LOS ANGELES — The field of 100 comedians has been trimmed to three on NBC's "Last Comic Standing" and the comic taking home the $250,000 prize package will be revealed tonight.
The finale will be the last time the comics — Nikki Carr, Rod Man or Lachlan Patterson —will be judged, if you don't count hecklers.
Patterson says the hardest part about going in front of show judges Keenen Ivory Wayans, Russell Peters and Roseanne Barr was trying to put together the right group of jokes each week.
"You have to think of the judges as opposed to just the audience. What will Roseanne, Keenen and Russell like? And they are totally different comics," Patterson says. "There seems to be an effort to pick comics with strong points of view. Comedians who don't dilly-dally or pander to the audience. They were also looking for people who are always improving. Knowing all those things, I really tightened up my sets."
Patterson made it to the final three despite having a laid-back style for his observational humor that Barr doesn't like. He could tighten his show a little, but he spent so many years studying Steve Martin's specific style of consistent pacing that he could never reach a rapid-fire delivery.
The Vancouver native came to the competition with an established 15-year career as a stand-up that included appearances on "The Tonight Show," "Tosh.0" and "Legit." He wrote new material for each round of "Last Comic Standing," but he found himself dipping into the 45 minutes of material from his regular stand-up performances as he advanced farther in the competition.
New material was never presented to the judges without Patterson testing it in front of an audience. He tried to get onstage at least a couple of times before he did the jokes for the competition.
"Some of the comics would write a joke and do it on the show. I've always had more of a writer's approach to everything, where I will move words around or replace them," Patterson says. "I also want all of the jokes to be connected with one train of thought. Sometimes, I'll have a joke that comes out of left field that doesn't fit in my act, but I just love it."
No matter what happens tonight, Patterson is confident it was worth the effort.
"I really didn't plan to get this far. If I had any advantage it's that I've failed a lot," Patterson says. He smiles and adds, "Fifteen years in this business — with this face — you would think my career would have gone a lot faster."
He turns serious again, pointing out that he's dealt with a lot of rejection over the years that taught him how to adapt. Patterson never entertained thoughts of quitting but there were points where he thought he had gone as far as he could go in comedy. That's all changed with the competition. Patterson has, at a minimum, made it to the final three. And he has good odds of winning the title of "Last Comic Standing."
The three finalists will perform one last time during the finale. Barr and Peters also will take the stage. If you want to see a live performance by the comics, the "Last Coming Standing Live" tour will make a stop at Lemoore's Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino on Sept. 16, where the winner and top four finalists will perform.
"Last Comic Standing": 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14, on KSEE (Channel 24.1)