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Thursday on TV: CNN takes a serious look at the ‘History of Comedy’

First Published      Last Updated Jan 31 2017 12:27 pm

"The History of Comedy" is not just one laugh after another.

Oh, there are certainly a lot of laughs in CNN's eight-part documentary series, which debuts tonight at 8 p.m. But it's really about "unique and different" people who "see the world differently," said executive producer Sean Hayes ("Will & Grace"). "I think that's what our show does and that's what comedy does, in general, is kind of shine the light on the serious with a funny twist to it."

"The History of Comedy" begins with an episode titled "F-ing Funny" — groundbreaking comics, including George Carlin, Dick Gregory and Lenny Bruce, who embraced the risqué side of comedy and risked careers, prison, and even their lives to fight censorship.

And the list of people interviewed for the docu-series is impressive — it includes Judd Apatow, Sen. Al Franken, Margaret Cho, Samantha Bee, Kathy Griffin, George Lopez, Keegan-Michael Key, Dick Gregory, Patton Oswalt, Dick Cavett, Ali Wong and W. Kamau Bell.

What the producers set out to do was put together "a little bit of a different treatment on comedy," said executive producer Todd Milliner. "There's so much heart in this series that you end up a little winded on a couple of these episodes. Especially the dark side. You realize that a lot of comedy comes from pain. A lot of times comedy and heart make each other better."

"We called it 'The History of Comedy,' but we should have called it 'A Serious Look at Comedy,' " Herzog said. "It really is a serious look at comedy. You laugh, but you also know where the joke came from."

Elsewhere on TV …

• "Grey's Anatomy" (7 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4): Bailey must make a tough decision when an attending refuses to work with Eliza.

• "Superstore" (7 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5): Amy and Glenn learn what happens when you try to force love; Jonah tries to catch a shoplifter.

• "MasterChef Junior" (7 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13): After being split into four groups, the kids get started.

• "Supernatural" (7 p.m., CW/Ch. 30): Sam enlists Rowena's help to track down a powerful family of witches after Dean gets hit by a spell that is erasing his memory.

• "Project Runway Junior" (7 and 9 p.m., Lifetime): The designers must create an editorial look inspired by street art murals.

• Women's college basketball: Pepperdine at BYU (7 p.m., BYUtv); Washington State at Utah (7 p.m., P12N)

• Men's college basketball: Washington State at Utah (7 p.m., P12N); San Francisco at BYU (9 p.m., ESPNU)

• NBA (7 p.m., ROOT): Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks

• "The Great Indoors" (7:30 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2): Jack insults Brooke's fiancé at the couple's re-engagement party.

• "Powerless" (7:30 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5): Emily's team is obsessed with Fantasy Super Hero League;.

• "Mom" (8 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2): When Bonnie connects with a handsome stranger, Christy worries that she's jeopardizing her relationship with Adam.

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