ICast Kicks Off Comedy Contest

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ICast.com, CMGI Inc.'s entertainment property, will officially launch a comedy channel at the end of the year. To build a buzz around its launch, it expects to announce today a major grass-roots marketing campaign called the iCast College Comedy Bake-Off.


The comedy channel will include original, third-party and member-created multimedia content, including streaming audio and video. The site currently has sections for music, movies, radio and TV.


To reach the coveted college market with news about this new channel, the site will kick off a 25-city college comedy tour Oct. 3 in search of the nation's funniest college student.


"ICast Comedy is targeting the 18 to 24 audience. The voice of the channel overall is very much in that mind-set. It's irreverent and edgy," said Brian Murphy, CEO of iCast Comedy, New York.


The first show will be held at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Andy Dick, who starred in the "Newsradio" television show, will host it. The tour will hit 10 schools this fall and 15 in the spring.


Entrants are encouraged to try stand-up comedy at their campuses. Winners will be selected by audience applause. Students also can submit stand-up routines, sketch comedy, jokes, short films, comic strips and animation at iCast.com.


Semifinalists will be invited to perform at a special spring break show. The winner will go on a tour date with Janeane Garofalo, who has signed on as the iCast Comedy spokeswoman.


ICast.com is looking to add channels. To do this, it is restructuring its organization, including laying off 30 employees earlier this month, said Bill Golden, spokesman for iCast.com, Woburn, MA.


"The layoffs are a result of a reorganization of the company. It's not a sign of difficulties or a slowdown," Golden said. "It's more a part of just focusing the company on some key areas as we move forward. We grew fast. We had to rethink how we're staffing our departments. We wouldn't be launching a new channel if we weren't really committed to this."


Another CMGI company, AltaVista, cut a quarter of its work force earlier this month as well.


The layoffs have not scared off the comedy tour's sponsors. The site has Warner Lambert (Listerine PocketPaks), Unilever (Salon Selectives) and Hyundai on board. Listerine's new PocketPaks will serve as the title sponsor, and samples will be available at the show.


Hyundai will offer show attendees the chance to enter to win its new Santa Fe Sport model by taking virtual test drives. Salon Selectives will tape students' "Bad Hair Day" stories on location. The top stories will appear on the site. One winner will be selected for an all-expenses-paid trip to New York -- a Hair Day Getaway -- for a free makeover.


The new channel will be advertised on the College Television Network, which reaches 1.2 million students on 750 campuses. In January, CTN will begin airing weekly iCast.com comedy shows.


Ads for the site's comedy channel also will appear in numerous college newspapers as well as in Link, The College Magazine. Garofalo will make personal appearances and will be featured on the site. ICast.com is also in the midst of an aggressive public relations effort.


US Concepts, an events firm based in New York, will manage the comedy tour.
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