NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” has proven that talent competitions don’t always have to be about singers, dancers, and oddball novelty acts. For some comedians, they may be capable of all that and found doing comedy was much more lucrative and cathartic when performing on stage. The only problem with comedians is there’s about as many or more of them now as there are singers and dancers. However, just as all entertainers do, they usually find employment, even if it may not be playing venues they truly want.
When NBC started “Last Comic Standing”, it ran into some problems of being fixed and placing bad comedian plants into the show for so-called comic relief. It may explain one reason why the show hasn’t been on for four years until now. With some dust settling on how the show works (and perhaps questions whether past winners would truly be stars), NBC seems more adamant on finding a comedian with real star power. This season, the comedian who wins will go on to some kind of scripted development deal, presumably as a launch for a new “Seinfeld.”
Is this a mistake on NBC’s part, even if they continually attempt to bring the sitcom back and into a renewed golden era? With far too many comedians working blue now, how would NBC be able to temper a comedian to become more observational like Jerry Seinfeld and create a more relatable sitcom?
Is the Age of the Sitcom with a Standup Comedian Dead?
Numerous attempts have been made since “Seinfeld” ended to create a sitcom with a standup comedian as the star. Almost none of them have gone on to become super successful. Perhaps part of the reason is because far too many standup comedians don’t do the type of observational comedy that Seinfeld, Roseanne Barr, or even Bill Cosby used to use on the stage. They basically transplanted their stage act to sitcoms so they didn’t have to change their personas all that dramatically to be acceptable.
Is there still a comedian out there who falls under that style of comedy? With raunchier and edgier comedy being trendy, most comedians are going to be following the same lead in order to find decent work. Most of the best ones can easily clean up their act for commercial TV and still be hilarious. The ones doing that, though, are already fairly well known and not the neophytes we’ll be seeing on “Last Comic Standing.”
With the commercial TV sitcom already starting to wane in popularity other than a few exceptions, the era of a sitcom with a standup comedian seems shaky right now. Ensembles seem to be the best format for sitcoms recently if you go by “How I Met Your Mother” and its long run. If cable managed to take on sitcoms with a new comedian who could be unfiltered, it might bring a hilarious real-world sensibility to the sitcom as “Curb Your Enthusiasm” already has.
On NBC, though, the search seems to be on for something that might not exist any more. A new Cosby, Seinfeld, or Roseanne might be hidden somewhere in the crowd since these network talent competitions always seem to find at least one or two gems in the talent pool. The worst scenario is if they turn out to be a plant that ultimately misfires and unexpectedly becomes brilliant and successful.
It’s those types of turns that would give some comedic irony “Last Comic Standing” perhaps needs as much as the sitcom does.