While some Viacom-owned channels like Nickelodeon stage annual Upfront events, others avoid the practice altogether. Comedy Central was one of them until last Thursday afternoon.
Venue: Town Hall at 123 W. 43rd St., the Broadway-like theater devoted to music, dance and once in a big while, stand-up comedy performances. This may have been the first Upfront event produced here, and Comedy Central found several ways to call attention to that fact. Every door outside was plastered with the network's logo, typeface or the slogan "Making Upfronts Great Again." Inside, ushers served attendees beer, soda and plastic trays of popcorn and chocolate-covered pretzels. The funky stage design included “Broad City” fan art and tweets prominently displayed and show posters on either side. Grade: 3.5 Jacks for the look; 4.5 Jacks for customer service by the ushers.
Presentation: Did you ever foresee the day a showcase like this would not have one network executive doing the honors? Repeat: not one. Not the President, the CEO, the ad sales chief, the marketing chief, nor any underlings. That's what went down here. Comedy Central's star roster, led by “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah, turned the proceedings into a humorous hodgepodge, pitching for more ad dollars while skewering the ad-buying system. Often, the humor was laced with expletive barbs. "Get your d---s out advertisers," ordered Amy Schumer of “Inside Amy Schumer,” who set the show in motion with a very upfront monologue, as in one filled with naughty double entendre. There were funny demonstrations of product integration from the stars of “Another Period” (involving Kia cars, Dimetapp and an exploding snack), interviews by two "Daily Show" correspondents with target audience influencers from an exercise instructor to Doug the Pug (a dog destined for viral stardom) and “Drunk History” vignettes. Grade: 5 Jacks for the audacity to keep network management off stage; 4 Jacks for the execution.
News: “Detroiters,” a live-action comedy about two bumbling ad reps trying to land Motor City clients, will launch before the end of 2016. So will a pair of animated half-hours: “Legends of Chamberlain Heights” (misadventures of a trio of basketball fanatics) and “Jeff & Some Aliens” (not your mother's “My Favorite Martian”). “Toastmaster” personality Jeff Ross (pictured at top) has a live “Roast Battle” miniseries ahead, described as a comedy “Thunderdome,” and a special featuring ride-alongs with metropolitan police. Oddly, the biggest news did not make the stage. Kevin Hart is putting together two new series: “Hart of the City” and a showcase for up-and-coming comedians. (Note: Comedy Central announced the deal in a press release the day before Lionsgate divulged its partnership with Hart on new over-the-top service Laugh Out Loud.) Also, former American Masters executive producer Susan Lacy will be involved in a new set of comedy-centric documentary films. Grade: 3 Jacks
Hosts/Star Time: Trevor Noah held up his side of the bargain, and everyone else from Amy Schumer on followed suit, keeping the audience in stitches. Choice bits: "Donald Trump reminds me of African dictators, but that now may be an unfair comparison." (Trevor Noah) "Let's make TV great again. The first thing we should do is build a wall around Netflix, have Hulu pay for it and send Amazon back to South America." (Jeff Ross) "South Park is a f---ing Milllennial. That's crazy." (@midnight host Chris Hardwick, referring to the program coming back for seasons 20-23) Grade: 4.5 Jacks
Cuisine: Saved for the after-party at Gotham Hall (corner of Broadway and W. 36th St.). Food and drink stations were spread around the popular rotunda. Best chow-down: Pulled pork sandwich on glazed donuts. Worst chow-down: The mini-salad. Grade: 3 Jacks (Note: Cuisine ratings do not factor into the overall Jacks score.)
Overall Grade: 4 Jacks Funny, funny, funny … and, oh yes, inventively staged. Definitely a Best of 2016 candidate.
A quick reminder of our Jacks grading system:
5 Jacks = Excellent
4 Jacks = Very Good
3 Jacks = Good
2 Jacks = Fair
1 Jack = Poor
0 Jacks = Don’t go there
Next up: Freeform (formerly ABC Family)
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!
Photo at top courtesy of Comedy Central. Photo credit: Bryan Bedder, Getty Images. The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage/MyersBizNet management or associated bloggers.