Comedian, actor, game-show host and producer Wayne Brady wanted to help youngsters develop their comedy chops, much as he did as a teen in Orlando, Florida, doing community theater and performing with an improv troupe. He needed a broadcast partner that would allow him to execute his vision -- and he found it in BYUtv.
On April 6, Wayne Brady's Comedy IQ premiered (you can watch the first episode here), offering a group of young people the chance to show off their comedic skills to Brady, in hopes of being chosen for his comedy boot camp. New episodes air Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/6 p.m. MT/5 p.m. PT on BYUtv. You can watch online at byutv.org; click here for other ways to watch online and on TVs.
The cable/satellite/digital channel is the property of Brigham Young University, a private institution in Provo, Utah, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, popularly known as the Mormons. But its original primetime shows are less about evangelizing and more about being what the channel describes as purposeful and uplifting programming, squeaky-clean and suitable for the whole family.
While most of BYUtv's shows are produced out of its own studios, Wayne Brady's Comedy IQ is produced in Los Angeles, with Brady sharing executive-producer duties with his ex-wife, actress and entrepreneur Mandie Taketa, with whom he has a teenage daughter, Maile.
I sat down with Brady and Taketa in January at the biannual TV Critics Association Press Tour and wanted to know why the show landed at BYUtv.
"They really allowed us to keep our intentions pure," said Taketa. "And we never had a conversation where it was absolute, or you can't do this, or you can't do that.
So we really had the freedom to keep the vision clear and to do what we wanted. And I think it was just a good match because family is so important to us."
Said, Brady, "The conversations with BYU, they were pretty simple, in the sense of they saw that we wanted the direct relationship with the teenagers. We wanted the teenagers to be able to learn and not be frightened with gimmicks and the negative trappings of a reality show. They encouraged that.
"Because in fact, I was just talking to someone outside, and they just gave the best quote that someone can give BYUtv, that it's a safe space of entertainment. So. it only made sense that they would let us do this, because we didn't want all the salacious nature of a reality competition.
"And so that was the biggest conversation, because we really weren't familiar with BYUtv before the pitch. So we just went in saying, 'Look, this is what we've had talks with other networks about, and also had to pass on the show, because they were always like, 'But, then can we put the parents in the house, and maybe the managers have a fight? And you get the kids talking crap about each other?' And [BYUtv was] like, 'Nope, nope, nope.' So they got it right off the bat."
Brady also doesn't believe a reality-competition show necessarily needs all that drama, saying, "Those other shows have to have drama because a lot of them aren't about anything. So if you're not about anything, the only thing that you have to watch are the snarky bits. So with this, you're watching kids be talented. That's it."
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager and blog editor at Family Theater Productions.