Montreal 2008: Just Comedy notes on Finding the Comedy Audience

Thoughts and quotes from the first day of the Just Comedy confab at Montreal’s Just For Laughs fest…

On "Finding the Comedy Audience," Comedy Central’s Lou Wallach set the tone early by cracking, "If anyone can find the comedy audience, please let us know." So we’re going to learn a lot here in Montreal, eh? Perhaps. Megan O’Neill from Atom.com, formerly known as Atom Films, said MTV Networks (and Comedy Central) bought the site to replace Motherload as its online broadband partner because Atom could prove it had both the Web traffic and the viewing demographic (young men aged 18-34) that Comedy Central wanted. O’Neill said she’d been with the company since 1999. "We’re survivors," she said. Of 31-32 other online competitors, 29 went belly up and crashed when the stock market bubble burst in 2000. "Because we survived, advertisers kept coming," O’Neill said. Atom Films had its biggest hit last year in "This Land" from the folks at JibJab — which you may recall got a big boost from having the guys appear on The Tonight Show. But how did JibJab end up on Atom? Good old-fashioned networking and relationship building. O’Neill knew the guys, would buy them pizza in Williamsburg (Brooklyn edition, not Colonial Virginia edition) and waited for them to produce a video that could appeal to the biggest audience. And when they did, the guys remembered O’Neill and rewarded her (and Atom) for her past support.

Want to know how to crack the code on YouTube? Or how to get a steady online audience of fans. Well, YouTube’s comedy content manager, Mark Day, said most of the biggest hits on YouTube remain stand-alone "one-hit wonders," if you will (my words in quotes). And his advice to people for the secret formula? "Come up with something as clever as You Suck At Photoshop," on My Damn Channel, he says. Todd Jackson hadn’t arrived in Montreal yet, but I imagined him smiling as Day said this.

Back to Wallach and Comedy Central. He said Comedy Central started its cable TV life with more of an across-the-board viewership, but over time, shows such as South Park and The Daily Show (not to mention The Man Show, Insomniac, Crank Yankers and so many others) eventually narrowed their focus on 18-34 men. "We’re always looking for shows that can appeal to a broad audience," Wallach said, answering a question about trying to attract viewers outside of the network’s main demo. "But you don’t want to bite the hand that’s been feeding us. It’s been very good to us, and it’s a desired group."

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →