NBC finds two comics in national 'Diversity' search

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After beating the bushes across the country for new talent, NBC has cut deals with two of the 400-odd comics who turned out for "Stand-Up for Diversity" auditions the network held in six cities this year.

Marvin Michaels, a Dallas native who has been a consultant to BET's Comic View, was a standout at the comic cattle call held in Austin. Brent Weinbach, who has been working the comedy club and festival circuit from the Bay Area for the past few years, turned up at the San Francisco showcase. NBC will seek to find appropriate vehicles for the comics.

NBC's comic search began in May in Chicago and also included stops in Boston, Atlanta and Miami. The idea was to break away from the bicoastal confines of New York and Los Angeles in search of fresh voices and regional flavors, said Marc Hirschfeld, NBC Entertainment executive vp casting.

"It was a really strong turnout," Hirschfeld said, citing the help they received from local NBC and Telemundo affiliate stations in publicizing the auditions and showcases.

In each city, an advance team of two NBC executives would see some 50-100 comics during a daylong open call at a local comedy club. Of the two dozen or so called back the next morning, eight to 10 were featured in a showcase open to the public that night. Of all the finalists from each of the six cities, nine were brought to Los Angeles for an industry-oriented showcase last month.

The caliber of talent they saw in all of the cities was generally high, but Michaels and Weinbach were the two that "created the most excitement among the team," Hirschfeld said. "They have distinct voices, strong points of view, and they have incredible onstage poise for where they are in their careers."

NBC Talent Diversity Initiative producer Damona Resnick noted that even many of those who didn't make the finals in Los Angeles got a career boost because the showcases all drew a high volume of local agents, managers, club bookers and the like.

"It was great to really go into these communities and see people," Resnick said. "The style of comedy is different everywhere. We really had a lot of different perspectives in putting together the final showcase, and that's what you need for development."

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