Comedy troupe nabs entertainment president

Lowell Mate is first with Second City, joining the sketch comedy institution as its entertainment president.

Mate, who officially joins the company April 2, will be charged with helping the legendary brand relaunch its efforts in TV and film. Second City signed a first-look deal with NBC Universal TV Studio to create projects last year (Daily Variety, Oct. 10).

“What intrigued me about them is they have a brand that’s unique,” Mate said. “Given the state of comedy today, the networks are looking for something different and fresh. Second City has a particular knack for comedy that we haven’t seen on TV in quite some time in any form.”

Mate comes to Second City from Tony Krantz’s Flame TV, where he served as president. Second City CEO Andrew Alexander said the company spent several months looking for “the right fit.”

“Lowell is someone we feel gets our culture, has the background we were looking for in terms of doing eclectic network and cable fare and had a good knowledge of Second City,” Alexander said.

Under the deal with NBC U, the studio is funding the hire of Mate; Second City is also opening Hollywood facilities that will include a stage for players to hold theater workshops and iron out original programming before going to series.

“We have a great opportunity to really expand our base in L.A., which we haven’t done properly in the past,” Alexander said.

Mate agreed Second City has underutilized its well-known comedy brand.

“Everyone knows what Second City is,” Mate said. “I know Second City is eager to spread its wings in as many areas as possible.”

Mate will oversee both film and TV, but his initial focus will be on the small screen — an urgent focus given the relative dearth of comedy projects on TV. The NBC U deal also includes a digital component.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of how improv has been used on TV,” said Mate, who will be based on the Universal lot. “Look at the people who have come out of Second City — it’s phenomenal.”

Flame’s current projects include MTV’s “Kaya” as well as several titles in development: “Back Channel” (FX), “The Erotic Silence of the American Woman” (ABC) and “The Deprogrammer” (Court TV).

Mate joined Flame from Warner Bros. TV, where he was a producer and, before that, senior VP of comedy development (“George Lopez,” “What I Like About You”). He also spent nine years as exec VP of creative affairs for HBO Independent Prods. (“Everybody Loves Raymond”).

Mate has spent time at ABC and the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group as well.

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