Doug Herzog on Creating a Night for Comedy with ‘The Comedy Awards’

by Doug Herzog, Viacom Entertainment Group

Doug Herzog, President Viacom Entertainment Group, Jon Stewart, Kent Alterman, Head of Original Programming and Production, and Michele Ganeless, President of Comedy Central attend 'The Comedy Awards 2012' at Hammerstein Ballroom on April 28, 2012 in New York City.

Last Saturday night marked the occasion of The 2nd annual Comedy Awards at The Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.  The show airs this Sunday at 9/8c on Comedy Central.

We created the Comedy Awards to be more than just “The Comedy Central Awards.”  We wanted the event to represent the entire comedy community.  We envisioned an evening where a bunch of the people who we think are funny could get together in one room, honor their peers, and have a little fun.

The way we figured, it was long overdue.  Movies, television, Broadway – even porn – each have their own night. But not Comedy.

That doesn’t mean it was an easy sell, at least initially.  Groucho Marx, something of a noted comedian himself, once said, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”  That’s how comedians generally feel about awards shows.

Maybe some comedians are still wrapping their heads around the idea of a Comedy Awards.  After all, a lot of these folks are more comfortable tearing themselves down on stage in front of strangers than they are accepting a pat on the back among friends.  But comedians are a tight, hardworking group. They love their craft and appreciate good work when they see it.  So, I think they appreciate the opportunity the Comedy Awards provides to recognize that good work, too.

The inaugural show was a huge success, and this year built on that momentum.  The evening was led by our Executive Producer extraordinaire Casey Patterson teamed with the legendary Don Mischer, and guided by Comedy Central’s Michelle Ganeless and Kent Alterman. Hammerstein was elegantly decorated from head to toe for this black tie affair.  For a few hours, it served as the epicenter of the comedy universe.

For a comedy fan, it was like Fantasy Island.  It’s great to look around and see Chris Rock mingling with Daily Show correspondents; Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph staging a mini SNL reunion; and our own Key and Peele getting big love from everyone in the room.

Awards were given, speeches were made, and many jokes were told. Robin Williams was honored for his groundbreaking stand-up; Louie C.K. took home a Michael Jackson load of awards, and the Bridesmaids finally caught the bouquet. While I think everyone truly appreciates winning, and being recognized by their peers, it’s the opportunity to hang out with one another that really makes this evening special.

The emotional highlight was a tribute to the legendary Don Rickles.  He was toasted by Robert DeNiro and Jon Stewart, followed with his own emotional speech. In his own humble and hilarious way, Don drew a line from Carson, to himself, and ultimately to all the contemporary artists sitting there that night completing the comedy continuum.  Immediately after everyone got on stage, all the winners, presenters, board members and our team at Comedy Central gathered for a group photo. There was a palpable sense of legacy, history, and community.  Which is what we set out to accomplish to begin with.

A truly great night, and I was proud to be there.

Doug Herzog is President of the Viacom Entertainment Group, which includes Comedy Central, Spike and TV Land.

Tune into The Comedy Awards 2012 on Sunday, May 6th at 9/8c on Comedy Central.