Season 9. So. Ouch! This is gonna hurt.

We open the hour with lots of quotes from young whippersnappers establishing the stakes of it all. And here's your host, Anthony Jeselnik. Please don't talk to him. At least that's what he said on TV. Here's what the cameras didn't show you: An actual pep talk from Jeselnik! Sincerity, please. Yes, and thank you. Roll the clip.

Who is going to mentor these semifinalists?

It's Wanda Sykes. Of course it is. Sykes is one of the two executive producers behind Last Comic's revival (circa seasons 8-present). "She is a surgeon with the microphone," Mehran says. And she is taking her scalpel to everyone's material. Taylor Tomlinson's "even Hitler got a girlfriend" premise? Been there. Heard that. Flip it around, Sykes says. "I've heard that...so let's change that around."

With all of the talk of joke stealing and parallel thinking that's rampant these days, it's funny to me as a Generation X member to see the Millennials telling the same jokes we heard and told 20 years ago as if they're new. Well, they're new to them, I guess. Even though the Internet should have all of this covered already. Get on this, Internet! (Note to self: Get on this, me). Back to the future, when the future is now...

Sheng Wang loses her with too many words in just the set-up to the joke and before I even get to that "Next!" Next! Next!!!! "You need jokes," she tells several of them in an unidentifiable montage of massacres. I suppose this is the show's way of telegraphing the finish and cutting to the chase. We only have five spots and forty minutes to get there. So when the show slows down for Sykes to sit Clayton English down, then stand him up, then advise him to stay likeable, you're being told to pay attention to him. We won't like him if he's angry, I paraphrase to make him sound like Bruce Banner. He's not.

He's Clayton English! Let's talk about racism..."look. We gotta hang out more." So he does his extreme sports bit. And blacks not repped well in zombie shows. Roseanne? "Star." Norm sees some Tracy Morgan in him. Get out, Tracy! Before you get Clayton pregnant! Oh, wait. Is that not a thing anymore?

Taylor Tomlinson says her ex is building orphanages in Africa. Imagine the possibilities. She could've been The One. Which one, though? She still found room for Hitler. Did it work? She's only 21! They loved her.

So that's two spots locked, right? While we wait to see the other three potential finalists, please enjoy this running in-joke from the show about Top 5 Exit Fails.

Up next: Mehran Khaghani. He gets to deliver one more line on camera: "Happy Birthday, breast cancer!" And that one line earned him kind words from the judges. Talk about out of context.

We're going to move quickly through some other pretender contenders. By we, I mean the show's editors.

  • Alycia Cooper can't wait to stop caring about defending the president just because he's black.
  • Brad Loekle talks the gay beauty regimen. "If you put me in a group of gay guys, I'm Precious!" Put him next to Jeselnik, and you've got a "badass wedding cake," in the words of judge Norm Macdonald. Jeselnik said Norm's remark actually was a callback to a joke he'd made earlier, so you had to be there to really appreciate it.
  • Kevin Bozeman tells you when to tell kids the truth about Santa. The whole truth, though?
  • Sammy Obeid calculated which jokes appealed to each of the judges, because he thinks they have the final say. Ha! How little he knows.

Andy Erikson's mom is talked about but not pictured. She jokes about seeing a doctor who thinks laughter is the best medicine. Norm loves her character, but what about Emo Philips?

Sheng Wang went to the gym to take a class. And don't try to make fun of him for it, or for wearing a bike helmet, for that matter. Bring it! "Yeah. I could do better." Ok!!! Wordplay. You watched it, you got it. "An instant classic" joke, Norm says. Roseanne says all his jokes are classics. I'm liking his chances for more ShengWangTime!

Ms. Pat gets her Wanda mentorship as an intro! Can she get a hug? "It's a little nervous doing it just for you, Wanda," Ms. Pat says. "You don't know how good you ain't until you meet somebody like Wanda!" Roseanne screams before Pat even starts in with a joke about Dukes of Hazzard racism. "But I like when rich white people say racist stuff." Why? It's all about the Benjamins for Ms. Pat. The judges love her. I love her. You love her. She should be a lock for the finals. Should be, the operative phrasing.

Harrison Greenbaum is equal parts excited and scared. His NAACP joke gets Norm even more up in arms than his Harry Potter joke had in the Invitationals round. Someone is being taken to joke school, and class dismissed!

And now for a montage of crushing constructive criticism from the judges for comedians briefly seen and not identified to maintain their reputations. They'll have better sets week-in, week-out, for years to come. Just not tonight. Just not making it to the finals this season on the TV competition program.

Where does this leave DC Ervin? Forty-five seconds short, Roseanne tells him. And that's when the comedians only had three-and-a-half-minute sets to start with, so, um, talk about acting out a roller-coaster death!

Bryan Kellen talks us through his lost virginity and high-school basketball game afterward. "I speak drunk." Roseanne noticed. Norm compared him to Seinfeld's Kramer!!! Says he could be on a sitcom in two seconds. Well, he's on TV already right this very second. So...backhanded compliment?

Francisco Ramos brings us to Wanda Sykes straight from the ad break into one more mentoring session. Keep the character if you start it, she advises. He jokes about trying to hide his accent in school, instead. Unless he's picking up the ladies. Is he right, ladies?! Keenen Ivory Wayans says he's his own competition. Roseanne calls him rubber face. Norm says he's "material free" but "manic sexuality" makes him "a hot piece of ass!" So he made the cut, right?

Yes. Yes, he did.

Your five finalists from the first semifinals are: Clayton English, Taylor Tomlinson, Francisco Ramos, Andy Erikson and Sheng Wang.

It's criminal that they didn't keep Ms. Pat for the finals, so but the network suits get final say even after the judges and the producers, so I'll blame them until someone tells me otherwise. And I'm keeping Ms. Pat in my heart and mind and atop this story on center stage, where she belongs.

Next week, see how the other semifinal group cuts from 21 to 5.

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