Last Comic Standing 9: The Invitationals, Part Four (of Four)

“It’s the rip-roaring conclusion of the Invitationals.” Slow down, voiceover man. “So quit your incessant yapping…” You said it! Now stop saying it! Quit your yapping and let’s hear some joke-telling!

But not before we hear that primal yelp from Roseanne Barr, one of our judges on Last Comic Standing.

Here’s your host (Anthony Jeselnik). Here are your judges (Roseanne, Keenen Ivory Wayans and Norm Macdonald). Start the show!

We’re in the fourth and final installment of the “Invitational” rounds, open to only 100 comedians invited to showcase for the judges and the TV cameras. Not that we’ll see all 100 in this hour. Or even 25. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

First, a bit or two from LaVar Walker, who studied a lot of science in school and puts that to work, so to speak, as a pharmacy cashier. Tough reality check. Walker goes into a nice lengthy impression of an old man customer. Is that enough? “You know what you’re doing,” says Roseanne, so Keenen sensed his nervous energy. Norm? Normally old men are off. “No. I’m still a pharmacist.” Norm’s advice? “Resign immediately.”

Michael Palascak likes Chicago parking ticket descriptions, because they give him options. Options! And no, he won’t tell you what he’s thinking. Good thought! Keenen has a note. Duly noted! Norm loved how he picked the perfect punchline to well-worn topic of woman asking what you’re thinking.

Sierra Katow was still a junior at Harvard at this taping!?! But she says she had done stand-up for four years already! And is serving as VP of the Harvard Lampoon! No shots of the Comedy Studio this time around, though. Sorry, Rick. As for Katow: She’s condescending to Chinese people. Haha. She can do that on the halfsies, for real. Norm labels her a solid opening act, headliner in 5-6 years “so stick with it!” Roseanne asks how old she is. 20! Keenen says her present is bright. Reminder: Pete Davidson was 20 last summer when he got hired at Saturday Night Live, and he wasn’t even the Harvard Lampoon type of SNL hire that Lorne Michaels loves to hire so much. Keenen says she’s snarky like his daughters. Which is a compliment?

Angelo Tsarouchas has a daughter. He’s Greek! And a fan of the judges. We don’t learn yet if they like him, because they jump-cut straight past that part. But he does fulfill the first three parts of any Big Fat Greek franchise. Even if he’s secretly Canadian. Shhhhhhh. Don’t tell anyone.

Time for a couple more quick-hit bits from comedians without profile set-ups or critiques from the judges.

Natalie Jose is single so long she’s like a haunted house. “I hear someone died in there.”

Melanie Comarcho says kids beg for the remote control and offer nothing in return. “I used to be the remote!”

Noah Gardenswartz met a man with a Moët tattoo. But it’s not what you think. Or what he thought, even. Roseanne and Keenen want his energy to match his material. “Constructive criticism!” Jeselnik observes.

Amir K performed for the troops. But he’s Iranian. And he wears a hat that says AK on it. Branding! This guy is all Five Shades of Gray onstage right now, and has the balls or the gall to stop Norm Macdonald to request he issue his critique as Burt Reynolds. Norm won’t take the bait or the audience peer pressure and go full Turd Ferguson, but he and Roseanne say he has solid stage presence.

Backstory on Harrison Greenbaum follows him to the Friars Club, so Judy Gold! But do Keith Alberstadt and Emma Willman get to use their cameos as a full credit? Discuss. Judy Gold and Gilbert Gottfried offer advice. Harrison mentions his grandfather but neither his magic past or his family’s unique comedy history in Brooklyn. Here’s a joke Greenbaum tells comparing the Bible to Harry Potter (spoiler alert!).

Greenbaum also slips in a fat joke (among many fat jokes) about being so fat you drop stuff and forget it (which is a joke so common I wonder why he included it). Roseanne loves him and thinks he’s brave to joke about the Bible on TV. Norm, on the other hand, hated it and quoted JK Rowling as a Christian, and everything just shut down for a moment. Throwing shade! Keenen changes the subject by expressing surprise at how much the audience must hate fat people for laughing so much at them. Yeah. That’s not very Christian now, is it.

Mia Jackson keeps getting set up by white people. On dates. Please stop, white people. Especially when and if you only know one black guy. Because she’s not going to date an old black man who fought for her rights. Norm says he’s a sucker for the truth in comedy, but adds that you don’t have to be factual — so he urges her to rewrite the jokes so she does date the old guy. Keenen wished she’d step up. Literally. Closer to the audience, please. Next time.

