SUNSHINE BOYS Chernin, Freston, Brian Grazer's hand It's not often a pair of corporate suits go toe-to-toe with the hottest comedian in the country. So when MTV founder Tom Freston and News Corp. president Peter Chernin got more laughs than keynote speaker Stephen Colbert at Freston's Center for Communication roast, the obvious question arose: Who wrote their material?
Freston, who riffed on his newfound idleness and lack of Web savvy (he was fired from Viacom in September, partly for his failure to acquire MySpace) had help from humorist Mark Katz, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton. Reached by phone, Katz, who chronicled his work for the ex-president in his book Clinton and Me, declined to confirm whether he had written specific bits, such as the video of Freston lip-synching American Idol hit "Bad Day." (A source said Freston is worried the clip, which showcases his white-guy-dancing skills, will find its way to YouTube.) But according to the website for his company, The Sound Bite Institute, Katz "is the answer to the question: 'I wish this were funnier, who do I call?'"
Chernin had the luxury of looking in-house for his hired guns; according to a source involved with the event, the News Corp. second-in-command "reached out to every comedy writer under contract at Fox" before settling on Mark Hentemann, a writer for Family Guy. Chernin was perhaps the only one in the room not surprised by the guffaws his punchlines elicited. Says the source, "He was going around beforehand bragging that he had $16 million worth of talent working for him."