In the '80s and '90s, a slew of stand up comics found national name recognition with sitcoms on one of the Big Three TV networks. Bob Saget's Full House and Roseanne's eponymous show were exceptions, but more shows failed than succeeded. Some of the comics who attempted prime-time overcame those duds--Jeff Foxworthy (The Jeff Foxworthy Show), Margaret Cho (All-American Girl) and Bob Saget (Surviving Suburbia)--and rose to even greater heights in their stand-up careers. But sitcoms are still a risk and one not many networks (or comedians) are willing to take.
With the growth of cable television, however, that risk may be slightly minimized. If a successful stand-up can make some magic, find a network that understands him/her and hope the planets are perfectly aligned, it might all work.
You might know Nick Swardson from his role as rollerskating prostitute Terry Bernadino in Reno 911 (or his recent cancellation of a scheduled Boise appearance), but he now has his own Comedy Central show, Nick Swardson's Pretend Time. It's a clip show in which Swardson revels in the surreal and politically incorrect: Case in point, one segment is called "Wheelchair Cat."
Bob Saget is also at it again. Although his last sitcom (doesn't this guy sleep?) was cancelled after one season, the A&E channel took a chance on him and will begin airing his new reality show Strange Days later this month. Saget will search out and hang out with members of odd subcultures.
Of course Daniel Tosh has parlayed the Internet, its ridiculous people and their outrageous videos into a huge following with Tosh.0, his own Comedy Central clip show. Tosh screens, pokes fun at and often offers redemption to accidental Internet stars.
And then there's Massachusetts-born Louis C.K. He turned to the FX channel for Louie, one of the smartest, funniest, most bittersweet sitcoms to ever hit the home viewing-screen.
C.K. (who writes and directs) stars as himself, a middle-aged working comic and single father of two young girls living in New York. Thirteen episodes have aired to date and the network has ordered a second season. The first season of Louie is now available on Netflix.