Network, ventriloquist pact on series, special

After his Christmas special became the most watched show in Comedy Central history, ventriloquist Jeff Dunham has signed an all-encompassing deal with the cable net that includes a series order, another standup special, a DVD release and merchandising.

Dunham’s 2008 special drew 6.6 million viewers to the network upon its initial run, and his touring business took in $19.2 million last year, making the 46-year-old comic the highest-grossing standup in North America, according to Pollstar.

Comedy Central has ordered six episodes of a new series starring the puppet-toting comic with plans to start production this summer and air the show early next year.

“The concept of the show will allow Jeff to appear onstage with his characters, similar to what you see in his standup, but it will also get him out in the field where he can interact with people,” prexy of original programming and development Lauren Corrao said.

A one-hour standup special is slated to air in fall 2010, around the same time that a tour and consumer products push are launched. A DVD release will also be coordinated around these events.

Last year’s DVD version of Dunham’s “A Very Special Christmas Special” sold more than 400,000 copies.

Comedy Central has previously signed other comics, including Carlos Mencia, to such multifaceted deals. Last fall, the network formally renamed a new live entertainment division under longtime channel exec Mitch Fried specifically to orchestrate such broad deals with talent.

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