Is the Internet the new new path to a TV sitcom, or the new spin on an old path, or something else entirely? The answer isn't the same for all comedians, because some of the performers already have the credits and knowhow to get it done. Cases in point? We have three, which is what old-school mainstream media people call a trend!
1) Rob Corddry starred in an online comedy series Childrens' Hospital, which got picked up by the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim along with an additional order for 12 new 11-minute episodes. (Variety) Of course, Corddry is a former Daily Show correspondent and has multiple TV/movie credits to boot — plus he had a strong supporting cast of known comedians along for his ride, and the initial backing of Warner Bros. theWB.com — and that network has rewarded his success with an order for another Web series, along with a pilot presentation.
2) Comedy Central is halfway through airing the first six episodes of Secret Girlfriend, a sitcom that originated via FremantleMedia's AtomicWedgieTV.com. The TV show uses a first-person format to make the viewer the "star" along with friends (played by Derek Miller and Michael Blaiklock) and his two secret girlfriends (Alexis Krause and Sara E.R. Fletcher).
3) And then there's Funny or Die. Rachel Sklar at Mediaite wrote a column this morning praising FoD for getting eyeballs not just for Will Ferrell videos but plenty of up-and-coming comedians, citing traffic numbers that put Funny or Die on par with or better than Gawker, the NYC-based gossip news site. It's been a little while since I looked at their traffic in-depth, but last I had checked, FoD was still being driven largely by its celebrity cameos — which in turn, get mainstream TV and news attention to help bring more people to the site. But. BUT. FoD also is doing a bang-up job of creating a team of talented comedians (much like the Upright Citizens Brigade, which has trained plenty of the FoD mainstays) and has gotten its non-celeb videos some traction in TV spots such as The Jay Leno Show (which could use all the help it can get) and must-lists in places such as Entertainment Weekly. Moreover, several comedians already have filmed sketches and half-hour pieces for FoD that should air sometime in 2010 on HBO per the cable network's agreement with FoD.
Of course, not everything works. In The Motherhood began online in 2007 with Leah Remini, Jenny McCarthy and Chelsea Handler, before it got picked up by ABC, completely recast and aired as a midseason TV sitcom in 2009. Alas, it didn't make it through its first seven episodes before getting the boot.