Sean Hayes and his Hazy Mills Productions partner Todd Milliner have embarked upon and accomplished the feat of delivering a time capsule on the evolution of comedy with the CNN documentary series The History of Comedy.
“There hasn’t been a documentary that gets to the heart of the history of comedy,” says Milliner. The eight-part series, which premiered on February 9 and is also executive produced by Emmy winners Mark Herzog and Christopher G. Cowen, explores different facets of laughter’s art form, but “it’s not linear,” says Hayes.
Episode 1, “F***ing Funny,” spotlights how stand-ups have pushed the boundaries on profanity and raunchiness as seen through Redd Foxx, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin, specifically his “Seven Dirty Words” bit from the 1970s. Episodes air each Thursday at 10PM ET/PT and this week focuses on the rise of fake news shows like SNL‘s “Weekend Update” and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show entitled “Ripped From the Headlines.” Two weeks were preempted during the series run, so last week’s episode “Comedy in Real Life” delve into how comedians’ draw inspiration from everyday life.
Also upcoming is “Cultural Divide” next week which centers on racial humor’s power to cross cultural barriers and unite people in laughter, while Episode 6, “Parody and Satire” will air on March 30.
Episode 2, “The Funnier Sex” explored females’ comedic crusade from the writers room to the stand-up mic. The penultimate episode airing April 6 is “Politics Aside,” examining how comedy keeps the powers that be in check. Hayes and company have had no problem lining up a Who’s Who of comedy to shell out their thoughts on the topics including Sarah Silverman, Judd Apatow, Marc Maron, Keegan-Michael Key, Conan O’Brien, Lewis Black and Patton Oswalt, to name a few. “Spark of Madness,” the finale on April 13, looks at the tormented geniuses Pryor, Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams as a means to uncover what drives comics.
“We got a kick out of learning from theses icons that are in our show, The History of Comedy, and I will continue to keep learning from them for the rest of my life, now that they’re in a show that everyone can watch the genesis of how [comedy] happens,” explains Hayes.
One of the takeaways from the docu series per Hayes: “Everything influences everything else.”
Adds Milliner: “No matter how things change, they all come back to the same thing. People are using what’s happening in the world for comedy in the same way they’ve been doing for 100 years. We’re just in color.”