Last Comic Standing returns to NBC for an eighth season after a near four year hiatus, (season seven of the series was way back in 2010) and we can't wait. This year's judging panel is the most diverse yet, with Last Comic Standing executive producer Wanda Sykes assembling Roseanne Barr, Keenan Ivory Wayans, and Russell Peters. Sykes has enlisted JB Smoove as the series' host with the most. While we're thrilled to see a woman helming this comedy world series, it begs the question: How many women in comedy got their start on Last Comic? And has a woman ever won the coveted title?
This isn't a particularly easy answer, given Last Comic's Season 2 voting controversy, that had then-judge Drew Carey walking off of set after discovering producers were doctoring the results behind the scenes, often to favor personal clients or connections. And that means what we see on screen reflects less the bias of any of the on-screen judges and more machinations behind the scenes done for ratings or nepotism. Comics' opinion on the show is all over the place, with some alleging it creates your audience, and others still saying it destroys the spirit of the craft.
The show has boasted several familiar female faces reaching the finalist level way back since Season 1. However, no female comic had cracked the top four until our own comedy bestie Amy Schumer came along on Season 5 of Last Comic. It wasn't until the next year in Season 6, that America got its first, (and so far only), female Last Comic: Texas native Iliza Shlesinger. Since her appearance and win on the show, you might have caught the comedian during her stint hosting the syndicated dating show Excused, her co-starring role in the Diablo Cody fall from grace dramedy Paradise, or one of her many late night appearances.
So what other ladies should you be looking out for this season? They've released the list of Last Comic contenders over at Splitsider , here are our favorites.
1. APARNA NANCHERLA
We're super crushing on this writer for Totally Biased with Kamau Bell. New Yorker Nancherla made Time's Top Tweeters of 2014 list and we think she's a shoe-in to sweep this season.
2. ZAINAB JOHNSON
Johnson boasts runway-worthy bone structure and rocks the shaved head (which she talks about in the clip above). We think she'll definitely add the sort of storytelling we don't get to see on TV very often, and maybe even a win for women of color on Last Comic.
3. JAMIE LEE
Girl Code's hilarious Jamie Lee returns to the show after making it as a finalist in Season 7 (though she failed to reach the top ten that year). We're big fans of the Girl Code bunch, and hoping Lee is able to crack through farther this year.
4. APRIL RICHARDSON
Richardson is best recognized through her appearances on Chelsea Lately's roundtable panel, though we might love her most for her Go Bayside podcast where she and a comedian guest watch and dissect an episode of Saved By The Bell.
5. SABRINA JALEES
The half-Pakistani and half-Swiss lesbian comic may be more diversity than American TV audiences have heretofore had to handle, but we're looking forward to seeing her strut her stuff on the national stage.
There's no telling if these ladies will wow the judges and producers this year, but we do know we're going to be glued to our television sets to see how far these funny ladies make it.