The original National Lampoon Radio Hour, which ran for just over a year in the early 1970s, is still considered one of the best radio comedy shows ever produced.


It provided early exposure for the original "Saturday Night Live" crew, including Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and the late John Belushi.


Now the Lampoon franchise is being resurrected at a Los Angeles studio for a variety of AM, FM and satellite formats geared toward today's highly segmented radio market. The first installment of a new weekend comedy countdown show was sent last week to program directors at potential radio station affiliates, including several in the Los Angeles market.


The core offering of the National Lampoon Radio Network will be two 24/7 radio formats set to launch this spring. The first is a "hot talk" FM format blending guy talk, politics and comedy for "guys, and chicks who get it" aimed at Howard Stern listeners who haven't made the jump with him to Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.


Network chief executive and longtime radio show host Kent Emmons says the format is designed to push the envelope without imperiling a station's FCC license. Edgier fare will be reserved for a satellite version, and the network has been in discussions about that with both Sirius and XM Satellite Radio Inc.


"We're the most recognized brand in comedy so they want the brand affiliation," said Emmons, founder and former chairman of another radio network, Hollywood-based All Comedy Networks. He said that at least three L.A. stations are in serious talks about switching to either the hot-talk format or a second 24/7 format more tightly focused on pre-recorded comedy with a live host.


For AM and FM stations not willing to change their entire format, the network is offering two weekend shows, including the National Lampoon Comedy Hour, with programming most like the original sketch-focused show. The most interest from stations so far has been for the three-hour National Lampoon Comedy Countdown, which will feature the comedy bits from broadcast shows and comedy club acts. Emmons is co-hosting the show with Kerri Kasem, daughter of countdown radio legend Casey Kasem.


Publicly held National Lampoon Inc. licensed the National Lampoon Radio Hour name to the limited partnerships that own the network and also has an equity stake in the venture, Emmons said. The network's celebrity-studded board, which includes Improv Comedy Club chain founder Bud Friedman, film producer Barry Levinson, and "Law and Order" TV star Richard Belzer, also has a financial interest.

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