Comedy Central tries its own awards show
By David Bauder
Yet another awards show. It sounds like something the folks at Comedy Central would rather mock than be responsible for.
So they're trying to do both.
The ad campaign for the first Commie Awards, to be shown 7 p.m. Sunday on Comedy Central, questions whether another awards show is really necessary.
"We really wanted to strike a balance between our comedic irreverence in acknowledging the fact that there are way too many awards shows already and actually acknowledging that these are awards for jobs well done," said Lauren Corrao, Comedy Central's programming chief, who's editing the show.
"It's tough," she said. "Part of what we're doing right now is making sure that the balance was struck."
The show honors the best in comedy for 2003. In between serious awards like funniest person and funniest movie actor are categories such as "Oh, I thought you were dead" award and the funniest unintentionally funny film of the year award.
An awards show is straight out of the cable television playbook, particularly for networks owned by Viacom. Spike televised the Video Game Awards last night. Nickelodeon has its Kid's Choice Awards, and MTV has the Video Music Awards and its own movie awards.
The idea is to generate some sort of event that will get fans excited and involved, and entice viewers that might not watch the network every day.
Bill Hilary, Comedy Central executive vice president and general manager, said it's a coincidence that the Commie Awards are beginning during the first year the network was controlled by Viacom. The idea was in development before the corporate changeover, he said.
It's not a coincidence that the Commies are scheduled for early December. That's just after a ratings sweeps month, so the competition from broadcast networks won't be as intense, and advertisers are eager for a big event in which to sell holiday presents or tout new movie releases, Hilary said.
Comedy Central is also premiering seven new series next year, and the awards show offers a promotional opportunity.
For a few years, Comedy Central aired Friar's Club roasts, but they skewed old for a network with a median age of 30. Comedy Central organized its own roast of Denis Leary this year and it did very well in the ratings, Hilary said.
Similarly, the network aired for one year the long-running American Comedy Awards. But those awards tended to give short shrift to cable, he said, and with a production team that also worked on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" more than 30 years ago, Comedy Central was looking for something hipper.
With the Commies, the network obviously is hoping for something that can become as big an annual event in the comedy world as MTV's video awards are in music.
Andy Richter serves as the show's host, and the Commies pay tribute to Rodney Dangerfield, giving him its first-ever comedy idol award and throwing an 82nd birthday party for him.
Comedy Central wasn't quite ready to risk a live awards show, so the event was taped Nov. 22 in Los Angeles. More than 550,000 Comedy Central viewers voted on the awards, winnowing a larger list drawn up by network executives into four nominees for each award, then determining the winners.
"We didn't want it to be like any other awards ceremony," Hilary said. "There are a lot of them and they all look the same."