Last Comic Standing, Season 9: Invitationals, Part Two

For its second week of Invitationals action, Last Comic Standing headed straight to the jokes. No time for build-up. No time for filler. We’ve got dozens of comedians to sorta see and show you enough of them to want to see more of at least some of them later this summer!

Which means far less banter, far fewer profiles of the comedians competing in this hour for your attention and NBC’s cash prizes.

Francisco Ramos was born in Venezuela and lives in L.A., “which makes me Mexican.” Man, that’s such a common joke that Carlos Mencia stole it from someone else years ago. The citizenship test should be more specific, and he’s working on his English. Focus! he says. But with his accent, it sounds more like…you get it. He’s likable and animated. To the judges! Keenen Ivory Wayans found his comedy quite fresh, though! So what does he know. Roseanne agrees with me. Norm Macdonald liked him but not as much as everyone, offers up a tag to his Jeopardy joke. Take the offer!

Greg Warren is a solid headliner in the clubs, but still looking for a match in love and a big break to stardom outside the clubs. Warren delivers a funny relatable bit about the quickest head shake, and helps himself and us all figure out what we could possibly say when our friends show us a photo of their hot daughter. Warren has moved to NYC and also jokes about dealing with too many neighbors too close to each other. Fun fact! (and full disclosure!!) He’s been in my living room. The judges really loved the subtle simplicity of Warren’s head-shaking bit. Roseanne claims she sees the joke is all in his eyes. Norm compares it to close-up magic. Keenen thinks his quick look was so funny it makes up for anything else. Norm offers another joke! Greg does it on command!!! Could we please see a whole hour of Norm Macdonald tagging jokes for aspiring comedians? If not on TV, then a webseries, maybe possibly please please please?

KT Tatara is of mixed Asian descent, but reverse of what you expect. Wait. What were you expecting, exactly?! Don’t worry. He knows what image you have in your head of his parents. Even more so, Tatara knows that Asians have “done the math” on his joke about grandfathers. Problem is, Asians put the verb last. Which, Norm says, represents “a deep flaw” in his last joke because the structure doesn’t match the reality of English speakers. Ohhhhhhh. Keenen — KEENEN! — lets us all know that he and Roseanne joked about KT’s gender before he opened his mouth, and he somehow saw brilliance in that.

Andy Erikson gets the first profile of the hour, by a Minnesota lake. Her fiancé hopes America falls in love with her like he did. What’s with Minnesota lady comedians and the high soft voices? Weird but true, right? (See, nay hear Maria Bamford, Mary Mack for precedents on this) Back to Erikson, though. She flips the Mexican job stealing joke to good effect. Two thumbs up from Roseanne! “Is that really how you are, though?” Roseanne asks. “Your voice is irritating.” She wanted to smack her. Keenen says her ability to raise stakes makes up for earlier jokes. Norm gives kudos to her strength of onstage character, and cites Emo Philips as one of that very special kind. Erikson jokes, “You don’t know!” if she’s in character. Oh, we know. We all know.

Sammy Obeid has a Jewish roommate so they fight over territory! That’s a funny visual. He claims to be mistaken for Indian, only today’s people cannot get away with that quite so easily or effectively. “You’re not Columbus!” More wordplay follows. Keenen loves his middle jokes in the set only. “Stop doing the silly stuff,” Keenen urges. Yeah, who wants a silly comedian?! Roseanne tearing up a little bit, loving his bringing of culture. Norm agrees with Keenen, really loved only the one joke.

Alycia Cooper is back from last season! But we only see a partial set from her, about how kids in the back seat are like bowling pins when the car swerves. Bet that joke is funnier before I remind you of what happened in Baltimore between the taping of her set and now. I wonder if she has tagged that joke accordingly.
Lonnie Bruhn has a walker with brakes, but why?!? We’ll never find out.
Cyrus McQueen is black with a Scottish girlfriend, so imagine their kid’s name.

David Tveite wonders why adults complain about kid stuff, because kids stuff is made for kids. He doesn’t like hearing about white male privilege because he feels like he’s failing twice. Roseanne says he sounds like Norm. Tveite will take that as a compliment, thank you very much.

Dominique (one name only, and can you guess her skin color based on that? that depends upon your knowledge of historical comedy trends and tropes) says we Instagram everything. “Like ketchup just came out,” she quipped. I have a difficult time accepting Facebook friend requests from my parents as an only child, but just imagine how Dominique felt when her deadbeat dad appeared on Facebook after 35 years not in her life??? Pray on that for more than a moment, why don’t you. Roseanne says she knows how to work the room and talk real. Norm loved her story. Keenen loved her, too.

Junior Stopka is a big baby. Well, if a big baby had long hair. Stopka does his great bit about how everyone on Craigslist worries about getting murdered. He also jokes about not wanting to hear your guitar. Roseanne says she could relate to Craigslist fears. Norm likes how he dresses funny, too, reminds him of old comedians. Looks forward to seeing lots more. Rut-ro! The Norm kiss of death!

Tony Baker rounds out the hour with only the hour’s second profile piece, where we learn he’s a divorced father of two sons. He takes them for free samples a lot. A lot a lot. Sitcom premise actualized in profile piece. As for his stand-up set, he jokes about how his sons are killing him, but how, as a man, he’s only going to see a doctor as a last resort. Especially when he sees the hospital bills. Roseanne wants to hear more. Keenen says something that sorta makes sense. Norm loves illness and death and claims those topics are “right in my wheelhouse.” Host Anthony Jeselnik attempts a zinger and gets corrected!

That’s it? Who makes it to the semis? Andy, Greg, Dominique, Tony, Francisco, Cyrus, KT, Alycia and Sammy. Nine out of 12 comedians we saw that hour.

That’s really no filler, and the three who didn’t advance were all in the blink-and-you-miss-it-middle of the hour. Except for Stopka, who advanced in the parallel universe of Last Comedians Norm Macdonald Loves Standing.

So far, Norm is as great with the quips and the criticisms as I could have hoped we’d hope, Keenen still brings an outsider’s naive perspective to his critiques, going with superficials, but hey, somebody has to do that to speak for the audiences that enjoy pandering and whatnot, although we don’t really need to encourage that sort of thing, and Roseanne hasn’t yet begun to scream like she had last year. So two and a half out of three is a good start from the judges.

What will next episode bring? Let’s tune in and find out!

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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