YouTube wants to put a shine on one of its most popular genres -- laughs -- with a week-long, star-studded comedy festival beginning Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.
Guests on the initial two-hour live stream include Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Seth Rogen, Comedy Central's Tim and Eric, Conan O'Brien, Rainn Wilson, Ricky Gervais and Sarah Silverman, and homegrown YouTube stars The Gregory Brothers, Rhett & Link and Ryan Higa.
Danielle Tiedt, YouTube's vice president of marketing, said the festival is aimed at building awareness for comedy on YouTube. "A third of our top 100 channels are comedy." (Music is by far the most popular genre.)
Tiedt wanted the public to realize that top names from show business are producing professional content. "When people think about YouTube, I think most people see it as user-generated content," she says. "My goal is to highlight the partners (video creators) who create comedy every single day."
The show will be a two-hour mash-up of live performances and taped pieces. There's no official host, but Silverman and Vaughn will introduce segments.
After the live show, the Sunday performances will be archived at youtube.com/comedyweek. New shows will continue each night next week at 8 p.m. ET through Saturday.
Airing live video isn't what YouTube is best known for, but Tiedt says it's "increasingly becoming a bigger part of our platform."
YouTube began an initiative at the beginning of 2012 to spend $100 million funding the creation of 100 original channels to help bring more polished content to the service.
Several have become successful. TV producer Brian Robbins sold his Awesomeness TV channel to DreamWorks for $33 million, for instance. YouTube plans to expand into premium content, with more than 50 channels (including content from Sesame Street and the Ultimate Fighting Championship).
Meanwhile, response from creators to participate in the comedy festival has been huge, Tiedt says. Promos for the event began appearing online this week.
Tiedt hopes to make the comedy week a yearly event.
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