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Russell Simmons Inks Overall Deal with HBO

Russell Simmons has inked an overall first-look production and development deal with HBO, the premium cabler announced Thursday.

Under the pact with Simmons’ new-media company All Def Digital, he and his team will create and develop television projects for the network. Simmons currently has five projects in the works with HBO.

All Def Digital is producing three of the five projects on which Simmons and HBO are collaborating, including a new series that brings the best acts from All Def Digital’s weekly live comedy night. “These Are My Friends,” a comedy series from Shaka King that takes an original and authentic look at hip-hop culture, is also in development. Another comedy, titled “The Broken Lizard Show,” in association with Broken Lizard comedy troupe, will take an innovative and comedic look at race when, hundreds of years in the future, a space ship exploring the galaxy discovers the last white man in the universe.

“We always speak of having distinct voices at HBO, and few in the industry are as unique and intelligent as Russell,” said Michael Lombardo, president of HBO programming. “He’s been a part of our family for a long time, and we are so pleased to be continuing our relationship.”

The new deal marks a reunion of sorts between the net and Simmons: In 1992 he co-created “Def Comedy Jam,” which helped launch the careers of Jamie Foxx, Chris Tucker and Kevin Hart, among others. Spinoff series “Def Poetry Jam” followed in 2002.

As part of the overall deal, Simmons is producing a Def Comedy Jam 25th anniversary special that will feature an all-star lineup of comedians.

“HBO has been like a home to me for a generation,” Simmons commented of the new deal. “I am enormously proud of the broad range of programming they have nurtured. Together, we have discovered new voices and helped launch emerging artists that deserved a mainstream platform. I am even more excited by the next generation of talent and shows that we are developing through All Def Digital TV.”

Simmons is also exec producing the previously announced six-episode limited series “Codes of Conduct” with director Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”).

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