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Comedy Forging the Future: TV Without the Networks

2 minute read
Joel Stein

Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab don’t hate television. They just hate the executives who run television. And after creating what may be the most famous TV pilot that never aired–Heat Vision and Jack (1999), starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Owen Wilson–the impoverished writing duo took their revenge by starting an online network, channel101.com that cuts the Hollywood establishment out of the decision-making loop. The rules are simple: would-be TV producers make five-minute shows that are aired once a month at a West Hollywood bar, where a live audience votes on which ones should be put online and which pulled off.

Three years after it began, their channel is attracting some of the most creative people in the business. Agents regularly scour it–and its offspring in New York City, channel102.net–for new talent. Two Saturday Night Live writers and one featured player were hired this season in part for their work on Channel 101.

Since Harmon, 33, and Schrab, 36, don’t charge for tickets or sell ads, their site is not a moneymaking venture. But now everybody in Hollywood wants them. They signed a deal with VH1. Fox has contracted them to write a movie. Their film Monster House comes out in July. And they were hired as co-creators of Sarah Silverman’s upcoming show on Comedy Central, although Harmon was fired after only four episodes.

They don’t seem fazed by any of it. “The only reason I want to make money now is to shoot Channel 101 stuff,” says Harmon. After all, even Comedy Central has executives.

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