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All yuks, no filler

The Comedy Awards 2012

Gathering a group of the funniest comics in the business is a great first step in crafting any awards show, but Comedy Central’s Comedy Awards isn’t just another self-congratulatory evening. It’s the rare awards show that is by and for comedians, the whole anti-establishment lot of them.

“In fact, the humor that other film, TV and theater trophy shows strive to inject into otherwise stoic affairs just comes naturally for the Comedy Awards,” says Casey Patterson, exec veep of event production at Viacom Entertainment Group.

“Everybody who appears on the stage is a performer-writer. Everybody’s writing their own stuff. There’s no bad, forced, awkward awards-show patter.”

In addition to big names like Tina Fey, Louis C.K. and Jon Stewart writing their own material for the telecast, Patterson says there are usually a few brainstorming sessions about the show with top writers from latenight and primetime.

“It ends up being a much more collaborative back and forth,” Patterson says, pointing to scribes from Funny or Die and “Tosh.0” as well as “Conan” making up the staff of eight full-timers. “The staff represents all the different voices in comedy.”

Comedy being what it is, some performers occasionally go off script or improvise, but that just adds to the energy. Patterson says the key is that each person onstage is using their own voice instead of reading someone else’s words.

“You could look at the writing as a challenge — they’re all going to do their own thing — but I don’t,” she says. “The best thing to happen to awards shows is that they’re just going to get up there without any of the uncomfortable filler.”

That unpredictability and spontaneity isn’t always a live-TV producer’s friend, but they give the telecast an edge — even if it means enduring a few barbs, says executive producer and awards-show veteran Don Mischer.

“We had a lot of humor made at the expense of the show (last year),” Mischer says. “It gave it an honest feeling.”

Mischer admits that not airing live takes some of the pressure off him, but if last year is any indication, it also gives Comedy Central time to bleep out the inevitable expletives.

One other potential pitfall the Comedy Awards expertly sidesteps is the dull acceptance speech.

“(Speeches are) something as a producer that you have absolutely no control over,” Mischer says. “(At the Comedy Awards), they really want to score in this room that’s full of their peers, and that adds to the entertainment value”

Although the show airs May 6, about a week after the industry’s funniest gather at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom on Saturday, Mischer says he and director Beth McCarthy-Miller still present the show as if it were live.

“We care very much about how it plays in the room. We don’t create anything in editing. We give viewers what happened in the room,” Mischer says, adding that the show usually runs eight-10 minutes longer than its air length to allow for minor tightening.

Patterson says participation from the comedy community is even greater this year, which is probably thanks to the three years of planning she and her team put into developing the voting process.

“It took a very long time to get everybody on board,” she says. “When they bought in, they bought in in a big way and they fully participate. There’s a lot of very healthy debate about how to build this franchise.”

The end product is a prize of its own, says Comedy Central prexy Michele Ganeless: “Having the ability to consistently make people laugh is a really specific talent, and it’s great to be able to reward that.”

SELECTED NOMINEES:

COMEDY FILM
“The Artist”
“Bridesmaids”
“Crazy, Stupid, Love”
“Horrible Bosses”
“Midnight in Paris”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR — FILM
Jason Bateman – “Horrible Bosses”
Steve Carell – “Crazy, Stupid, Love”
Jean Dujardin – “The Artist”
Zach Galifianakis – “The Hangover Part II”
Owen Wilson – “Midnight in Paris”

COMEDY DIRECTOR — FILM
Woody Allen – “Midnight in Paris”
James Bobin – “The Muppets”
Paul Feig – “Bridesmaids”
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa , “Crazy, Stupid, Love”
Michel Hazanavicius – “The Artist”

COMEDY SERIES
“30 Rock”
“Curb Your Enthusiasm”
“Happy Endings”
“Modern Family”
“Parks and Recreation”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR — TV
Alec Baldwin – “30 Rock”
Ty Burrell – “Modern Family”
Louis C.K. – “Louie”
Steve Carell – “The Office”
Larry David – “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

COMEDY DIRECTING — TV
“30 Rock”
“Curb Your Enthusiasm”
“Louie”
“Modern Family”
“The Office”

ANIMATED COMEDY FILM
“Cars 2”
“Kung Fu Panda 2”
“Puss in Boots”
“Rango”
“Rio”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS — FILM
Jennifer Aniston – “Horrible Bosses”
Cameron Diaz – “Bad Teacher”
Melissa McCarthy – “Bridesmaids”
Emma Stone – “Crazy, Stupid, Love”
Kristen Wiig – “Bridesmaids”

COMEDY SCREENPLAY
“50/50”
“Bridesmaids”
“Crazy, Stupid, Love”
“Horrible Bosses”
“Midnight in Paris”

ANIMATED COMEDY SERIES
“Archer”
“Family Guy”
“The Life & Times of Tim”
“The Simpsons”
“South Park”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS — TV
Zooey Deschanel – “New Girl”
Tina Fey – “30 Rock”
Amy Poehler – “Parks and Recreation”
Kristen Wiig – “Saturday Night Live”
Sofia Vergara – “Modern Family”

COMEDY WRITING — TV
“30 Rock”
“Curb Your Enthusiasm”
“Louie”
“Modern Family”
“Parks and Recreation”
“Saturday Night Live”

LATENIGHT COMEDY SERIES
“The Colbert Report”
“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”
“Late Night With Jimmy Fallon”
“Late Show With David Letterman”
“Real Time With Bill Maher”

BREAKOUT PERFORMER OF THE YEAR
Zooey Deschanel
Josh Gad
Donald Glover
Melissa McCarthy
Jason Sudeikis

JOHNNY CARSON AWARD FOR COMEDIC EXCELLENCE
Don Rickles

STAND-UP ICON AWARD
Robin Williams

The Comedy Awards 2012
Do I amuse you? | Punchliners ponder payoff of prizes | The joke’s on them

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