AMC Networks CEO Roasted With Jokes About AMC, Netflix, Occupy Wall Street, Casey Anthony

Joan Rivers and Fred Armisen were among those honoring Josh Sapan during the annual Center for Communication luncheon.

NEW YORK - Jokes referencing AMC's hit shows, such as The Walking Dead, content companies' recent slew of licensing deals with Netflix, the Occupy Wall Street movement and even Casey Anthony entertained an industry crowd here Monday at the annual Center for Communication luncheon, which this year honored AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan. 

Sapan-led AMC Networks, which includes such cable networks as AMC, IFC and Sundance Channel and used to be part of Dolan family-controlled cable operator Cablevision Systems, recently became a company with a separate stock listing.

Roasters at the event at the Pierre Hotel in midtown Manhattan were Joan Rivers, who stars in Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best? on AMC Networks' WE tv, Fred Armisen, star of IFC's Portlandia and SNL cast member, as well as AMC Networks COO Ed Carroll.

Rivers said that she took a red-eye into New York, saying about two loud kids on the plane behind her: 
"Where is Casey Anthony when you need her?"

Rivers said she was glad to come when she heard that this was advertised as a special event. "But then it turned out to be a fucking lunch," she said. "But then I realized it's cable, which explains the cash bar."

IFC Entertainment has bought a documentary from her, the comedienne also mentioned - Joan Rivers - A Piece of Work, but she quipped she is still waiting to get paid. "I haven't seen one penny," she said to Sapan. "That's why you sent me so far to discuss this." She also quipped that she could use the money, saying: "This is last year's shoes." 

She also quipped about the growth of his company's cable networks. "What you have done with Sundance - you have taken those wonderful independent films that nobody went to see in theaters," Rivers said to much laughter. "You are now giving us the opportunity to not see them on television."

She added: "At AMC, with Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, The Killing - four great hours, four amazing hours. If you just figure out what to do with the other 164, it will be a hit station."  

After sharing that her table had gotten news of great ratings for the Walking Dead second season premiere Sunday night, she also pitched some of her own show ideas to Sapan.

One idea featured Jersey Shore star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi on a fishing boat in a show Rivers dubbed Deadliest Snatch. She also suggested a The Price is Right remake with Winona Ryder.

Plus, she suggested "a show that takes the Kardashians, the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber together on a  desert island, and they have to fight until only one is left." Added Rivers: "And the show is called simply: Who Gives A Fuck?"

Earlier, Carroll quipped that Sapan had decided not to come to the event earlier in the day, because of the presence of "too many old media types." He asked attendees if they had anyone from Netflix or Hulu at their table. "If you are a programmer, why would you bother!?" he joked.

After the recent spin-off of AMC Networks, Sapan is CEO of a public company now. Carroll joked that this puts Sapan in an awkward position since he spent most of last week protesting down on Wall Street.

Sharing with the audience some comments that he thought Sapan may make, Carroll joked that he removed classic movies from AMC and added advertising after removing culture from Bravo and adding ads there as well.

Carroll also quipped that the lunch was gluten-free in Sapan's honor.

Armisen joked that some shows on AMC Networks channels remind him of how Steve Jobs invented gadgets before he ever thought he would need them. He thanked Sapan for the "big thinking to put these shows on."

The luncheon also featured an Onion News Network video tribute with former CBS News head Andrew Heyward, AMC Networks and Cablevision Systems chairman Charles Dolan, Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge, AMC president Charlie Collier and IFC and Sundance Channel boss Evan Shapiro.

Sapan thanked all attendees, including Rivers for providing WE tv with a cornerstone show and Armisen for IFC hit Portlandia and "bringing us to a new level" in the process.

Sapan also thanked the Dolan family and other top executives at Cablevision have enocuraged his team to take programming gambles on shows. "I'm sure they'll join me in being very proud of the glorification of drinking, smoking, infidelity, lying and, just generally, aweful  human behavior that is Mad Men." He added that they also "supported the uplifting tale of a teacher who used his skills to operate a crystal meth lab in Breaking Bad."

Concluded Sapan: 
"So, clearly, we have their support - or their inattention."

Sapan ended by thanking his company's employees "who in the best way join me in confusing on a daily basis hard work with pointless shenanigans such as this."

Among the industry power players in the crowd were Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav, Weinstein Co. co-founder Harvey Weinstein, former NBC Universal boss Bob Wright and New York City film and TV commissioner Katherine Oliver, among others.

The event co-chairs included HBO's Richard Plepler, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, former News Corp. top executive Peter Chernin, Sony Corp. boss Sir Howard Stringer, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and other big names.

Center for Communication executive director Catherine Williams pointed out that Sapan is also the first published poet and author to be honored at the luncheon.


One of the most accomplished leaders and innovators in the media and entertainment industry, Josh Sapan has overseen [the company's] growth and 
success for the past 24 years," the Center said when it recently announced this year's honoree for its Frank Stanton Award. "AMC Networks airs some of the most critically acclaimed series on television including AMC's Mad Men and Breaking Bad, Sundance Channel's Carlos and IFC's The Onion News Network.

Last year, Jeff Zucker was honored at the event after he had been informed by in-coming owner Comcast that he would have to leave his post as NBCUniversal CEO. Zucker at the event joked that the Center has a knack for bestowing an award on executives "right after they get shit-canned."

After all, several years earlier, Tom Freston was the toast of the Center - after just having been pushed out from his role as Viacom CEO.

Previous award honorees also include Charlie Rose, BET chairman Debra Lee, Johnny Carson and Michael Bloomberg.

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