Ryan Higa, Rainn Wilson and Grace Helbig shoot a video for YouTube's planned Comedy Week. From May 19-25, 2013, YouTube will host a themed week of comedy programming, featuring live-streams, videos and stand-up routines from comedy stars like Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Kimmel, as well as the less famous comedians of YouTube.
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For a week in May, YouTube will turn into the biggest open mic on the planet.
On Thursday, the Google Inc.-owned site was set to announce the YouTube Comedy Week, a seven-day cyber extravaganza designed to showcase some of the best comedy across its expansive video platform. From May 19-25, YouTube will be overrun with punch lines, sketches, stand-up routines, and — hopefully — a lot of laughs.
It's the largest-scale attempt yet by YouTube to program its billions of hours of video and lead viewers to its growing channels of original programming. The video site is planning more event weeks around various themes to be held later this year and beyond.
"This has never been done before on YouTube," Danielle Tiedt, YouTube's vice president of marketing, said in an interview Wednesday ahead of the announcement.
"I'm sure we'll learn a lot."
Comedy Week will kick off with a global live stream from Los Angeles' Culver Studios. Throughout the week, new episodes will debut from some of YouTube's most popular channels, comedians will perform and comics will curate lists of their favorite videos.
Among those participating are Sarah Silverman, Rainn Wilson, Michael Cera, Vince Vaughn, and Seth Rogen. There will be new videos from Andy Samberg's Lonely Island troupe. Popular comedy destinations with channels on YouTube such as The Onion, Nerdist, College Humor, and Funny or Die will join in. And YouTube hopes its less famous users will also get in on the act.
The event is just the start of a new approach by YouTube to congregate its disparate stars — from Hollywood professionals to Internet upstarts — and to present a unified viewing experience for users. YouTube hopes the theme weeks will spotlight the original programming the site has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in to grow its platform as a kind of next-generation TV.
"We're hoping to do this in a pretty regular rhythm," Tiedt said. "You'll see several of these coming from us, for sure, as we highlight really big areas that we think are amazing areas of strength for YouTube."
The undertaking is months in the works. To executive-produce the weeklong event, YouTube brought in former Jimmy Kimmel Live! producer Daniel Kellison, whose production company, HaChaCha, recently launched two comedy YouTube channels: Jash and the Video Podcast Network. The kickoff live stream will be directed and produced by Joel Gallen, a veteran of the MTV Movie Awards.
Kellison said a staff of 40 has been assembled to help in what he calls the "tremendously daunting" task of organizing a sizable portion of the sprawling YouTube realm.
"It's a massive undertaking," he said.
"If you try to organize it all and figure it all out, you'll drown. It's not possible. We're just doing the best we can in trying to produce this."
A few missteps are inevitable, Kellison said. But the plan isn't to put on a slickly produced show, but something more lo-fi and relaxed.