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 Episode 5 is titled “Cultural Divide” and focuses on how racial humor has crossed cultural barriers and united people in laughter. Episode 6, “Parody and Satire,” airs on March 23.
Episode 2, “The Funnier Sex” explored females’ comedic crusade from the writers room to the stand-up mic. Another episode, “Spark of Madness,” looks at the tormented geniuses Pryor, Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams as a means to uncover what drives comics. The final 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.
“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.