truTV Comedy Breakout: Submission Questions Answered!
Submissions are now open for the truTV Comedy Breakout initiative, seeking unscripted comedy formats from the next generation of TV storytellers.
On May 2, the NYTVF sat down at The PIT with development executives from truTV in a townhall discussion of comedy formats and the best way to make your work stand out!
Simmy Kustanowitz (Vice President of Development & Original Programming overseeing Impractical Jokers, Adam Ruins Everything, The Carbonaro Effect, At Home with Amy Sedaris, I’m Sorry)
Rohit Sang (Executive Producer, Paid Off with Michael Torpey)
Deb Savo (Executive Producer, Laff Mobb’s Laff Tracks, Hack My Life)
Christine Walters (Executive Producer, The Chris Gethard Show, Jon Glaser Loves Gear, Bobcat Goldthwait’s Misfits & Monsters)
WHAT IS A COMEDY FORMAT?
A Comedy Format is a show (typically a half hour in length) that features a repeatable premise. Every episode has the same, simple formula that is consistent and closed-ended, but still takes the viewer on a journey each episode with a beginning, middle, and end.
“With comedy formats you want repeatability but you also want it to feel fresh and new each time. Even with a comedy format you need a beginning, middle and end. You’re still telling a story.” - Christine Walters
WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL TYPES OF COMEDY FORMATS?
A comedy format can be anything from a prank show to a news or info-tainment program, a panel show to a game show, or even a half-hour dating format.
“Take a format and spin it. There should be comedic tension – at least a little bit – in the body of the show.” - Deb Savo
truTV is leading the Comedy Format game. Some of their current hits include: At Home with Amy Sedaris, The Chris Gethard Show, Hack My Life, Impractical Jokers, Comedy Knockout, The Carbonaro Effect, and Talk Show the Game Show.
WHAT ARE THE KEY ELEMENTS OF A FORMAT?
“You want to have the electric one liner. When pitching you need to be able to say what your show is in one sentence. If it takes a few sentences to explain your project, rethink it.” - Simmy Kustanowitz
Give a good idea of the repeatable elements of the show. What does the structure of an episode look like? A lot of popular formats are twists on existing formats. That being said, you also want it to feel fresh and new. Make your format pop, and make sure you can easily (and succinctly) explain to someone what the show is.
“If it takes you five sentences to explain the idea, you probably haven’t nailed it down enough yet.” - Christine Walters
WHAT IS TRUTV LOOKING FOR IN A COMEDY FORMAT?
“We’ll find you and meet you. Just go make your project so that people like us can experience it and find it and have a good conversation.” - Rohit Sang
Take a look at truTV programming: Adam Ruins Everything, Talk Show the Game Show, Comedy Knockout, the list goes on. One thing that ties truTV shows together is the talent and the uniqueness of the ideas.
“Be familiar with current truTV shows. Some of the best pitches I’ve taken have been maybe not 100% on brand but they’ve been able to say, ‘Yes, but...” - Simmy Kustanowitz
I DON’T HAVE TAPE, BUT I WANT TO SUBMIT! WHAT IS A PAPER-DEVELOPED FORMAT?
A paper-developed format should include a series logline, a summary of the show concept, and an overview of the show structure. You should demonstrate that you’ve given thought to the structure of their series and the repeatable elements that viewers can expect from week to week. Put thought into the tune-in at the top of the show. What’s the hook that happens in the first act? Along the same lines, at the end of each act break, what will they do to give the audience a reason to come back to the show? Be sure to include how each episode ends or resolves. You should be able to explain the series concept in three paragraphs at most; anything more than that is too complicated.
DOES MY FORMAT NEED TO INCLUDE THE VISUAL/STYLE ELEMENTS OF THE SHOW?
Giving some thought to the visual and style elements of a paper pitch will help people respond to a format and get excited about your idea, but, first, you want to get the information on the page and nail down the format. Once you convey the important details about the structure of the show, then start to consider the aesthetic elements to the show that set it apart from existing series (for example, the spinning red chairs on The Voice). If these elements are instrumental to the way your show operates, speak to that.
Executives want to see your visual style, because they’re working with you to develop the series: “We’re overseeing original programming. We have a hand in working with the production company and making the shows come to life.” - Rohit Sang
IS ATTACHED TALENT REQUIRED TO SUBMIT?
“We understand that not everyone’s going to walk in with talent attached. But you should have talent in mind. Hopefully your show is specific enough you can pinpoint the right talent.” - Simmy Kustanowitz
If you don’t have talent attached to the show already, it doesn’t hurt to provide examples of talent for both the host and for any recurring correspondents, sidekicks, or panelists that might appear on the show. When looking at examples, look at the level and expertise of the hosts currently on truTV.
“Talent really does dictate the tone of the show. It’s so important.” - Deb Savo
Submit to the truTV Comedy Breakout Initiative by May 23, 2018.
Have more questions about submitting to the truTV Comedy Breakout Initiative? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Check out previous Blog Posts here: THE NYTVF BLOG