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A one-man brand

Stewart's central to Comedy's plans

The news industry’s most bent anchorman keeps getting bigger.

Comedy Central may have locked up “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” exclusively through 2008, but other networks will soon be able to aggressively pursue Stewart’s talents via his Busboy Prods. banner.

Laffer net has enabled the comic anchor to revive his Busboy shingle — dormant for several years — agreeing to finance company in exchange for first-look rights to all of its TV projects.

Stewart, currently enjoying the success of his book, “America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction,” and “Daily Show” exec producer Ben Karlin will head up the company, with Richard Korson onboard to run development and Chris McShane managing talent.

Busboy, now with the aid of Comedy Central, will make his first foray into series development — a deal that gives other channels the opportunity to cash in on the Stewart brand, albeit on projects that Comedy Central passes up.

Stewart has already taken a stab at primetime television, pacting with NBC Studios in 2002 to write and exec produce a half-hour starring “Daily Show” thesp-scribe Stephen Colbert. Project, based on Colbert’s experiences growing up in South Carolina, didn’t make the cut, but repped the comedian’s desire to develop projects outside of Comedy Central’s flagship latenighter.

“As evidenced by the incredible success of ‘America (The Book),’ Jon and Ben have much more than a nightly TV show’s worth of comedy in them,” said Comedy Central/Spike TV president Doug Herzog.

Banner year

Stewart, who is usually mentioned as a potential heir to David Letterman’s CBS slot, is coming off an outstanding 2004, a year in which the presidential elections catapulted him and his satirical news show back into the spotlight. “Daily Show” reached record ratings — the post-presidential debate episode on Sept. 30 achieved a series high of 2.4 million viewers — and “America” is on its way to surpassing 1.5 million copies sold for Warner Books.

In its previous incarnation, Busboy produced 1994’s MTV series-turned-syndicated hour “The Jon Stewart Show” and inked a multiyear overall deal with Miramax Films shortly thereafter. That pact committed Stewart to star in at least two projects per year and offered him the chance to write and produce as well. None of the feature projects the company was attached to produce, however, got off the ground.

Parked at Central

For its part, Comedy Central execs have been aggressive in keeping talent at the cabler. They signed Dave Chappelle to a deal worth at least $35 million to keep “Chappelle’s Show” going for two more seasons and last year wooed Stewart into sticking with the cabler through 2008 (Daily Variety, March 19). “Daily Show” enjoyed its most-watched year in 2004, averaging a healthy 1.2 million overall viewers per episode.

Details regarding current projects are forthcoming, a spokesman for the channel said.

Karlin has been with “The Daily Show” since 1993, taking on exec producer duties in 2003. Emmy-winning scribe was previously an editor at the Onion.

Korson, a former development director at Comedy Central, is the exec in charge of production for “The Daily Show” and was an exec producer for “Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn.”

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