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Davis: Launching laffers comes easy to Fox exec

Comedy Impact Report 2012: TV - Jonnie Davis

No TV studio has capitalized on the renewed interest in comedies more than 20th Century Fox TV. As executive VP of comedy development and animation, Jonnie Davis has been the company’s secret weapon, shepherding a clutch of distinctive skeins that are expanding the boundaries of the traditional half-hour comedy. Last spring, 20th Century Fox TV emerged from upfront week with orders for five new series, all of them comedies.

Davis shepherded “New Girl” through a successful freshman season on Fox, and the edgy Krysten Ritter starrer “Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23.” He helped send Josh Gad to the White House in NBC’s upcoming “1600 Penn” and he guided Tim Allen’s return to primetime in ABC’s “Last Man Standing.”

Davis’ affection for comedy started in his formative years in New Jersey, when he’d sneak out of bed to spy on his parents while they watched “The Tonight Show.” He got his start at Fox working on the reality side with alternative topper Mike Darnell, but Davis found his zone when he shifted to comedy development, working first at the network and since 2008 at the studio.

“This is an incredible time to be on our lot,” Davis says.

Davis is known for his strong relationships with the studio’s creative talent, and for his dedication to helping scribes hone and protect their vision for a show. “New Girl” creator Liz Meriwether is a case in point.

“We knew she had a big hit show in her,” he says. “But she has her own approach to comedy. Through the entire (development) process, we knew it was our job to make sure her voice was protected.”

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