Area 51 launched for laughs

Club aids in finding, developing talent, Hartmann sez

The laughs are out there: Twentieth Century Fox Television and Power Entertainment tonight will launch Area 51, a new West Hollywood performance space created to showcase undiscovered and up-and-coming comedic talent.

Area 51 becomes the latest in a series of small performance spaces launched by various production studios. Twentieth and Power’s decision to open Area 51 follows NBC’s creation of a comedy workshop in Gotham and Warner Bros. Television’s pacting with HBO to create a similar workspace in Los Angeles.

The space will be utilized on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to showcase fresh faces in standup and sketch comedy, performance pieces, or works by up-and-coming writers. The Second City Training Center and Studio will occupy the space from Thursday through Sunday. Second City (which is managed by Power) plans to train talent in improv and sketch comedy in the space.

Break with tradition

“Having an intimate space away from a traditional comedy club scene allows us a broader approach to finding and developing talent,” Power partner Robert Hartmann said. “We can work on the kinds of concepts and shows that wouldn’t ordinarily be given a shot in that kind of venue.”

Twentieth Century Fox Television co-prexy Gary Newman said the creation of Area 51 will help the studio “utilize the benefits Power brings to us.

“They have tremendous reach into the standup market, and this allows them to alert us to new people and expose those people to our writers and executives,” he said.

In addition, Area 51 will serve as a workspace that 20th execs can use to help sell network execs on the merits of a studio project.

“If we have a (potential) show, Area 51 gives us an opportunity to put something on its feet (with) something that’s more than just a table read,” he said. “It can give people more of a sense of what they’re getting.”

Not surprised

Newman isn’t surprised studios and networks are rushing to find new venues in which to nurture young comic talent.

“We’re all looking to get a leg up on the comedy front,” he said. “You want to be known as a place that’s talent friendly. Everybody believes comics can play a large role in developing new sitcoms.”

A special performance of “The Best of Second City” will help launch Area 51 tonight.

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