The more comedy awards change, the more they stay familiar, if not completely within the family.

charliehaykelCharlie Haykel of Don Mischer Productions executive produced The Comedy Awards in 2011 and 2012 for Comedy Central and Viacom, and he’s back again in charge of the newly revamped American Comedy Awards, to be broadcast in May on NBC. Haykel spoke with The Comic’s Comic on the eve of the voting deadline — voting remains open until 11:59 p.m. tonight EDT (8:59 p.m. Pacific) for the general public as well as the industry committee in 19 categories covering TV, movies, stand-up and web videos (scroll to the bottom for the full list of nominees, then head to NBC’s American Comedy Awards online ballot to cast your votes).

“The turnout’s been great, so we’re excited that the fans are involved this year. Their voice is being heard the same as the industry,” Haykel told The Comic’s Comic.

Including an open online vote for the 2014 American Comedy Awards helps in “evolving the format of the comedy awards show,” he said, while also hearkening back to when they were a network TV staple (on ABC) during the comedy boom of the 1980s-1990s. “George (Schlatter) brought Don (Mischer) to Los Angeles to direct his first shows. While George is not directly involved, it’s nice to see it come full circle.”

With Mischer, Haykel previously produced multiple Billboard Music Awards, Tony Awards, Oscars red carpet specials and Super Bowl halftime shows.

What did he learn from producing The Comedy Awards? “Comedy Central has a very specific point of view,” Haykel said, “stating the obvious.”

“I think it was shocking to all of us that there wasn’t a show that was dedicated to this,” he said.

In Mischer’s other award show productions, they’ve often employed comedians to host. So they’re used to dealing with comedians — with a full show focused on comedy, however, they realized in the first year (2011) “you have to produce this show with the community” and get them on board with the concept of seriously honoring comedy and comedians. “Otherwise, the awards are hollow. It’s then just a public relations opportunity,” he said.

Having a comedian host the Oscars, Emmys or Tonys makes sense to lighten the mood. Not so much when the entire show is populated with comedians.

“We specifically went with no hosts because it allows everybody to be funny. If you have a host, you have to carve out opportunities for your host to score. Which is great. But when you have a show with people who are that funny, why not give them a shot and let them all be funny,” Haykel said.

That said: “It’s a tough room, because it’s industry. But we did have fans as well.”

In 2011, Haykel said one of the show’s producing partners noticed that nobody loitered in the green room because everyone was out watching the actual ceremony. The following year, Haykel saw comedians and industry types moving from table following the end of the ceremony. “After the show ended, we’re used to people heading for the exits like rats on a sinking ship. Before the host says goodnight, it’s a mass exodus,” he said. Seeing the talent congregate and mingle even after the final award had been handed out was a great sign.

“The second year, we were working with someone who was nominated,” Haykel said. “He said the first year, we (comedians) all showed up and said, ‘What is this? Who are these guys? Why is this happening?’ This is your business. You know, if there’s a chink in the armor, these people are going to find it and exploit it. You want people to pay attention…nobody derided it, but Jon Stewart, when he came out and opened it, he said, ‘We’re all going to talk about it in a couple of years…'” in jest of whatever happened to The Comedy Awards?

Well, he was partially right?!

“These shows take time for the community to understand what they’re about,” Haykel said. “NBC, like I said, is excited about it. We want the fans to vote. Their votes count along with our industry voting committee. These are people with legitimate credits…it’s a pretty top-notch group. There are notable people on this committee.”

And I’m on it, too (full disclosure).

Any nominations surprise Haykel? “I like, not to toot our own horn — I like that we have an Alternative Comedy Series category, where Archer, Portlandia, Key & Peele, Drunk History and Kroll Show all can get a little bit of notoriety. Because they’re hilarious shows. I like that Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key are nominated against each other for comedy actor. That’s awesome.”

Award shows are one of the last bastions of network TV that continue to draw large audiences, especially when the telecasts are live. How much did that play into the reboot of the American Comedy Awards for NBC? And what can we expect to see?

“We produced the last three years of the Billboard Music Awards,” Haykel said. “You hope as a producer that you’er producing an event or a moment. There’s lots of things you can’t predict. But you put all of the right ingredients together. Gil Cates, who produced the Oscars for many years, used to say, ‘In live TV, sometimes the Gods smile on you.’ It’s a reason sports is doing so well. You want to be in the conversation while it’s happening. Otherwise you’re sitting on the sidelines. To continue the sports metaphor. So what we see is a lot more interest in live events.”

