Barrump-Bump 3/8 Comedy Central Plans Convention Coverage
NEW YORK (AP) _ ″Good evening, folks 3/8 ... Anybody here from Brooklyn? ... Is this on? ... What is this, an audience, or the Democratic National convention?″
It’s the Democratic National Convention, Shecky. Comedy Central, cable TV’s 24-hour comedy network will be looking for gags, chuckles, yoks, pratfalls and flop sweat with four nights of live, prime-time coverage.
″We sort of see ourselves taking on CNN, in a funny way,″ said Mary Salter, Comedy Central’s top production executive. She concedes her budget for the Democrats’ July 13-16 convention is ″a remarkable small amount.″
″For four nights, Comedy Central will become Convention Central 3/8″ intoned Al Franken, the lantern-jawed, bespectacled ″Saturday Night Live″ writer- performer who will anchor the coverage.
″Our real goal,″ Franken said later in a saner, less on-air voice, ″is to really provide an alternative way to watch the convention.″
Comedy Central, seen in nearly 24 million homes nationwide, is a joint venture of Viacom’s MTV Networks Inc. and Time-Warner’s HBO.
It also plans live coverage of the Republican National Convention, since it more than doubled its ratings in January with unprecedented live coverage and commentary of President Bush’s ″State of the Union - Undressed.″
The networks first denied Comedy Central access to their ″pool″ coverage of Bush’s speech, but relented under threat of a lawsuit.
This time, Stephen Paul Mark, Comedy Central’s chief counsel, said he expects no network objections. ″And,″ Mark said, ″as we did in the State of the Union, we’re prepared to pay our fair share of the carrying charges.″
The Democratic National Committee seems willing to give Comedy Central its press credentials. Mark said the DNC’s Robert Barocci foresaw no problem getting Comedy Cental the accesses to the convention floor.
″We’ll be on the floor sharing a rotating, 20-minute pass,″ Ms. Salter said.
″And our Sky Booth 3/8″ Franken said, referring to Comedy Central’s command post above the floor at Madison Square Garden.
″It’s not really a Sky Booth,″ she said. ″It’s really a stand-up platform.″
″It should say, ’The Comedy Central Sky Booth,‴ Franken insisted, lapsing happily into his on-air voice. ″Let’s go to our Comedy Central Sky Booth 3/8″
″We can afford a sign,″ Ms. Salter said, firmly.
″How about kind of a hat?″ ventured Billy Kimball, executive producer of the convention coverage, who was Franken’s co-anchor and executive producer of the Bush coverage.
What’s funny, too, is that the Big Three networks might not devote as much of their own prime time to convention coverage as will Comedy Central.
CNN’s ″extensive live coverage″ would cut away from the convention only to report other news. ABC and CBS have yet to announce plans.
NBC, though, is teaming up with the Public Broadcasting Service. PBS-NBC coverage, produced by PBS’ ″MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour,″ opens at 8 p.m. EDT. NBC will go live on its own air at 9:30 or 10 p.m.
″News has an interest in proving that the event is newsworthy,″ Kimball said. ″We have an interest in proving that it’s comic.″
″Wow,″ breathed Franken, clearly unimpressed. ″Can I write that down? So I can say that?″