Silverman’s back in it for the laffs

Siegel joins co.'s production arm

Fred Silverman is tired of hearing people bitch about the sad state of the sitcom — so he’s going to try to do something about it.

Programming legend is ramping up the production arm of his eponymous company, focusing his energies on developing both scripted and unscripted comedies. Toward that end, Silverman has hired former National Lampoon and Comic Relief exec Randi Siegel to serve as exec in charge of alternative comedy programming.

Silverman is also expected to name a head of scripted comedy in the coming weeks.

Move marks a major change in direction for Silverman’s shingle, which in its most recent incarnation focused on producing nearly 1,000 hours of mystery-themed dramas (“Matlock,” “Perry Mason”).

“I look at the marketplace, and there’s such an opportunity out there for comedy,” Silverman told Daily Variety. “There’s not much of it left, and there’s a need for new voices out there.”

Silverman’s resume includes plenty of comedy hits (“All in the Family,” “MASH,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”), as well as unscripted alternative pioneers (“Real People”). While he’s a fan of some single-camera laffers (specifically citing NBC’s “The Office”), the exec Time magazine once described as “the man with the golden gut” believes there’s a particular opportunity in traditional multicamera comedy.

“Funny is funny, whether you have three cameras or one,” he said.

Siegel came to Silverman highly recommended, with references from the likes of Bernie Brillstein and Dan Pasternack.

“She’s got really great credentials,” Silverman said.

Siegel spent 10 years as a manager, helping launch the career of Jimmy Fallon and ultimately rising to head of comedy for Talent Entertainment Group. She was then tapped exec VP of talent and development for National Lampoon and last year signed on with Comic Relief.

Siegel said she hopes “to draw from the knowledge (Silverman) has gained over so many years. It’s as applicable today as it was when he was running the networks.”

Silverman has spent the last few years focused on his career as a consultant, advising clients such as ABC and Los Angeles pubcaster KCET.

“Now I want to spend 100% of my time on the production side trying to develop the company with this new point of view,” he said. “The thought of just doing comedies really appealed to me. I’ve always thought that if you can end up being where nobody else is, you’re in good shape.”