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Yahoo Launches First Season of Scripted Comedy Shows

Yahoo Logo - H 2011

On Monday, the struggling internet giant premieres a pair of original series, "Sketchy" and "Funny or Die Presents: First Dates With Toby Harris."

Yahoo begins its first season of comedy series on Monday with two shows: Sketchy, a satire-infused series, and Funny or Die Presents: First Dates With Toby Harris," an offering from Will Ferrell's popular web brand.

The internet giant, which aims to rebrand itself as a destination for hot comedy programs, is unspooling the fresh material on Yahoo Screens, its new video portal that scores almost 11 million monthly viewers, according to The New York Times.

"We wanted to put a real stake in the ground when it came to Internet comedy," Erin McPherson, head of video programming and originals at Yahoo, told the NYT. "Comedy is where we saw a lot of consumer demand, for both the best of what you see on TV and the viral sensations you see on the Internet."

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Sketchy will feature spoofs on The Hunger Games and breast pumps, with the latter subject parodied in a spot directed by Lindsay Crystal, daughter of Billy. In Toby Harris, comic actor Seth Morris stars as an unlucky single guy. The show comes via Yahoo's high-profile, Ferrell-fronted partner, Funny or Die, a key ally as the company takes on Google's YouTube and Comedy Central's atom.com in the internet comedy market.

"We knew this series was really good," said Funny or Die exec Dick Glover. “But Seth Morris isn't a household name. ...  Yahoo's viewers live in their ecosystem every day. The show can talk to all these different people we may not talk to on our site."

Next on tap for Yahoo: Burning Love, a Ben Stiller-produced reality-show parody starring Ken Marino (Wanderlust) as Bachelor-like bait for desperado ladies. Marino created the series, which also co-stars Adam Scott (Friends With Kids, TV's Parks and Recreation), Malin Ackerman (Wanderlust) and comedian Michael Ian Black.

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Yahoo's video-content strategy is based on a Hollywood model of signing talent and building programming from there; the management company Principato Young Entertainment, which focuses on comedy, will assist the company with casting, among other roles.

In the past several months, Yahoo has struck deals with the likes of Tom Hanks and Bill Maher. The site broadcasted Maher's StupidCrazyPolitics show at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts in San Jose, Calif., last month. The comedian surprised the company when he presented a check for $1 million to Priorities USA Action, which spends money in support of the president’s reelection campaign.