Ooh, Merv gets real

Showbiz legend dives into TV's hot genre

Something funny happened to Merv Griffin on the way to Canada: He got into the reality biz.

TV icon has pacted with Toronto’s Humber College for an unscripted skein built around students in Humber’s school of comedy — which claims bragging rights as the world’s only college to offer a degree in yuks.

Griffin and Ernie Chambers will exec produce the potential weekly skein via Merv Griffin Enterprises; project will be pitched to broadcast and cable nets in the coming weeks. An outside producer with reality show experience is expected to be brought onboard as well.

In addition to a “Fame”-style look at how students hone their comic craft — both at school and in comedy clubs — skein will have a competitive element built in. While still in early development, producers will likely focus on a small group of undergrad and graduate students, with one would-be comedy star eliminated each week.

Humber’s advisory committee includes “Saturday Night Live’s” Anne Beats, George Shapiro (“Seinfeld”) and former SCTV stars Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas and Joe Flaherty.

“We’ll end up with the next person we can put out on tour or on TV shows,” Griffin said. “It’s like ‘American Idol,’ except they don’t sing — they do comedy.”

Chambers said the skein will also try to find interesting characters from among the funny men and women.

“Many of the people who go to the school come from strange backgrounds that give birth to their comedy,” he said. “Their personal stories will be integral.”

Joe Kertes, who’s dean of Humber’s school of creative and performing arts, said the program isn’t designed to teach folks how to be funny.

“What we say around here is: We can’t make you funny, but we can make you funnier,” he explained.

Humber’s school of comedy offers classes in the history of comedy, standup and a course called “Sketch and Shtick.”

Griffin is no stranger to giving young comics a shot. His long-running TV gabfest featured early appearances by Richard Pryor, Woody Allen and numerous other future comedy stars.

“The background of comedians has always been interesting to me,” Griffin said. “They’re the clowns who cry at home.”

Merv Griffin Enterprises also plans to develop a feature film built around Humber’s programs.

Griffin is an exec producer on the indie feature “Shade,” which opens in limited release Friday. He also showed off his longtime crooner chops last week, performing a duet with Aimee Man on CBS’ “Late Late Show” — a five-year anniversary present for host Craig Kilborn.

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