Any live performances, a la The Lonely Island with Akon in 2011?

“If it’s a live performance that makes sense,” he said. “Lonely Island that happened to be great timing, it just worked out that they had a new song coming out.”

“We want to produce our events live and letting them move. People feed off of that,” he said. “As opposed to the Bataan Death March, where you keep looking at your watch, wondering when it’s ever going to end.”

So now plans to outdo Ellen’s world record selfie photo, then?

“We don’t have any of that stuff going on, that I can talk about, yet,” he said.

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Voting remains open through 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight (March 18) for the 2014 American Comedy Awards.

COMEDY FILM

  • Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
  • The Heat
  • Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
  • Nebraska
  • This Is the End

COMEDY ACTOR – FILM

  • Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
  • Will Ferrell, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”
  • Johnny Knoxville, “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa”
  • Simon Pegg, “The World’s End”
  • Seth Rogen, “This Is the End”

COMEDY ACTRESS – FILM

  • Lake Bell, “In a World…”
  • Sandra Bullock, “The Heat”
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Enough Said”
  • Melissa McCarthy, “The Heat”
  • Kristen Wiig, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”

COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTOR – FILM

  • Louis C.K., “American Hustle”
  • Steve Carell, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”
  • Will Forte, “Nebraska”
  • Jonah Hill, “This Is the End”
  • Danny McBride, “This Is the End”

COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTRESS – FILM

  • Scarlett Johansson, “Her”
  • Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
  • June Squibb, “Nebraska”
  • Emma Watson, “This Is the End”
  • Kristen Wiig, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”

COMEDY DIRECTOR – FILM

  • Paul Feig, “The Heat”
  • Spike Jonze, “Her”
  • Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”
  • Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, “This Is the End”
  • Edgar Wright, “The World’s End”

COMEDY SCREENPLAY

  • “The Heat,” written by Katie Dippold
  • “Her,” written by Spike Jonze
  • “Nebraska,” written by Bob Nelson
  • “This Is the End,” written by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
  • “The World’s End,” written by Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright

COMEDY SERIES

  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)
  • Modern Family (ABC)
  • Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  • Saturday Night Live (NBC)
  • Veep (HBO)

ALTERNATIVE COMEDY SERIES

  • Archer (FX)
  • Drunk History (COMEDY CENTRAL)
  • Key & Peele (COMEDY CENTRAL)
  • Kroll Show (COMEDY CENTRAL)
  • Portlandia (IFC)

LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW

  • “The Colbert Report”
  • “Conan”
  • “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”
  • “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
  • “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”

COMEDY ACTOR – TV

  • Fred Armisen, “Portlandia”
  • Jason Bateman, “Arrested Development”
  • Keegan-Michael Key, “Key & Peele”
  • Jordan Peele, “Key & Peele”
  • Andy Samberg, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”

COMEDY ACTRESS – TV

  • Zooey Deschanel, “New Girl”
  • Lena Dunham, “Girls”
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
  • Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”
  • Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer”

COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTOR – TV

  • Aziz Ansari, “Parks and Recreation”
  • Will Arnett, “Arrested Development”
  • Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”
  • Bill Hader, “Saturday Night Live”
  • Tony Hale, “Veep”

COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTRESS – TV

  • Vanessa Bayer, “Saturday Night Live”
  • Julie Bowen, “Modern Family”
  • Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”
  • Chelsea Peretti, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
  • Aubrey Plaza, “Parks and Recreation”

COMEDY WRITING – TV

  • “Arrested Development”
  • “The Colbert Report”
  • “Key & Peele”
  • “Modern Family”
  • “Parks and Recreation”

COMEDY DIRECTING – TV

  • “Arrested Development”
  • “Eastbound & Down”
  • “Key & Peele”
  • “Modern Family”
  • “Parks and Recreation”

COMEDY SPECIAL OF THE YEAR

  • “Aziz Ansari: Buried Alive”
  • “Kristen Schaal: Live at the Fillmore”
  • “Louis C.K.: Oh My God”
  • “Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend”
  • “Patton Oswalt: Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time”
  • “Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles”

CLUB COMIC

  • Maria Bamford
  • Bill Burr
  • Jerrod Carmichael
  • Ron Funches
  • Kyle Kinane
  • Sebastian Maniscalco
  • Sean Patton
  • Brian Regan
  • Rory Scovel
  • Doug Stanhope

VIRAL VIDEO