After a four-year break, “Last Comic Standing” is back for Season 8. When Executive Producers Wanda Sykes and Page Hurwitz decided to revive the reality stand-up show, they set out to elevate the quality of the comedy. In a recent conference call Hurwitz said, “Wanda and I wanted to do this and do it differently because we are passionate about it.”
A change in the judges and the voting
The first change Sykes and Hurwitz made was with the judge’s panel. Four-time Emmy winner Roseanne Barr will join Keenen Ivory Wayans and Russell Peters. The three judges will be solely responsible for determining which comics advance from week to week and will select the winner with no help from the viewers.
Hurwitz said that eliminating the audience vote was not a difficult decision to make and referenced shows like “Project Runway” and Top Chef.” She said, “There are a lot of shows where it’s the judges making all the decisions. We’ve got Roseanne Barr, Keenen Ivory Wayans and Russell Peters. We think that they pretty much know what they’re talking about when it comes to comedy. So why not let the experts decide?”
She continued, “Part of what viewers will see this season is we’re pulling back that curtain. So that people can really see this as a craft and understand what goes into it. And why something is good.”
Bringing back the challenges
Another big format change this season is that Hurwitz and Sykes have brought back the challenges that they used to have in early seasons of the show. But instead of comics doing stand-up at a local Laundromat, contestants will perform in more realistic settings.
Hurwitz explained, “We did the challenges this season in a way that they were really focused on comedy and in stretching the comedians, in terms of their skillsets – having them try their hand at sketch comedy, do a little improv. They did a roast. They did things that they would probably do in their careers as they progress.”
No grueling audition round
Perhaps the biggest change this season is the elimination of the audition round. Instead of weeks of watching inexperienced wannabes lined up around the blocks at comedy clubs nationwide, the producers had a different approach.
Sykes and Hurwitz hand picked 100 comics and brought them to Los Angeles. There, they performed in the “Invitational Round” in front of the three judges who determined who would advance in the competition.
Hurwitz explained the choice. “We have three terrific judges who are the best of the best. Why are we going to waste their time with people that are walking in that have never done standup before? So we spent a lot of time looking at thousands of comedians – literally, just me and Wanda – and wanted to get the best people in front of these judges. That elevated the level of performance and competition and makes for a better show.”
Tune in to “Last Comic Standing” on Thursdays at 9 p.m. on NBC to see if they got it right.