Comedy Central’s Michelle Ganeless On the Secret of Her Success


Comedy Central has become a major player in providing content across a variety of platforms. They are the destination for fans of stand up, animation, sketch comedy, fake news and web savvy shows. The network has assembled a remarkably strong slate, including established brands like With , South Park, and Tosh.0, along with emerging favorites like Inside , Key & Peele, and @midnight. Such programming has attracted a devoted, engaged community of viewers. Singlehandedly they are making this a great time to be a fan of funny.

In an interview with Fast Company magazine, the woman behind all this success, Michelle Ganeless talked about some of the strategies behind  Comedy Central’s success with the  male 18-34 demographic.  “What we do is find unique talent, give them a platform to do their thing, and kind of get out of the way.” Ganeless said.  “That has worked in everything from The Daily Show to Chappelle’s Show, South Park, Colbert, Amy Schumer, Key & Peele, on and on and on and on.”  

She also spoke about Comedy Central’s “engagement strategy” which helps them to stay connected to their fans 24/7.  This recognition that fans don’t just want to watch, they want to have a conversation with the channel, has been an important  part of their strategy.  Through this engagement plan, Ganeless has learned the importance of how younger viewers share comedy.  “If you’re the first person to put that clip of Key & Peele on your Facebook page or your Tumblr and your friends discover it, you’re the funniest guy in the room,” she said.  “I think the digital age has made comedy into currency, just like music.”

Ganeless also talked about a reverse mentoring program they’ve instituted, which pairs younger members of the company with more senior executives so that the younger staffers can teach the veterans more about social media, and possibilities within the digital universe. “My mentor is a 23-year-old guy who works on our research team. He was talking to me the other day about this phenomenon of “check your privilege,” which I didn’t know about. Staying close to our audience–how they think, how they consume, seeing trends–is going to help us in the next five to 10 years.”

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Sharon grew up in, and continues to live in suburban Philadelphia and has been a music and comedy fan forever, cutting her teeth musically on Bowie. Monty Python and other British comedies were her earliest passion - the Goodies, Young Ones, Fawty Towers, on and on. She was a regular at the Comedy Factory Outlet in Philadelphia and once did 20 minutes onstage with Harry Anderson. Right now she's loving @midnight for a daily TV fix of comedy (and nerds).

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