Under terms of the agreement, Viacom will have exclusive “first look” rights on all projects developed by Noah and his production company, Day Zero Productions, in all media, including television, feature films, digital and short-form video content. Viacom will also make an investment in Day Zero. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Indeed, Viacom said its Paramount Players would adopt Noah’s memoir “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood,” as a feature film. Lupita Nyong’o is attached to star as Trevor’s mother, Patricia. Noah will produce the project through Day Zero with Norman Aladjem, Derek Van Pelt and Sanaz Yamin of Mainstay Entertainment, and Nyong’o through her Eba Productions. Liesl Tommy, a South African-born director who earned a Tony nomination for her work directing Nyong’o in the play “Eclipsed,” will direct the film.
“Working with the best, most versatile talent in the entertainment industry is a strategic priority for Viacom, which is why we are thrilled to expand our relationship with Trevor and his creative team at Day Zero with this cross-house partnership,” said Bob Bakish, Viacom’s CEO, in a statement. “Trevor’s creative sensibilities and ability to drive the cultural conversation around issues that matter to our young, global audiences make him an ideal partner for Viacom across every screen we serve. We are particularly proud that ‘Born a Crime’ will be produced and distributed by Paramount.”
The move shows Viacom trying to lock in longer-term relationships with key talent. “The Daily Show” has long been one of the company’s signature programs, but it has struggled to keep many of its correspondents and personalities under its own roof. In recent years, comedians like Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee and John Oliver have all moved to rival media companies, where they ahve notched larger presence and new influence. Earlier this month, Netflix said it would create a weekly talk show for “Daily Show” correspondent Hasan Minhaj. In February, Netflix unveiled a deal to create a late-night series for “Daily Show” contributor Michelle Wolf.
Churn has been common for decades at Comedy Central, which often is first to discover new and outspoken voices. Bill Maher got his start at the network, launching his “Politically Incorrect” there before moving to ABC and then HBO. Jimmy Kimmel came to wider renown at Comedy Central, taking part in programs like “Crank Yankers” and “The Man Show” before securing his perch on ABC’s late-night schedule.
“I’ve found a strong and incredibly valuable partnership in Viacom. Our shared vision of bringing diverse cultural conversations and exciting creative projects to the forefront of the entertainment industry and to our constantly expanding audience, continues to strengthen our relationship,” Noah said in a statement. :”I couldn’t be more excited to share ‘Born a Crime’ with Paramount and the very talented Lupita Nyong’o.”
Comedy Central has backed Noah since his earliest days at the network as an occasional contributor to “Daily Show” during the final weeks of his predecessor, Jon Stewart. The network stuck with him during the inevitable flux in audience that took place during transition at the program and expanded his contract last fall in a deal that will keep him on the show through 2022. Noah is already producing more content for the company, in the form of annual year-end specials. He also has a producer’s credit in “The Opposition,” the late-night series that follows “Daily Show” each night.
“The degree to which people underestimated Trevor as he took over ‘The Daily Show’ has made his success all the more meaningful,” said Kent Alterman, president of Comedy Central, in a statement. “Seeing audiences on multiple platforms embrace his incredible comedy chops, his thoughtful and nuanced point of view, and his global perspective has been gratifying beyond measure. Trevor has limitless curiosity, vision and passion. He is just getting started.”