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‘Daily Show’ writer heads to HBO

Ben Karlin pacts with cable network

Ben Karlin, “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” guru who left the Comedy Central skeins unexpectedly last year, has signed a comprehensive deal with HBO.

Pay net has inked the comic scribe to a deal that will see Karlin create series, specials and telepics for HBO; it also includes a first-look deal for theatrical films under the Picturehouse banner.

Karlin is forming a shingle, Super Ego Industries, that will funnel projects both to Carolyn Strauss’ original-series division and to Colin Callender’s HBO Films banner. Super Ego will open its Gotham offices in September under the auspices of Karlin and producer Will Reiser, who will run the office for Karlin.

Agreement is conceived broadly, execs said, with Karlin given the freedom to develop across a number of platforms, including the Web, a realm in which HBO has so far been cautious.

Few specifics have been discussed, but Karlin said he will draw from ideas he developed during and after his Comedy Central run.

“You develop a stockpile of ideas, and not unlike nuclear weaponry, some are still good and some are not that powerful,” he said.

But Karlin said he’d like to move away from political satire, a brand of humor on which he built his reputation first as a writer at the Onion and later on “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.”

One of the first items on the agenda at HBO, Karlin said, is a theatrical comedy he would potentially write. Project, he said, would be developed off inexpensively shot footage instead of from a pitch or script.

“I want to present to people what I’m doing in the form that it’s ultimately going to be in,” he said.

In a statement Callender said he thought ideas could be brought to “the theatrical marketplace in nontraditional ways.”

Karlin said he may also develop a television series based on an anthology he is editing about failed relationships, “Things I Have Learned From People Who Dumped Me,” and also quipped that he wanted to pitch HBO “a show about a surfing family in Southern California that involves a mysterious stranger and a lot of biblical references.”

While Karlin said he wasn’t severing ties with Busboy Prods., the production company he and Jon Stewart formed, his role there will be as a consultant at best.

Comedy Central has opted not to pick up to series the pilot “Three Strikes,” which Karlin and Stewart had sold to the net, a rep for the net said Thursday. Karlin had been at “The Daily Show” for eight years and was credited with many of the show’s best political bits; he was also a co-creator of “Colbert.”

But he abruptly left his exec producer roles at the two shows in December even as they continued to increase in popularity, saying the load was interfering with the quality of his work and his personal life. Karlin has since been lying low, though he has been working on the “Things” tome, which features contributions from comedy associates like Bob Odenkirk, Andy Richter and Colbert.

Karlin also wrote the mega-bestseller “America: The Book” with his “Daily Show” cohorts and was one of the writers who penned Stewart’s material for his Oscar-hosting stint in 2006.

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