When Comedy Central executives celebrated their slate of webseries on CC:Studios five months ago with a live performance of Ari Shaffir’s “This Is Not Happening” storytelling showcase, it seemed like an odd move.
The show at New York City’s Webster Hall was great, with Steve Rannazzisi, Al Madrigal, Kurt Metzger, Jay Oakerson and Barry Rothbart telling embarrassing but true stories from their lives, as Shaffir hosted to a capacity crowd. Shaffir was happy. The comedians were happy. Comedy Central was happy. And yet, they didn’t film any of it for the webseries.
Turns out it was all a test to see if “This Is Not Happening” could translate to a wider audience.
Comedy Central announced Wednesday it’d greenlit eight half-hour episodes of This Is Not Happening for the TV channel, to debut this fall. It’s the first pick-up of a webseries to TV from Comedy Central’s in-house CC:Studios. Comedy Central already has found success in the past couple of years promoting webseries that originated outside its confines — Workaholics, Broad City, and Drunk History among them.
“The only reason we are picking up ‘This Is Not Happening’ is to prove we can incubate an idea digitally and then have it migrate to the linear channel,” said Kent Alterman, Comedy Central’s president of original programming and content development. “And also, it’s really funny storytelling with fantastic talent.”
I caught up Shaffir in Austin on Wednesday night at the Moontower Comedy Festival, where Shaffir is performing stand-up through the weekend (photo of said interview captured by @ComedyGroupie).
That NYC showcase was his and his manager’s idea to give real proof to Comedy Central executives that “This Is Not Happening” was as funny and as fantastic as Alterman would agree it is in Wednesday’s announcement.
“Once they see it, then they get it. ‘Oh, this could be awesome,'” Shaffir said. “Everybody crushed it…Then Al Madrigal came back on, and I fucked with him a bit. It was fun.”
Was that Shaffir’s goal to begin with, to get these stories on TV, and just use the web first?
“I think we did it on the web just because they were like, ‘We want to do this,’ and they weren’t really going to get in the way at all. They were going to let it breathe, as is,” Shaffir said. “Because at first, they were like, ‘We’re going to have to cut the times down to a certain amount.’ We were like, ‘Why? It’s the web!’ They went, ‘Oh, yeah. I guess we don’t.’ And then they worried about what do we have to OK, for what? There are no (censorship) standards. It’s the web. They went, ‘OK.’ I think we just got lucky that way. If we went right to TV, then they start going, well let’s figure it out. It’s already figured out.”
“Now we have to figure out the limitations for TV.”
Here’s the story from the top photo, in which Rannazzisi brings Bobby Lee and Natasha Leggero onstage to all reminisce about Shaffir.
This Is Not Happening is executive produced by Shaffir with Eric Abrams, Sam Saifer and Jeff Tomsic. Tomsic will direct.