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Fred Seibert's Blog

HA! The TV Comedy Network.

January 5th, 2007

Upper left illustrated by Lou Brooks
HA! The TV Comdey Network

I don’t know, I’m asking.

One of my favorite projects back in the day was one few people have ever seen. It started out as a TV network branding assignment, our agency’s specialty, for HA!: The TV Comedy Network. And it led to one of our favorite cartoons that not enough people have seen. Cartoon creator Bill Burnett was at the center of it all.
Viacom’s HA! was their answer to HBO’s Comedy Channel. They both lost the competition and merged into Comedy Central. Some of Fred/Alan’s best work for the network, the naming of Comedy Central, and the conception and writing of the cartoon were all done by Bill (also the co-creator of ChalkZone).

Once our agency helped name HA! we went to work on its branding, figuring out the belief system of the channel. Our creative director, Noel Frankel, designed the distinct shouting logo, with various illustrators and models depicting the shout. Bill led the effort to write dozens of promotional spots, including What is Funny?.

Bill takes it from here:”It featured Marc Weil–a member of England’s legendary Madhouse Company of London, asking the question “Is This Funny? I don’t Know, I’m asking” in the face of increasingly bizarre events: For example, he’d be dressed in Judges Robes holding two squealing piglets; then two Mexican banditos would emerge from his robes. Then he’d be chased and lassoed by men in diapers, smoking cigars, and so on. The series was directed by Cliff Fagin, produced by Noh Hands Productions. The recurring What Is Funny? Chorus was performed by Bill Burnett, Suzy Williams and Lori Jacobson. Edited by Chris Strand.”

The spots ran in 1989 and that was the end of that though they never left my mind. Fast forward about eight years and I was starting my latest set of cartoon shorts for Nickelodeon, Oh Yeah! Cartoons. Bill was one of our early creative signings and I kept bringing up What is Funny? I reminded him that Nick’s owner Viacom already owned the original spots, so why not take a flyer on creating a balls-to-the-wall funny cartoon character based on the same concept. Bill selected former Spumco artist/director Vincent Waller (now a key part of the SpongeBob team) and they were off to the races.

Nick production chief Albie Hecht loved the cartoon. So did CEO Herb Scannell. But I guess it didn’t have the typical cartoon hero at it’s center or something and we could never get series traction. It’s too bad. It’s a damn good cartoon.

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That was a good cartoon. It remonded me a lot of the Pink Elephants sequence from Dumbo… and that’s a good thing.

 

Man, I adored those old HA! ads. When I was a kid, I used to suffer through hours of MTV just to catch them on the air. Thanks for the memories… keep ‘em coming :-P

 

I worked on the HA premier party and have a few Ha buttons and a couple of ha sound effects key chains

 

This is the only piece about HA! The First TV Comedy Network on the entire internet, that doesn’t have to do with news of “the merger.” If you have any more clips of HA!, please put them on here! I am dying to see the “H is for HA! The First TV Comedy Network” theme song commercial!
This is also the only place with the HA! logo.
Just wanted you to know!
Also, the clips are GREAT! Thanks!

 
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