The network has signed Rory Rosegarten, “Raymond”‘s executive producer and Romano’s manager, to a unique development deal. His mission: to discover new stand-up performers to star in their own CBS sitcoms.
Rosegarten, whose eclectic client roster includes Robert Klein, Dick Cavett, “Talk Soup”‘s John Henson and Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling, will comb comedy clubs across the country for talent. If he discovers someone with the right act or sensibility for a series, Rosegarten will serve as an executive producer.
Even so, he won’t be rushing young comics directly from the Cleveland Chuckle Hut to a Hollywood back lot. “You have to find talent and groom it slowly,” says Rosegarten. “I equate it with major league baseball. You don’t scout a great high school player and then immediately put him on the Mets. You put him in the farm league and develop him.”
Such patience was unheard of during the comedy boom of the late 1980s and early ’90s, when the networks were so desperate for the next Seinfeld or Roseanne that they grabbed every stand-up with a decent “Don’t ya hate flying?” set and gave him or her an 8 p.m. time slot and a kooky neighbor. Three less-than-successful examples: Margaret Cho in “All-American Girl,” John Mendoza in “The Second Half” and Lenny Clarke in “Lenny.”
Stand-ups are an ideal nab for TV programmers, according to Rosegarten, for one big reason: Their material is pre-tested. Writers who create a sitcom from scratch don’t know in advance whether viewers will like it, while comedians have been gauging an audience’s reaction to their jokes and characters for years.
“Ray’s show is based on his stand-up,” says Rosegarten. “We thought his show would work, because we knew audiences liked the premise of his act, this guy who had twins and a daughter.” Conversely, every comedian knows that “The Tony Danza Show” wouldn’t have lasted three minutes at The Improv.