Comedy producers eye 'No Clothes'

At Aspen Ideas fest to aim format for late-night

NEW YORK -- Veteran comedy producers and masterminds of the defunct U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen are returning to the mountain resort as part of this week's Aspen Ideas Festival to try out a format mixing politics and comedy called "The News Has No Clothes."

If the stage show works, producers could end up pitching the concept -- described as "The View" and "Politically Incorrect" meet old BBC show "That Was the Week That Was" -- to TV networks for a possible late-night slot.

The team behind the idea includes Joe Lang, director of festival producer Jazz Aspen Snowmass and former local producer for USCAF; Craig Minassian, assistant press secretary and director of TV news in the Clinton White House and USCAF director; Robert Morton, former executive producer of "Late Show With David Letterman" and Comedy Central's "Chocolate News"; and Stu Smiley, executive producer of "Flight of the Conchords" and "Everybody Loves Raymond" and a USCAF founder.

The first trial Thursday will feature co-hosts Dana Perino (press secretary for President George W. Bush), Lewis Black, D.L. Hughley, public radio host Kurt Andersen and "Daily Show" correspondent Larry Wilmore. Video packages by the Onion will be included. Issues to be debated include the role of the news media, the economy, President Obama's performance and the culture wars. Guests for specific topics will include former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. The show also will feature stand-up performances.

"So many late-night shows are single-person and host-driven," Morton said. "But you can plug various talent into this format."

The Aspen experiment also is a sign of the times. With cutbacks in the development and pilot process, the producers decided to take matters into their own hands by taping the show with the goal of showing it around town themselves.

The festival, which runs through Sunday, also will host various sessions about hot topics in media and entertainment including blogging, "Content of the Future," "The TV Crack-Up" and Twitter. Speakers include Michael Eisner, Bob Pittman, Steve Brill, Michael Kinsley, Norman Pearlstine, Walter Isaacson, Gawker Media founder Nick Denton and TV executive Michael Jackson.