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Finally, The Jokes Were on Divney

Contributors: Kent Gibbons, Linda Moss.

Finally, The Jokes Were on Divney

Larry Divney, the retiring (but not shy) Comedy Central president who’s always finding comedians for other people’s benefits, was the guest of honor at his own dinner last Thursday.

Boy, did the comics show up for him.

Divney was honored by the UJA-Federation of New York at a benefit event at B.B. King’s club in Times Square. Because it was a roast, speakers had to think up something negative to say. Mostly it was (no doubt highly exaggerated) accounts of drinking and other forms of revelry.

Like emcee Jeffrey Ross saying, “Larry Divney, the man of whom Nick Nolte once said, 'Let me drive.’ ”

Or Colin Quinn observing that: “Larry’s retiring, he’s going to live on a farm. Gee, I wonder what he’s going to grow?”

Even ad executive Jon Mandel got into the act, asking: “I mean is there anybody in this room who has actually negotiated with Larry outside of a bar?”

Jimmy Kimmel sent a tape, wishing his former The Man Show patron “happy forced retirement,” and there was a reference somewhere about the next Comedy president, Doug Herzog, coming in with a “leaf blower” to sweep out some of the “dead wood.”

But seriously, there were heartfelt tributes amid the jokes.

MTV Networks CEO Tom Freston called Divney “sort of the Darryl Strawberry of basic cable” for acts of “serial bad judgment” legendary even in the television business. Like Divney’s leaving his job selling ads at MTV: Music Television only about a few months after its 1981 launch for a “surer thing” — a job at the Cable Health Network, “which quickly failed.”

Now the tribute: “It’s also true that he’s about as inspiring and as effective a leader as you can possibly find,” Freston added. “A perfect fit for this job running Comedy Central and did as great a job as anyone could ever do. In fact this last quarter, the last few months which just ended, was the best quarter by any measurement in the history of Comedy Central.”

After the cheers subsided, Freston called Divney “easily the most beloved executive in this industry.” Apparently, that’s no joke.

Ad Guys Made Over For a Lifetime Gag

Two well-known Chicago ad-agency honchos engineered makeovers of each, a la Lifetime’s show Head 2 Toe, for the network’s upfront in Manhattan last week.

Manly John Muszynski, Starcom Media’s executive vice president and managing director of investment and operations, and Betty Pat McCoy, GSD&M’s national broadcast director, were the two media-buying mavens involved. They offered pointed — and accurate — critiques of each other, and then headed off to Elizabeth Arden for the suggested changes to be executed.

The process was chronicled in a video clip. McCoy complained about Muszynski’s “wardrobe” — freebie golf shirts with logos from various TV networks, black mock turtlenecks — and his out-of-date haircut. He poked fun at McCoy’s signature scarves, her penchant for pants and her particularly hideous Christmas-themed sweater. The tape showed the two getting their hair shorn and eyebrows groomed, their facials, and as they were garbed with new duds that included a bright pink suit for McCoy and non-premium shirts for Muszynski.

Lifetime will be on McCoy’s and Muszynski’s home turf next week, when it brings its upfront presentation to Chicago.

New Orleans Will Be Way Crowded

If you haven’t made dinner reservations for May 1 and 2 in New Orleans, you better get on the horn. There’s a lot of competition that weekend.

This year, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s National Show convention will coincide with the last weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which draws huge crowds to the fairgrounds outside town (and to Bourbon Street at night). Saturday’s headliners include the Blind Boys of Alabama, The Dave Brubeck Quartet and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band; Sunday brings Smokey Robinson, Robert Cray and the Nevilles.

Meanwhile, bikers from all over the country are expected to converge at the Louisiana Superdome for the weekend for what is publicized as one of the biggest motorcycle shows in the country.

Discovery’s own American Chopper guys from Orange County Choppers will attract crowds.

If that’s not enough, the HP Golf Classic of New Orleans is being held right outside town. You get the picture.