Two months ago, more young to middle-aged adults watched "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" during the Republican National Convention than any cable news network, including CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.

On Tuesday night, "The Daily Show" pulled in over two million viewers as President Obama was reelected. Those two million viewers tuned in to the popular show, not for straight news — they watched to laugh.

Comedy is a valuable aspect in many people's lives, and tonight Knoxville residents will have a chance to support local comedians by coming out to the final round of the "Rocky Top Comedy Contest," taking place aboard the Star of Knoxville Riverboat.

The finals will consist of 12 comedians who have advanced from the preliminary rounds and will determine which comedian deserves the title of "Rocky Top Comedy Contest Champion."

Matt Ward, one of the organizers of the event and a comedian with 15 years of experience in the entertainment business, cited past experience as the reason he was interested in running a comedy contest.

"I was inspired to start my first contest in 2007 when I first started doing contests myself while living in Carolina Beach, N.C.," he said.

The preliminary rounds took place over four separate events during the month of October. Each preliminary round consisted of 12 different comedians performing, with three contestants moving on to the finals each night.

The finalists were determined by audience ballots as well as ballots from their fellow comedians. Ward recognizes the unique nature of this voting system.

"This is the only comedy contest in the country where the comics vote on each other," he said, "but can't vote for themselves."

The winner of the finals will be determined in a similar way, but with the addition of votes from a panel of judges whose votes hold additional weight.

The organizers and producers of the "Rocky Top Comedy Contest" have much experience running and producing stand-up comedy contests, such as Wilmington, N.C.'s "Port City's Top Comic" contest, now in its third year.
Kathryn McBride, freshman in biology, is excited to watch local comedians perform.

"It's a chance to see what kind of comic talent our area of the country has," she said. "Who knows, you might end up a fan of someone you never would have heard of otherwise."

Nick Tenney, junior in English, believes that it's also an opportunity to get "ahead of the curve," so to speak.

"You never know who's going to be the next big name. You could watch the next Dave Chappelle or George Carlin and not even know it," he said. "And then you would get to brag to your friends that you saw them perform on a boat!"

Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at rockytopcomedy.com. The Star of Knoxville Riverboat will be boarding at 8 p.m. and departing at 8:30.