Comedy Central, New York Comedy Festival Extend Partnership

The two will collaborate for three more years as the November laugh fest looks to put on its first-ever show in Brooklyn and offer a record number of shows this year.

NEW YORK -- Viacom's Comedy Central and the New York Comedy Festival have signed a three-year extension of a partnership that began in 2008 as the November event plans to have a record number of shows this year, including its first-ever show in Brooklyn.

Now in its eighth year, the festival is produced by Caroline Hirsch’s Carolines on Broadway in association with  Comedy Central, which functions as its national media partner.

The network helped with the original launch of the festival in an informal way but three years ago formalized the relationship to become the nationwide media and promotion partner in return for  various content and access opportunities.

“The relationship with the New York Comedy Festival for the past few years has been hugely successful,” said Mitch Fried, senior vp live entertainment at Comedy Central. in explaining why the renewal made sense. “This strategic alliance affords both New York City-based companies the ability to showcase incredibly talented performers through a multitude of media opportunities.”

He added: “And it helps get us a real presence in our backyard.”

Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but Comedy Central has in the past kicked in some funding in return for an opportunity to offer its advertisers a chance to be involved in a live event setting as sponsors of the festival.

Fried told The Hollywood Reporter that working with the festival also helps Comedy Central’s relationships with comedy talent and affiliates. It also provides an opportunity to get additional programming for TV and online use -- there are plans for a live streaming of a show again after success last year with the stream of a show hosted by Bobby Lee (MadTV) -- and promote Comedy Central shows via panel events as well.

“We’re looking forward to elevating the festival and comedy to even greater heights over the next three years,” said Hirsch, a founding partner of the NYCF who also owns the Carolines on Broadway comedy club.

For her, “it is the marketing benefit" of getting mentioned and promoted on Comedy Central that makes a real difference. “We get national attention for New York and for the festival, and we can put together the best lineup," she said, highlighting that every year people tend to come in for the festival from various states.

This year's NYCF will take place Nov. 9-13. The lineup is expected to be announced in August, but Hirsch said some big stars from previous years are expected to return.

Asked about the festival’s first-ever show in Brooklyn, Hirsch said: “BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) was available this year, and we always wanted to do something there.” While she didn’t provide any details on the plans for the show, she said it will be fitting for Brooklyn.

Content opportunities for Comedy Central include stand-up specials for the network produced at the festival, live streaming and industry showcases and panel discussions. Details will be determined later.

At the 2010 festival, the network shot a Patrice O’Neal one-hour stand-up special, which debuted on the channel this February and was shortly after released on DVD by Comedy Central Home Entertainment. In 2009, Comedy Central aired four Comedy Central Presents half-hour specials shot at the festival.  

In terms of panels focused on Comedy Central shows, Fried said he is this year looking at one tied to Workaholics – if it fits into the production schedule of the show. “Those events are great for us as awareness builders for our properties,” he said. Last year, the network had a panel about its show Ugly Americans.

The NYCF has traditionally focused more on fans and other consumers rather than comedy industry folks. But last year it also featured a showcase of the best up-and-coming young talent in the country, to which industry people were invited. Fried and Hirsch said they plan to bring that showcase back this year.

This year's NYCF also has Time Out New York and the New York Post as media sponsors.

Over the years, the festival has featured such comedians as Aziz Ansari, Louis C.K., Dane Cook, Ricky Gervais, Artie Lange, Bill Maher, Andy Samberg and Sarah Silverman, among others. In recent years, it has also put on an annual Stand Up for Heroes event to benefit the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which has featured performances by Jon Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Conan O'Brien and Bruce Springsteen, among many others.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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