Sony Pictures Television is looking for laughs beyond Gotham and L.A., inking an exclusive multiyear development pact with Chi-based comedy factory Second City.
Deal will enable SPT to tap into Second City’s deep well of young emerging comedy scribes and thesps as well as the hundreds of sketches and characters created each year at various Second City theaters and workshops. Jason Brett, prexy and CEO of Second City Entertainment, will oversee development.
SPT programming prexy Russ Kransnoff said the Second City deal, along with a recently instituted in-house writer development program, fit into the studio’s nonmainstream approach to development.
What’s next in comedy
“The big quest right now is what’s next in comedy,” he told Daily Variety. “In addition to finding gifted showrunners, we’re going to try to do things differently by looking to find comedy voices, concept and forms that have never been on television. Second City is putting up new and different comic concepts and characters every day … they’re a never-ending supply of ideas.”
While Second City is no stranger to the small screen — “SCTV” remains a latenight classic, and the troupe gave comics such as Mike Myers, Jim Belushi and Bill Murray their starts — the company hasn’t been as active in the medium of late.
Brett said the Sony deal, along with the decision a year ago to sign with William Morris and get into the talent management business, is part of Second City’s desire to bulk up its Hollywood ties.
“We want to utilize the same content development mechanism that we use for the stage and extend it into television,” Brett said. “The brand hasn’t been leveraged lately to extend it into TV.”
Brett said SPT will “get first access to and the ability to cherry-pick” ideas and performers from Second City’s multiple theaters, comedy training centers and touring companies.
“We’re a feeder system,” Brett said. “What Russ and Sony saw was an opportunity to focus our creative efforts, take stuff that’s appropriate from the stages and do it all at a time in (writers’) careers when it’s about process and opportunity and no bank account.”
“The best place you can be to find new talent is 50 miles away from L.A. and New York,” he added.
While Brett will serve as chief liaison between SPT and Second City, producers at all of the laff factory’s theaters “will be our eyes and ears” for spotting new talent and ideas, Brett said.
Brett is no stranger to Sony, having worked under several overall deals at the studio in his past careers as a writer-producer.