No joke: YouTube gets its first live comedy show

Updated. “It’s the beginnings of what a cable television network would look like – if it was run by lunatics.” Rob Barnett, Hollywood veteran and founder / CEO of My Damn Channel, likes juicy soundbites – but he is dead serious about recreating the cable TV experience on the Internet. Next week, Barnett’s company is going to take its biggest step yet towards bringing TV-style comedy online. My Damn Channel is going to launch a daily live comedy show on YouTube, (s GOOG) complete with live interviews and real-time interaction with the audience.
The show is going to be hosted by Beth Hoyt, and feature interviews with Hollywood stars and YouTube celebrities alike. Viewers will also get to see the premiere of videos from the 30 or so original web series that My Damn Channel is currently working on, and there will be some tie-in of comments from YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. “It’s the spawn, the love child of television meets the Internet,” explained Barnett, again only half joking, during a phone call Tuesday.
My Damn Channel Live, as the show is going to be called, is part of YouTube’s new original channel line-up, and it’s a big deal for the video site: Comedy and entertainment formats have worked really well on YouTube, but it hasn’t quite cracked the code of successful live programming yet – which is one reason why the average YouTube viewer only spends 15 minutes a day on the site, and not hours as in front of the TV.
Barnett’s show, which is going to be broadcasted live every weekday at 1pm PT, will be 60 minutes long. Viewers will be able to catch up on archived episodes immediately afterwards, and My Damn Channel will also serve up sliced up clips for consumers who are still more attuned to watching short clips online. But the show isn’t just a big bet for YouTube; it’s also a huge deal for My Damn Channel, which will roll out a new website design just for the occasion. Barnett went as far as to call it “an entire relaunch of this company.”
When asked why the time is ripe for a format like this, Barnett credited two factors: Advertisers are increasingly willing to dole out big bucks for online video, and the audience is starting to raise their expectations beyond watching short viral videos. “The days of uploading a video, pushing out a couple of tweets and hoping that the video will go viral have largely ended,” he told me.
But despite all the lessons My Damn Channel has learned from the traditional TV world – Barnett calls it “stealing from HBO (s TWX) and Showtime” (s CBS) – viewers can still expect the show to look different from network comedy. “We started with the philosphy that you always could do more with less,” said Barnett, adding that this gives My Damn Channel “a punk-rock feel that just doesn’t exist in a three-letter media company.”
Update: A spokesperson for My Damn Channel sent us the following clarification: “The show will not be 60 minutes each day. Wednesday episodes will be 30 minutes, and Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday will be 10 minutes. Total of 70 minutes per week of live video.”