Hurry up and wait is a common expression in show business.
Now it’s all too relevant to the ninth season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, which now has to figure out whether it can return in time for summer 2015 after telling comedians this weekend that production has been put on hold.
“It is on hold for now while we work on revising the format with the network,” executive producer Page Hurwitz told The Comic’s Comic today. “Once we have something we all like, we’ll get rolling.”
UPDATED 11/24/14: NBC also issued the following statement to The Comic’s Comic, which echoes Hurwitz’s talking point. “Last Comic Standing is undergoing format changes to ensure we’re delivering a fresh and innovative platform for our comics and the best show possible for our viewers.”
How much of that is a positive spin, and how much of that is honest to goodness honest remains to be seen. But Last Comic has been canceled or gone on hiatus before. Twice.
After being revived by Hurwitz and Wanda Sykes in 2014 with a successful summer season that both NBC brass and comedians seemed to applaud, NBC quickly ordered a ninth season for next summer. New judges Roseanne Barr, Keenen Ivory Wayans and Russell Peters all wanted to return, too.
Last Comic producers reacted even quicker to that news, scouting and auditioning stand-up comedians in clubs across America in September, with callbacks in New York City and Los Angeles in October. Last Comic didn’t even hold auditions this past year for season 8, instead screening potential contestants themselves and via email submissions. For season 9, however, producers and casting agents already had their list of contestants narrowed down to 200, with the “Top 100” invitationals scheduled to convene in California in March.
But stand-ups were told to effectively stand down on Friday night.
If you’re an outsider, you’d speculate that there’s just not enough room on the schedule for Last Comic at NBC in 2015. Late Friday, NBC announced it had let upcoming sitcom Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt break free to debut on Netflix instead. NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt cited “a very drama-heavy midseason schedule” that had no room for the sitcom. Greenblatt also already has brought back The Celebrity Apprentice for January (it’s already wrapped production), and has a recurring summer reality competition in America’s Got Talent.
Hurwitz tells me, however, that it’s more of a need to retool and get things right first before resuming production.
Last year’s format began with the “Top 100” Invitationals rounds before breaking down into challenges (sketch comedy, talk-show interview, roast), with challenge winners receiving immunity and other comedians facing off in head-to-head stand-up eliminations before the judges and a live audience. What’ll it be for Season 9? That remains to be seen.
So everything is no go for now. Let’s hope they come up with something both they and NBC like by March.