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Comedians to get serious on the Net

A who's who of stand-up comedy headliners are betting they can create an online entertainment venture that's not a joke.

    A who's who of stand-up comedy headliners are betting they can create an online entertainment venture that's not a joke.

    On Monday, comedians including George Carlin and Jonathan Winters are expected to announce a new record company, Laugh.com, that will create comedy CDs and distribute comedy content over the Internet and wireless devices.

    "This is a perfect time to start a dot-com," said Bob Kohn, co-founder of online music site EMusic, who will serve as chief executive. "A year ago, was the worst time to start it."

    The launch comes as the debris of online entertainment start-ups launched just months ago still litters the landscape. Although many entertainment ventures have already crashed and burned, Kohn believes that the time is ripe to crack open a new venture.

    "When the business cycle returns at the end of the year or early next year, there's going to be a very strong demand for equities with strong business models, so we hope to become one of those equities that will have an opportunity to go public during favorable market conditions," he said.

    Kohn is confident that his company has a real business model as the company inks partnerships with Koch International, Everad and FluxNetwork. Laugh.com will make its comedy CDs available through Koch's distribution system as well as provide its comedy recordings available under EverAd's PlayJ format, which hosts advertising within sound tracks and is compatible with MP3 players.

    Through its partnership with FluxNetwork, Laugh.com also plans to have a subscription-based service to deliver audio and video humor content to wireless handheld devices such as cell phones and PDAs. For $2 a month, the service will feature a "Joke of the Day" in which people can download a new humor audio clip each day to their handheld device as well as receive access to the entire Laugh.com catalog.

    Laugh.com said it will release 12 new comedy CDs in the next three months, including those of comedians The Jerky Boys, Winters, Phyllis Diller and Milton Berle.

    "You've got to admire a Web site that only has eight letters and a dot," said Milton Berle in a statement. "I believe the dot will be crucial to their success."