Why was 6 afraid of 7?
You know the joke: Because 7 8 9! Say it aloud. Spell it if you have to. But here we are, in episode seven of a short-order of eight episodes for season nine of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and we’re cutting the field of stand-up comedian contestants from 10 to 5 for the finals, but what they don’t tell you is how in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks that’s going to happen. Well, to be fair, they do tell you the shorthand. “Pair off and square off,” host Anthony Jeselnik says near the top of the hour. Head-to-head stand-up showdowns, “as determined by the judges.”
But how did the judges decide upon the five pairings? Were the comedians seeded? This seems like The Most Important Factor in determining who’ll make the Final Five comedians who could be the Last Comic Standing and definitely would be the comedians going on a full North American live tour of theaters in the fall.
In the olden times of Last Comic, the comedians themselves chose who’d they face-off against, quite literally saying the words “I know I’m funnier than…” in a “private” booth and then counting the challenges to let them have a say in their fates.
No time for olden times in 2015 with only one episode to get to five (let’s put aside for now the fact that next week’s finale has our three judges — Roseanne, Keenen Ivory Wayans and Norm Macdonald — selecting a winner for the $250,000 NBC Universal development deal from among five performers).
We only have time for old-school back-room politicking, which has its own set of pros and cons. In a world where we see dozens of people running for president and may wish that the establishment or Illuminati or whatever label you want to put on the Koch Brothers and their ilk who play puppeteers to the people we vote into elected office, perhaps it’s better to have the producers and judges take away the popular vote of audience members, instead having people who know funny judge funny. We’ve seen the alternative. Besides, as we’ve explained before and will remind ourselves and you once more, NBC didn’t give us enough hours in the summer to have both audition rounds and multiple challenge rounds. So we only have these 44 minutes or so to present five head-to-head eliminations.
These are the face-offs presented to our faces for approval.
Michael Palascak vs. Taylor Tomlinson
You can see their edited sets above. Now that’s another potential point worth clarifying. Because what we saw on the TV was Palascak deliver jokes about playing high school quarterback, wrapping his head around a “fact” that college kids were committing suicide to the classic rock song “Freebird,” and telling us about how his mom was religious and swore by it. With the (bleeps) to prove it! Tomlinson’s set was more cohesive, focused on how she got pulled over sober for drunk driving, how she tries to be healthy while her friend is a gym rat, and how despite all of that, she feels ugly in a slinky clothing store. Keenen though neither “won” the challenge, instead saying they’re “neck and neck.” Roseanne said she liked Mike’s set. Norm references the PGA golf tour and how Saturday is known as “moving day” and it only provoked Jeselnik to playfully prod him more about his opinion here with the jokes and such. “What did that have to do with golf, at all?” It sounds like Mike will take it, and he does in a split decision!
Francisco Ramos vs. Ian Bagg
These two guys could joke about their face-off backstage, as if they’re actually friends. Which I believe they are. To the face-off! Ramos mocked Latinos who pretend they don’t know English when they also don’t know Spanish, then focused on the difference between having a shower to himself versus sharing one with a girlfriend. She has so many bottles in the bath and hairs in the tub, whereas he has one lone giant shampoo bottle that has served him for years. To give you a visual of his set, picture his closer being all about the faces we make during sex. OK. You got it. Bagg came out swinging with a different visual, that of women who pair high heels with shorts, then one about a Chinese baby born with three arms. “That’s why we’re losing, people!” Bagg used Roseanne for crowd work about post-baby bodies, then dared broadcast network television to censor his closing bit about vaginas so loose they sound like didgeridoos. Apparently you can say that on network television! The judges’ verdict? Jeselnik wants a tease via opinions but Roseanne will not oblige. Instead, she breaks the fourth and fifth wall, revealing producers are in her ear telling her to tell him off. Jeselnik disagrees. “F you Anthony!” Roseanne shouts. Oh well. Keenen and Norm tell us and them everything we need to know. Keenen says one guy had fun, the other did his set. Norm says it’s about talent versus funny and relays a long story about how everyone as a kid in Canada wants to be the Great One in hockey, but you can’t teach funny. Somehow there’s a link there. You can’t teach greatness, I think, is the link. Yeah, that’s it. You remember, too, how in the first episode Norm revealed he’s a long-time fan of Ian’s? Yep. It’s Ian for the win in a 3-0 unanimous vote.
Sheng Wang vs. Dominique
“I guess we’re both strong black women,” Sheng says backstage. Onstage, he jokes about how immigration be crazy! Especially when your kid does comedy as a fulfillment of his parents dream of having their kid live out the American Dream. Living in NYC, meanwhile, means your rent goes up every year, which in essence, means your landlord thinks you’re going to be 10 percent better at life every year. He just wants to make his landlord proud! That joke alone wins him Keenen’s vote. Dominique, meanwhile, doesn’t believe in unhappiness, especially since her uncle was bitter to the end and even into the grave and funeral casket. She’s nevertheless too tired for the gym, although she will dress the part. This is the first of three frustrating eliminations, as we don’t really know why they pick the comedian they do to advance, as the judges simply tell them and us that all of the comedians will go on to have great careers. Well, great. But only really great for the comedian who wins the big development deal and cash prize. In this season, it’s Dominique who gets to move one step closer in a split decision.
Andy Erikson vs Ryan Conner
Andy Erikson opens with a political joke about the right wing and left wing being literal wings on a plane, then segues into a joke about the elements. Frankly, I’m still too distracted by the voice of Mary Mack. Which makes me meta confused or in-sync with this matchup, as Ryan Conner’s set focuses on how Google confuses him with a female porn star of the same name. Identity thefts abound! For Conner, he turns the confusion into an awkward conversation with his mother that sounds like that one episode of Three’s Company. Classic misunderstanding. Judges? Norm thought both stumbled. Keenen disagreed with Norm about Andy’s character. Roseanne says they’re talented but differently. She picks Andy. Norm did, too. They didn’t like Ryan’s turn toward porn jokes, apparently. Even if they’re based in truth. Sorry, Ryan.
Clayton English vs. Joe List
Clayton jokes about cereal boxes and their placement on the supermarket shelves with brand mascots versus generics, and about how rap music lyrics make you feel bad for your own generic lifestyle. Joe jokes about how he likes kids but isn’t sure he wants to own one, and how he likes to have fun with the kids he does spend time with thanks to relatives. Judges? Norm says either of these two guys could win the competition, but one of them won’t. Thanks to whom, Norm? You judges made these showdowns happen the way you did. Pair them differently. Oh, wait. Only one of them can win, no matter how the pairings paired off. Norm votes for Joe, Keenen votes for Clayton, which makes Roseanne the deciding vote, and she picked Clayton!
So here are your final five: Dominique, Clayton English, Michael Palascak, Ian Bagg and Andy Erikson.
One will win, determined by the judges. All five will go on tour this fall. Check them out live on a date near you!
Find out next Wednesday who wins Last Comic Standing 9!