Q&A With Comedy Central’s Lauren Corrao

Jennings and Colbert enter the game–Chappelle sits it out.

By Simon Applebaum

Lauren Corrao can’t get away from games. At MTV 18 years ago, she broke into cable programming by producing Remote Control, the music trivia game show that introduced Adam Sandler to the free world. On the day of Corrao’s promotion last month to EVP of original programming, Comedy Central announced a deal to develop a new game show starring Jeopardy! whiz Ken Jennings. But “Where’s Chappelle?” has easily been the most compelling–and puzzling–game in her three years at Comedy Central.

CableWORLD: Will the game show Comedy is developing for Ken Jennings be similar to Win Ben Stein’s Money?

Lauren Corrao: The similarity will be that there are trivia questions and answers. Ken himself will be challenged. Aside from that, the packaging will be quite different. We had been looking for an early fringe game show for a long time. We tried Crossballs as a Crossfire satire in that period last year.

CW: Where is Dave Chappelle? Any hope your network can mend fences with him and get his show back?

Corrao: As of now, he’s somewhere in Ohio. At this point, our guess is as good as yours when he’ll be back. There’s no reason to mend fences. There are no conflicts between Dave and us. It’s more a matter of when Dave feels he’s ready and able to come back. When Dave wants to talk about it, he will pick up the phone and call.

CW: What’s the next trend in TV comedy?

Corrao: Good shows, like good comedy, come from surprising places. You can’t just pursue a genre and believe you’ll have a hit there. My gut tells me the next step is to do narrative comedy, twisted from what’s out there now. Stella, which we’re launching this month, is an example of that.

CW: Sumner Redstone, CEO of Comedy parent Viacom, has said he wants to spin off a stand-up comedy channel. What can you say about that, and how involved might you be?

Corrao: We’ve been talking about that for quite some time–a digital channel, or a radio network. I assume I’ll have some role in that. No matter what, we’re very committed to stand-up comedy.

CW: What’s the status of The Colbert Report, the upcoming show starring Daily Show performer Stephen Colbert?

Corrao: We’re just at the start of developing Stephen’s show. He’s developed his own audience out of his Daily Show pieces–now he’ll play this pompous, arrogant newsman who imposes his opinion on his own show. We’ll launch it in the early fall. In terms of generating press and ad sales, the idea of a companion to Daily Show in late night has a lot of people jazzed.

CW: How involved is Comedy in VOD, HD, ITV and other advanced services?

Corrao: We’ve been involved in VOD for three years–maybe the first MTV- owned channel to do so. One of my new duties will be to supervise broadband, under an extension of our website that’s similar to MTV Overdrive–original programming with extras based on Comedy Central shows a PC user can get on demand. You can create your own TV network. That’s also a fall priority.

CW: What role should operators be playing with Comedy Central that they’re not playing now?

Corrao: There’s a lot of marketing work to be done on the affiliate level–with game shows you can tour, and with comedians like Carlos Mencia who can go out on the road with stand-up. It would be great if we could get cable operators involved with specific shows more often.

CW: What’s best and worst about working in cable TV?

Corrao: The best is the ability as an executive to get involved in the content, discover new talent, see projects through from their inception. The worst is doing it on a budget. There are funny people out there I want to work with and push the envelope with. Just the fact we have to do things for less money makes it unappealing for them to work here. We’re increasing our budgets to bring more of those people aboard. The more hit shows, the more you’re allowed to spend on programming.

Getting Personal With Lauren Corrao

Proudest Accomplishment: Watching my children grow up.

Favorite Stand-Up Routine: The Aristocrats–really absurd and outrageous.

Favorite Pastime: Walking on the beach in Narragansett, R.I.

Most Inspiring Person: My mother–she’s supportive, strong, the salt of the Earth, a great cook.

[Copyright 2005 Access Intelligence, LLC. All rights reserved.]

COPYRIGHT 2005 Access Intelligence, LLC.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

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