Original programming topper exits post

Lauren Corrao is exiting her post as prexy of original programming and development for Comedy Central.

After seven years at the cabler, exec has chosen to back away from the network side and return to producing. Based in Los Angeles, she will remain on the job until her contract expires in December.

Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless and Doug Herzog, president of MTV Networks Entertainment Group, said Monday they will begin a search for Corrao’s successor.

Corrao was responsible for many of Comedy Central’s top programs during her tenure, including “Chappelle’s Show,” “Reno 911,” “The Sarah Silverman Program” and the most recent hit, “Important Things With Demetri Martin.” She also played a significant role in turning the net’s celebrity roasts — Larry the Cable Guy and Joan Rivers are the two most recently skewered — into top ratings draws.

“Comedy Central has been my passion and my family for the past seven years, and I’m very proud of the legacy I’ll leave behind, but I feel that this is exactly the right time in this ever-changing world of television to personally create, produce and own content,” Corrao said. According to a source, Corrao had hinted that she had expected to stay at Comedy Central for only three years before heading back into producing but ended up staying longer when the net’s original programming endeavors took off. Before joining Comedy Central, Corrao was a producer with partner Peter Tolan and helped shepherd such series as ABC’s “The Job.”

Corrao and Herzog go back to the 1980s, when they worked together at MTV. In a memo to the staff, Herzog said he recognized Corrao’s talents early on.

“I remember the day she walked into my office to say she had figured out the way to do an MTV soap opera with no actors and no writers,” he said, referencing the origins of MTV franchise “The Real World.”

Under Corrao’s direction, Comedy Central has an ambitious new slate on tap, starting with the premiere of “The Jeff Dunham Show” on Oct. 22. Also, cabler has greenlit 10 episodes of an untitled Jon Heder sitcom to be written and produced by Will Ferrell.

In addition, the animated “Ugly Americans” from David Stern (“The Simpsons”) is set to premiere in the first quarter of 2010.

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