'Last Comic Standing' hoping to "add some credibility" with new revival
By Christopher Rocchio, 06/03/2010
Last Comic Standing's upcoming seventh season will feature a few format changes in an attempt to "bring it back to its roots and add some credibility."
"The biggest change is that we don't have a house and there are no challenge episodes. We go directly from the nationwide search to the semifinals, and then from the semifinals to the nationwide vote. So we got rid of the middle of the format itself," executive producer Jayson Dinsmore told Reality TV World during a Wednesday media conference call.
"We felt like the show should be a true stand-up comedy competition and it should be pure in that format. So we thought that while the house episodes were entertaining and fun, the show itself should be much more of a stand-up competition series."
Last Comic Standing's seventh season will premiere with a special two-hour episode on Monday, June 7 at 8PM ET/PT on NBC with The Office star Craig Robinson serving as host, and he told reporters that the back-to-basics approach is what really interested him about the gig.
"I was just lucky I guess. I got the call that said, 'We're interested.' We went and had a meeting. I sat down with Jayson and [executive producer Peter Engel] and they were talking about the format of the show and how they were going to make it all about stand-up," Robinson told reporters during the conference call.
"They told me some of the judges they had in mind and stuff like that. So I was really interested in being a part of it."
Dinsmore called Robinson "one of the funniest people in the country."
"He's the right person to guide the competition," he added.
Earlier this year, it was reported that NBC reality programming chief Paul Telegdy was interested in relaunchingLast Comic Standing with a few format changes, and Dinsmore said he's glad the network decided to bring the show back.
"Honestly, I think it was on for so many years that the talent pool might have dwindled a bit. Taking it off and resting it for a few years gave us the opportunity for comedians to sort of see themselves again," he explained to reporters.
"The network felt -- and thank god they did -- that the show deserved another shot. I think what we did this season, taking it back to its roots and bringing credibility to the show, sort of sold the network on it."
In addition, Dinsmore said the show's layoff -- it last aired in Summer 2008 -- provided better talent at auditions.
"The level of talent we've seen is a much higher level this year. There were lots of contestants that tried out this season that hadn't tried out in previous seasons," he explained.
"Like I said, I think that's because we tried to bring some credibility back to the show, bring it back to its roots, make it a pure stand-up competition series, then bringing in three respective comedians [as judges] and a respected host. Perception I think has really shifted, and it's been great."
Last Comic Standing's judging panel will consist of Natasha Leggero, Greg Giraldo and Andy Kindler -- a collection of comedians that Dinsmore said really impressed the contestants.
"I really look up to them. I think they're hilarious," Leggero told reporters during the conference call when asked about Giraldo and Kindler.
"I think it's good because we all have a similar taste and we like each other and we were really able to either agree or disagree, but we really had reasons and we could talk about it as a group. There was a really nice chemistry with us."
Robinson said he's happy he pulled hosting duties and isn't on the panel.
"I do not envy the judges," he said. "They're doing an amazing job, but they have the job of judging their peers... And they have to be funny on top of telling people that they're not funny."
Still, Leggero was quick to point out the judges aren't "really judging like we're on the Supreme Court."
"A lot of people have been super-cool about it because you know what you're entering. You're essentially entering a contest, so if you don't win you can't be mad," she explained. "They kind of understand the nature of the whole show."
In addition, Leggero said all three judges brought something different to the panel.
"I think Greg was just being extremely open and -- even if he knew someone -- he just really wanted to hear what they wanted to say," she told Reality TV World.
"I was a little more quick to judge right away because I feel like I would just judge on my instincts. Andy was really patient with people."
Leggero also discussed what would impress her as a judge.
"For me, I've seen so much comedy that I'm really struck by originality and someone who can take something that we can all relate to but really spin it in their own original way," she explained. "This usually comes from people who have really had a chance to develop their personality and their point-of-view."
However Leggero said that gets really difficult once it gets down to the Top 10 finalists.
"When it gets down to the final 10 that are going to be on the show, those people really shine in a lot of ways," she said.
"So it just kind of gets down to little performance nuances that you might notice in their performances. We think they're all funny, and anyone who's been chosen could be the next 'Last Comic Standing.'"
While Leggero noted Last Comic Standing's seventh-season winner will receive "a little bit of a shortcut" in the stand-up industry, she said they still have to continue to work.
"Really, as a comedian, you have to look at the longevity of it. You're in it for a long time, so there's always going to be ebbs and flows," she explained. "It might increase your rate on the road, but you still have to do the work. It just will depend on how hard you work."
Dinsmore agreed that "it takes years to develop material."
"This show certainly affords them the exposure that would probably take a lot longer to have if they didn't have a national television audience," he told reporters.
"But all these comedians, they reach a level of success by putting in the work, putting in the years on the road."
The show's seventh-season winner will receive a $250,000 prize and an exclusive NBC talent deal, and Dinsmore said a cross-country tour is also in the works for several of the eventual finalists
"The Top 5 comedians -- and we're not sure about that number but we believe it will be the Top 5 -- will embark on a nationwide tour right on the heels of the finale, much like American Idol does a tour," he said.
Following its debut, Last Comic Standing will move to its regular Mondays at 9PM ET/PT timeslot on June 14.