PBS announced today the start of production on MAKE 'EM LAUGH: THE FUNNY BUSINESS OF AMERICA, a new historical documentary series chronicling more than a century of American comedy, produced by Thirteen/WNET New York and Ghost Light Films. In the tradition of BROADWAY: THE AMERICAN MUSICAL -- winner of the 2005 Primetime
Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series -- MAKE 'EM LAUGH will meld comedy performances with biographical portraits and 20th-century history in
probing what has kept America rolling in the aisles -- and why.
From the pratfalls that entertained immigrants in the early 1900s to the most biting satire on television today, MAKE 'EM LAUGH will feature the funniest moments in American entertainment and the great comedic talents
behind their creation -- including Charlie Chaplin, Jack Benny, Abbott & Costello, The Three Stooges, Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Woody Allen, George Carlin, the late Richard Pryor, Ellen DeGeneres, Jon Stewart, Chris Rock and many more.
Rather than a strict chronological approach, each of MAKE 'EM LAUGH's six hour-long episodes will focus on a different style of comedy -- such as knockabout physical routines, satire and lampoons, the domestic sit-com, and caustic cutting-edge stand-up -- while exploring the form's evolving relationship to America's ethnic, race and gender relations, its politics,
mores and taboos.
"MAKE 'EM LAUGH will not only showcase the most groundbreaking and sidesplitting American comedy, but also show how it has reflected the country's social climate in each era," said Barry Schulman, director of
culture and arts programming at Thirteen and series executive producer. "It's looking at American history through the eyes of our comedic geniuses."
MAKE 'EM LAUGH is being produced in high-definition format. The broadcast will be supported by ancillary products that include a hardcover companion book and a comprehensive interactive Web site, as well as a far-
reaching educational outreach effort.
MAKE 'EM LAUGH is a co-production of Ghost Light Films and Thirteen/WNET New York. Michael Kantor is the series' producer-director. Bill O'Donnell is supervising producer; executive producers are David Horn and Barry Schulman.