Comedy Central orders up The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail, a stand-up showcase with surprises

Comedy Central┬áhas ordered NerdMelt’s flagship stand-up variety comedy showcase to series, greenlighting more episodes of The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail.

Kent Alterman, Comedy Central’s original programming chief, said in the release: “I’m shocked to learn this show will be taped in the back of a comic book store, rather than a comedy store, but we’ll do it anyway.”

The Meltdown’s live show is hosted by Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani, and produced by Emily Gordon. They’re bringing it to TV with Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Productions.

Najiani spoke to The Comic’s Comic today to deliver us some details!

What’s the format of The Meltdown TV show going to be? Like the regularly scheduled live shows have been, or different?

“Pretty similar. We have a lot of backstage stuff, too, and that ends up being a big part of the show. We wanted to have people get the experience of being at a live come dy show, rather than just watching one. So we don’t do any crane shots or anything. Every camera is set up at a place where a normal audience member would have a vantage point.”

But also more backstage green room stuff than, say, the glimpses we see on John Oliver’s show?

“Yes, way more. The pilot we did had two storylines that kinda developed. Unscripted. But when Jonah and Emily and I are running a show, stuff happens that you have to deal with. One was, Tom Lennon was extremely ill the night of the taping. So that became a thing. Is he gonna be able to perform? Is he gonna be any good? Spoiler alert, he fucking killed. And he could barely stand. But the audience has no diea about this stuff, so we wanna capture and show that. We also had another comedian going way too long, so that was another funny thing we had to deal with and captured on camera. Basically, our comedian friends are hilarious off stage in a very different way. We wanna get that, too.”

Not that you’ll always have an unscripted event fall into place like that, though.

“No, but it turns out plenty of funny and interesting stuff happens. We actually had to cut a whole runner out, because we didn’t have time.”

The Meltdown will be a half-hour show. The pilot included so much more than that, though — with appearances and performances by Nick Kroll, Pete Holmes, Natasha Leggero, Jerrod Carmichael and Jim Gaffigan in addition to Lennon, plus Ray and Nanjiani. New episodes, expected to shoot and air sometime early in 2014, would feature the co-hosts along with two to three other comedians.

Nanjiani said shooting the series at Meltdown Comics was important, title notwithstanding. “We really wanted to shoot in the space, because it’s such a big part of what makes our live show unique,” he said.

Right. Once you put the audience into a theater (John Oliver) or comedy club (most everything else), it’s hard to transmit any sort of intimacy through the screen.

“I think so. What I loved about Louie, the FX show, was how the stand up was taped in the Cellar and stuff. And you can feel that. We didn’t wanna lose any of that immediacy. Obviously shooting in a small space like The Meltdown, which is not made for shooting, has its challenges. But I think everyone did a really good job in the pilot.”

Stiller and Red Hour got involved via Mike Rosenstein. “All the people at Red Hour loved the show,” Nanjiani said. “Rosenstein knows the show as well as we do. He’s there every week. Made sense to have someone on who knows the show, rather than try to get someone on board.”

What also seems different about your show is that it’s not so much about new talent getting their first TV credits.

“We wanna put on people who we think are funny, which isn’t to say that the new talent isn’t funny, not at all. Just that we’re not thinking about that. We just want our funny friends to do our show. Like, Tom Lennon has never done stand-up on TV before. But he did this show. So we hope to do more of that. People you wouldn’t expect to be doing a short stand-up set on TV.”


“Hey, we would love to have him do it if he wants to. That would be amazing.”

Just bringing this chat full circle. Want to make your fellow EPs feel included.

Nanjiani credits the live show audiences at NerdMelt for making this success possible through loyal attendance, and his wife, Emily Gordon, with making sure The Meltdown even happened. “She books it, produces it, does everything. Jonah and I get up onstage for a while. But without her, there is no show,” he said. “We would have done it for two months and then it would have died.”

Hey, lookie here! Here, at this profile of The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail and Emily, from Time Warner Cable On Demand:

For you Throwback Thursday fans, go back a couple of years more to see how Last Call with Carson Daly profiled this same place and these same people in 2011.

Meltdown Comics also is hosting dry runs for Chris Hardwick’s new late-night weekly game show series, @Midnight with Chris Hardwickbeginning June 25 at the NerdMelt showroom in back of Meltdown Comics in Hollywood.

It’s all part of the latest wave of stand-up showcases that offer you looks at up-and-coming and up-and-already-there comedians in a variety of formats that differ from the network’s former Premium Blend or Live at Gotham brands.

To wit, Comedy Central also taped an eight-episode season forthcoming called Adam DeVine’s House Party, and has a fourth season ready to go this year, too, from John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show. This past year also has seen the network feature stand-up sets via Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution and Mash Up with T.J. Miller.

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 →

2 thoughts on “Comedy Central orders up The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail, a stand-up showcase with surprises

Comments are closed.