Stand-up comics try to stand out on TV
August 13, 1999
From Sherri Sylvester
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- A new class of big-name comics are graduating from the stand-up circuit this fall to front game shows, sitcoms, talk shows and even dramas this fall. For example, Louie Anderson's proven persona as a stand-up seemed a good match for a game show.
"I've always done material about being in a crazy family," Anderson says. "I've written two books that were about my family. They came to me and said, 'Family Feud,' and I said, 'hmmm.'"
Martin Short is one comic going the talk show route. He's banking on his oddball "Saturday Night Live" humor to bring in the viewers.
"Every market is crowded and competitive," Short says, "and everyone survives based on whether we want to visit that person everyday."
Anderson and Short are following in the footsteps of Whoopi Goldberg, who made the transition to the revival of game show "Hollywood Squares," and Rosie O'Donnell, who went from stand-up to take over the talk show chair on her own show.
"It takes much more than just the game itself -- or just the chat itself -- to get the viewer in. They want something extra. They want a laugh," says Ted Johnson of TV Guide.
Keepin' it real
The traditional move has been from stand-up to sitcom, a move that former stand-ups Ray Romano, Drew Carey, Kevin James and D.L. Hughley all made last season. They proved themselves ready-for-primetime players.
"I don't need somebody behind a desk to tell me what a marketing survey says is funny," Hughley says. "I got 3 million miles and 70,000 tickets sold, telling me that I know how to make people laugh."
CBS has given "King of Queens" Kevin James (pictured here with co-star Leah Remini) a thumbs up as he begins his sophomore season.
"We're moving now. We're at 8:00. We start the night off on Monday nights. It's a great vote of confidence from the network," James says of his schedule change.
Executives are always searching for the next Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, or Roseanne -- one-time stand-ups whose material could launch a sitcom. "The Drew Carey Show" and "Everybody Loves Raymond" appear to be doing that. In the case of "Raymond," executive producer Philip Rosenthal says the show's material involves situations that the average Joe can identify with.
"More often than not," Rosenthal says, "we hear from people, 'That happened in my house yesterday, what you did on the show today. Were you listening outside my window?'"
That's just what Mike O'Malley wants to do on NBC. He's the new kid on the comedy block this fall.
"It's about men and women working their stuff out," O'Malley says. "So, if you're a man or if you're a woman, I think you'll have something to relate to in this program."
Mining TV's syndication motherlode
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