MTV Networks Boss Doug Herzog: 'There's a Real Opportunity' to Expand Comedy Central's Late-Night

 Brigitte Sire


THR: Stewart frequently says he's "just a comedian." Is that accurate?

Herzog: He's just a comedian who hosts a nightly format that covers the news -- it's not his fault that he also happens to be brilliant and enormously interested in world events. So I think he's got a journalist's instincts, but he's a comedian at heart.

THR: Any plans to spin off any more Daily Show correspondents into their own shows?

Herzog: John Oliver has been hosting some stand-up shows for us, and we think he's a great talent. We'd like to be in business with him for a long time, but for the moment he's fully committed to The Daily Show, and that's a full-time gig. But look, Jon Stewart has proven more than adept at developing talent. Look at Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Ed Helms, Rob Corddry and Rob Riggle. He's the new Lorne Michaels. It's like having a super-secret weapon, certainly as it pertains to finding and identifying new talent.

THR: Tosh.0 is a hit, at a price bean-counters love. Will you try to replicate the format?

Herzog: The format has always been a part of TV; it's never gone away. It's part Funniest Home Videos, part Soup -- but that's not the important part. The important part is Daniel Tosh. You could do that show with a 100 different guys, and 99 times it's not going to work.

THR: Your roasts have been big audience grabbers for Comedy Central, in part because of their raunchiness. How does the latter impact advertising?

Herzog: Look, not everyone wants to be in something like that, but there are those advertisers who are looking to reach that kind of audience that's a little more willing to jump in on something like that. And then they generally know what they're signing up for. It's not like we're doing The Sound of Music. There are plenty of advertisers who don't necessarily want to be a part of an evening like that, but there are also those that do. We really love them internally. And yes, we love the raunchiness, though sometimes they even make us blush.

THR: What was running through your head as the Situation was getting booed on the dais?

Herzog: I thought, "Ooh, this might be Minute 16 of his career that we're witnessing right here." One of the things that I love about the roasts is that despite the fact that they're taped, there's a "this thing can come off the rails at any time" feeling to them.

THR: On April 10, you'll air the first Comedy Awards. How do you persuade viewers to watch another awards show?

Herzog: Like the world needs another awards show! But think about it: Movies have their night and generally ignore comedy; TV has its own night; Broadway has its own night; pornography has its own night, for God's sake. Comedy doesn't, and we've wanted to do this for a long time.

THR: Are there genres you'd like to be in?

Herzog: At Comedy Central, we started as this upstart kid shooting spitballs in the back of the class to being, I believe, at the head of the class. Now, I just don't want to get old, fat or lazy. I want to be relevant, funny and right on the edge of everything that's happening on all platforms. We've got a couple of shows coming up that we feel really good about in Workaholics and Sports Show With Norm Macdonald. And then we're working hard on trying to crack the scripted comedy stuff.

THR: How do off-net acquisitions fit into that plan?
 
Herzog: We’ve recently gotten into the business, but we’re not like a USA Network or even an FX.
 
THR: So you won’t go after a show like Parks and Recreation?
 
Herzog: We’ll look at it. We did buy 30 Rock, so at some point, we’ll want something to replace that, but we’re very happy to leave that business mostly to TBS. But Parks and Rec is something to look at; so is Community.
 
THR: There’s been talk of tweaking your strategy at Spike. How come?
 
Herzog: Yes, we have some work to do at Spike, but we know where we’re going and we know what we want to do. Look, it’s a hard demo. A network for men without sports -- unless you’re going to have pornography and football, what else are you going to do?
 
THR: One is not in your price range; and the other…
 
Herzog: And the other I can’t do. [laughs] We’ve had some success, but we have to do it better and what we’ve learned is that we started getting too young. Right now, we’re sort of going from boys to men. So, a little older, a little broader, and we don’t want to be toxic to women. We can’t send your girlfriend, wife or mom running out of the room screaming.
 
THR: You dipped your toe in the broadcast world as Fox entertainment chief (from 1998-2000).

Herzog: Yeah, for like a cup of coffee.

THR: Does returning to that world hold any appeal?

Herzog: Zero. I'm not sure why I did it in the first place. I used to tell people that if I had to do it again, I probably would. I don't think so anymore. I had grown up in a time when it was all about the networks, so the idea of running one was appealing -- as misguided as it might have seemed. Once I got there, I was like: "What am I doing here? I love cable television.

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