IFC’s Comedy 'Alternative’

IFC is launching several late-night, comedy-themed original shows this week as part of an overall programming strategy to tickle the funny bones of its viewers.

IFC’s brand of comedy is not in the mainstream sitcom vein of The Cosby Show. Targeted mostly to a young, male audience, IFC’s new comedy offerings include a puppet-driven, psychedelically enhanced cooking show and a series about a hash-dealing slacker.

“It’s not traditional comedy, but comedy with a particular point of view — we like to call it alternative comedy,” IFC executive vice president and general manager Jennifer Caserta said. “There is a craving among our audience for comedy beyond the conventional sitcom.”

The network will launch two nights of comedy-related original shows beginning June 7 with the return of semi-scripted series Z Rock, which follows the lives of musicians who perform at kids parties during the day and rock out at night, and new series Ideal, starring British comedian Johnny Vegas who plays a small-time hashish dealer who lives in a run-down flat with his long-term girlfriend.

On Tuesdays beginning June 9, the network will air Food Party, a psychedelic cooking show starring Brooklyn-based artist Thu Tran. She uses handheld puppets and a handmade, Technicolor cardboardkitchen to whip up some interesting culinary dishes, according to Caserta. IFC will air six 10-minute episodes of the former Web-based series as part of the network’s “Automat” programming block.

Following Food Party is acquired series The Wrong Door, a CGI-enhanced sketch show set “in a parallel universe.”

The Sunday and Tuesday original comedy series blocks will bookend the network’s “Monday Night Funny” block of comedy-themed independent movies. Caserta said other comedy content will be interspersed throughout the summer schedule.

Known mostly for independent films, IFC has a following among males viewers for sophomore series Z Rock and off-Fuse series The Whitest Kids U’ Know, which debuted on the network in 2007. “It’s really about further serving the young, male tech-savvy viewer drawn to IFC that’s interested in watching content that they can’t find anywhere else,” Caserta said.

Later this summer, IFC will launch what Caserta calls the network’s comedy tent pole series in Bollywood Hero, an original three-part miniseries debuting in August starring Saturday Night Live alum Chris Kattan as a washed-up actor who ventures to India to star in a Bollywood film.

Also due later is Monty Python: Almost The Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut), a six-part docuseries featuring interviews with the surviving troupe members, along with archive representation for the late Graham Chapman.

Caserta hopes to draw sponsors to IFC’s comedies. “Branded entertainment is going to be what we hope to be a huge part of our comedy strategy,” she said, although she would not provide specific details or potential sponsor companies.

IFC also plans to create Web-exclusive comedy series and to host excerpts and outtakes from various comedy shows. “Comedy in small doses works really well, and putting it online and on-demand can only help the cause,” Caserta said.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.