Showtime has greenlighted two hourlong pilots — a Chicago-set drama from Lena Waithe, Common, Aaron Kaplan and Clark Johnson, and I’m Dying Up Here, a dark comedy set in 1970s Los Angeles from Dave Flebotte and Jim Carrey.
Written on spec by writer-producer-actress Waithe (Dear White People), the untitled drama is described as a relevant, timely and distinctive coming-of-age story of a young African-American male in which just growing up can be a matter of life and death. Waithe executive produces with Common, Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment and Clark Johnson (Homeland), who will direct, for Fox 21 TV Studios. The pilot will film in Chicago later this year.
“The two creative forces behind the show, both hailing from Chicago’s South Side, give this pilot an unparalleled authenticity,” said Showtime Networks President David Nevins, referring to Waithe and Common. “Lena Waithe is an extremely fresh, talented young writer with a unique voice and a deeply thoughtful perspective into the world where she grew up. I immediately gravitated to her script, which is emotional, funny, tragic and relevant, all at once.”
This marks the first scripted pilot produced by actor-musician Common, who won an Oscar this year for co-writing the song “Glory” from Selma, in which he also co-starred. It is the second premium-network pilot for Kaplan, along with the Sarah Jessica Parker-starring comedy Divorce, which has gone to series at HBO.
Waithe was a producer on indie Dear White People, winner of Sundance’s Special Jury Prize. He writing credits include Bones, the viral video “Shit Black Girls Say” and webisodes about online dating, Hello Cupid. She also wrote and directed the short film Save Me, which appeared at several indie film festivals.
I’m Dying Up Here, written and executive produced by former stand-up comedian-turned-TV writer Dave Flebotte (Will & Grace) and actor-comedian Jim Carrey, is set against the background of the Los Angeles stand-up comedy scene of the 1970s, considered the golden age of comics in L.A. that launched the careers of a slew of comedy superstars, including Carrey.
Based on the nonfiction book by William Knoedelseder and produced by Endemol Shine Studios and Assembly Entertainment, I’m Dying Up Here takes place at the famous Hollywood comedy clubs of the 1970s and delves into the inspired and damaged psyches that inhabit the complex business of making an audience laugh. The pilot, directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50), is scheduled to shoot this fall.
“The 1970s L.A. comedy scene gave rise to some of the biggest and most influential performers of the last half-century,” said Nevins. “Who better than Jim Carrey and Dave Flebotte, who were both there, to tell the story of that special era along with the complicated and talented performers that dared to grab an open mic.”
Also executive producing are Michael Aguilar (The Departed) and Christina Wayne (Copper).
The untitled Lena Waithe and I’m Dying Up Here are the first 2015 Showtime pilot orders. The pay cable networks had one other remaining pilot, Cameron Crowe/J.J. Abrams’ Roadies, which is doing reshoots in anticipation of a series pickup.