Craig Robinson rules Last Comic Standing, but its judges suck the life out of it

Last Comic Standing is in its second week of performances by the top 10, and the show’s new format just has the finalists performing each week and being eliminated by viewer votes. There’s no house or challenges, just stand-up. For stand-up fans, that’s great. But it’s not much of a reality competition any more, with almost no attention to the comics’ personalities or lives outside of what they give us in their sets.

Last week, the first week of top-10 performances, there wasn’t even any judging. That was great, though the judges returned this week–which was too bad, because they are pretty awful. Besides the excruciating, grating laughs that Natasha Leggero and Andy Kindler have and constantly subject us to, the judges try way too hard to be funny. It made the auditions pretty insufferable sometimes when they’d try to outperform the people who were in front of them, and now that they’ve started to judge the performance episodes, they’ve kept that up. It’s almost unbearable when they laugh at themselves.

The one change that does work, however, is the show’s new host, Craig Robinson. I wasn’t familiar with Craig Robinson’s work except for The Office, where he’s hilarious but very dry and stone-faced, so he didn’t seem like MC material. And when the new season debuted and he was playing a keyboard and singing a song, I wasn’t hopeful. But Craig Robinson quickly proved himself to be a fantastic host. He was great during the auditions, bantering with the auditioners in a way that was funny but also let that person remain the focus of the bit. And now he moderates the performance shows in a witty but efficient way.

Unlike the judges and even other hosts on bigger shows, like Ryan Seacrest, he knows the show is not ultimately about him, and that’s why he’s Last Comic‘s best part.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.