Finalewatch: 'Last Comic Standing'

Ilizashlesinger_lastcomicstanding_2 After a weak run last season that drove me away from weekly recaps of the show, Last Comic Standing bounced back some this summer. The talent pool was a little deeper, and the viewing public did a pretty good job in narrowing the field to the top five.

In fact, I wouldn't be too upset with any of the finalists taking home the title. Especially if that someone happens to be Louis Ramey or Iliza Shlesinger. So let's take apart Thursday's season finale, shall we? Here we go with the spoilers.

God's Pottery opens the show, eventually joined by a choir, a string section, some dancers and a couple of rhythmic gymnasts. The finalists take the stage wearing red, white and blue sweatsuits, with Chinese dragons behind them. Then Bill Bellamy lights a fake torch. On an entirely unrelated note, NBC's coverage of the Olympics begins tomorrow from Beijing. Subtle, that.

Joel McHale breaks out of his basic-cable chains to do a Soup-y recap of the season, and admirably doesn't seem distracted by the shadows that keep flapping across his face (boom mike? streamers? I can't quite tell). He notes the international flavor of this year's finalists, ranging from India's Papa CJ to England's Jim Tavare to Paul Foot, "from the Shire."

Let me partially retract my statement about the opening Olympic-themed number: It almost is subtle compared to the giant promo banner that fills the screen a couple times during the broadcast. That was, what, about a third of the screen?

Jonreep_lcs_useLast year's champ, Jon Reep, takes the stage next. Hey, remember? He's from Hickory. It's a small town. And were he in the competition this year, I don't think he would've cracked the top eight.

Following an extended, and shameless, plug for the new season of Deal or No Deal, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog has a sit-down with the finalists. But it's a subdued Triumph, not the gleeful insulter of Bon Jovi fans and Star Wars nerds, although his dig at his employer ("The winner gets a development deal with NBC. That means you have a chance to not be seen by America twice!") works pretty well.

Hey, results! It looks like Bill Bellamy and marginally useful co-host Fearne Cotton will be revealing the non-winners one by one. The first of those is Louis Ramey, which is kind of a bummer. I would have put him in the top three, but I suppose that if you're not gonna win it doesn't really matter if you're second or fifth.

I've already scratched my head over the presidential ads, so I'll not repeat the argument again (short version: WTF?).

Next, we get Jon Lovitz doing a few minutes of stand-up. I've always liked the guy, but I feel as if I'm watching outtakes of a Saturday Night Live dress rehearsal, circa 1988.

Our second non-winner is large, bald, bass-playing Englishman Jim Tavare. No surprise there -- he's probably a little too odd to win a competition like this.

The prize for the silliest bit of filler tonight goes to whoever thought it was a good idea to have talent scouts Richard Belzer and Steve Schirripa ask the finalists a Miss America-style question. And why did Belzer have a little dog with him?

Jeff Dye is our third non-winning finalist, meaning that either Marcus or Iliza Shlesinger will be your winner. Both have been pretty strong all season, and though I'd lean toward Iliza overall, Marcus has shown he can tell actual jokes and not just do impressions. They also get to perform again, and if the winner were to be based on that alone, then the title would pretty much have to go to Marcus. He delivers a fairly solid couple of minutes, highlighted by a bit on the ridiculousness of paying to name a star after someone. Iliza is sort of charmingly overwhelmed to be in the final two, but the emotion throws off her set a little.

Commercial break, a couple of dramatic pauses, and ... it's Iliza. Well how 'bout that. She's the first female LCS winner, and also the first winner who's also been my favorite performer. It's a satisfying end to a better-than-average season of the show, and here's hoping that Iliza puts her quarter-million bucks, spot in the "Jubilee" Vegas show and increased exposure to good use.

Share your thoughts on the finale and this season of Last Comic Standing: Did you think the show upped its game this season? And did the right person win?

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