Ricarlo Flanagan says yes, people call him Ricardo. Could be worse. He could be a stalker. He can handle rejection. So he’s not a stalker. Will he stalk the judges if they reject him, though?

He’s part of another quick-cut montage.

Emmett Montgomery loves his wife. Sorry strangers.

Jackie Fabulous says tell the truth, the whole truth, on the first date!

Jessi Campbell has been to Gitmo? As a guest. She flew there on a 7-seater! Weights required on that small a plane. Cut to judges, who like her, even if Roseanne wants her to end with her opening material.

We see the entire background profile, set and judges comments about Clayton English above. Take that for what it’s worth, depending upon what that’s worth later. Let’s go to the mall in Atlanta with Clayton, where he used to sell cell phones in a mall kiosk with none other than Season 8 finalist Karlous Miller. What are the odds??? “We fed off each other,” Clayton says, after Karlous admits it was Clayton’s idea that they both start going to open mics and become stand-up comedians. “I’m not going back to the mall,” Clayton says. I think we’re meant to take that metaphorically. As in he won’t sell cell phones no more. I’m sure he’ll go to a shopping mall one of these Christmas shopping seasons. Or maybe he’ll order everything online for the rest of his life. Who am I to judge? I’m not the Comedy Police! Speaking of cops, that’s what his actual stand-up set was (see video above), and Roseanne called it the “best set of the night.”

Who gets the last spots in the semis?

Clayton, Noah, Mia. Michael, Ricarlo, Melanie, Angelo, LaVar, Amir and Harrison.

That makes 41 total comedians we’ll see next week and the following Wednesday in the semifinal rounds.

Congrats to all of them! And apologies to the 35 comedians who didn’t get to deliver a joke onscreen this year, despite being invited to the Invitationals.

As I noted in the comments to my post about the 41 semifinalists:

LCS received a shorter episode order this year (only 8 weeks!), so if you do the math, even showing 65 comedians in the first five hours (44 minutes per hour, after commercials) works out to 220 minutes or 3.38 minutes per comedian. But that’s not the reality. The reality is they named 41 semifinalists, and if you just showed their sets with judges comments and Anthony Jeselnik making snark before and after, that’s 5.36 minutes for each of those 41 semifinalists. So it really comes down to, in the editing bay, how many of the other 59 comedians invited to Invitationals do they want to give any screen time to, and how much to give them, knowing with hindsight that they haven’t advanced? It’s no longer shot like American Idol, so there are no god-awful performances to mock. But they definitely shot a bunch of that background profile footage over the winter (see the snow) before the actual Invitationals were held, so then it’s also a matter of salvaging which of that footage is the most colorful and engaging to keep an audience’s interest. My guess is for the comedians who didn’t make the semis, even getting a moment of screen time and saying a joke on-air came down to politics or balancing out demographics with the other comedians shown in that given hour.

As for the judging…I was telling a friend last night that it seemed as though Norm Macdonald not only was on the losing side of more than a few 2-1 votes to Roseanne and Keenen, but also that they showed Norm predicting great success for some comedians who didn’t even make the cut by the end of the hour! Then again, Norm was also the new judge and Anthony Jeselnik enjoyed putting him on the spot and unnerving Norm with his throws to him. Keenen definitely didn’t stop himself from revealing his own biases, but it’s his second season judging and he clearly looked at the background intel notes on the comedians before delivering his opinions. Roseanne still has the most clout with an actual hit sitcom.

And I’ve said this in seasons past, they have been very clear in telling us (from the first moments of this season, in fact), that the show is about finding a comedic star, and not just the best stand-up comedian. Development deals are all about whether the TV executive suits think they can make a person a star by putting him or her in different sitcom, dramedy, game show or reality show vehicles. It’s not quite as much as the old model of finding a comedian whose voice and material builds a sitcom around him or her — or, not like what happened with Roseanne.

And they’re also trying to attract viewers through the finale, so they’re going to cast the competition to reach as many different demographic audiences as possible while still having the “funniest” people onscreen.

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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4 thoughts on “Last Comic Standing 9: The Invitationals, Part Four (of Four)

  1. Jessi Campbell was my favorite set of the night, so I’m bummed that she wasn’t chosen to move on. I may be biased, but I found the NYC and LA comedians tended to have much tighter, funnier, more polished sets in general.

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