Pilot Program

The Latino Comedy Project eyes a move to TV with 'El Channel'

Pilot Program

When Adrian Villegas first started working with Austin's Latino Comedy Project, he was a little younger, a little heavier, and a lot more frenetic. In the early days, he could talk at breakneck speed, the way only someone who believes in his work and wants everyone to know about it can. In the beginning, he was unknown. Now, along with the other members of the 10-person LCP company, he's an Emmy-nominated writer on the brink of a new career as a TV writer, producer, and actor.

If all of that sounds like head-spinning stuff, it is. But Villegas is down to earth about the new series being produced for Spike TV, which, if green-lit, could be on the air as early as 2010. Sure, Villegas is excited, but he's also in the middle of rehearsal for the LCP's next production, which will provide the source material for the pilot (to be filmed this fall), and he's just come off another round of negotiations, setting the groundwork for what could be the next major phase in the development of the LCP.

Known for its sketch comedy, the company wanted new challenges after 10 years, Villegas says. What characters, themes, and audience favorites from LCP's arsenal of shows could be used for a more cohesive program centered around a plot, with characters that interact with one another? Citing the Eighties show SCTV as inspiration, the ensemble came up with El Channel, about a disaster-prone TV station (its intern program alone has a 100% fatality rate). Dysfunctional divas, celebrity goats, a right-wing militia man, and other unforgettable characters come together in front of and behind the camera, all while offering the LCP's trademark commentary on politics and pop culture.

"The results of this development and re-purposing of our characters was so much more productive than we could have hoped, with more characters and plotlines than we could even fit into the upcoming full-length live show," Villegas writes in his blog on the LCP website. "We're eager to present the live version of El Channel to audiences so they can be part of the next level of development." Audience response will help the company decide what elements to use for the pilot and potential TV series.

LCP shows often offer a mixture of live performance and video, and it was some of LCP's shorts on YouTube that first brought the group to the attention of Hollywood. Its immigration-themed spoof of 300 alone has garnered 3 million hits, according to LCP press materials, and brought LCP to the attention of MTV3 (or MTV Tr3s), the cable network's channel directed toward a young Latino audience. LCP was hired to write and perform in a series of branding commercials for MTV3, and it's LCP's work on these commercials that earned the group an Emmy nomination. An introduction was made between LCP and the Creative Artists Agency, one of Hollywood's oldest and most powerful talent agencies. While neither the LCP or Villegas is officially a CAA client, operating on faith alone, the agency helped arrange meetings between Villegas and various cable and broadcast networks and is representing LCP in the pilot deal.

"That's all I ever wanted for us, is the opportunity," Villegas says thoughtfully. "Nothing comes to you on a silver platter. All these people have shown faith in what we do. Now it's up to us to do the rest of the work."

El Channel will be performed Fridays and Saturdays, Aug. 21-29, at the Center Stage Theatre (2826 Real). Tickets are $12-15 and are available at the door or online at www.lcp.org/tickets.

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Latino Comedy Project, El Channel, Adrian Villegas, Sandy Avila, Marissa Casteñon, Vanessa Gonzalez, Guillermo de Leon, Karinna Perez, Nick Rosales, Javier Smith, Danu Uribe, Kristofer Walker, Nick Walker

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