Kent Alterman, a 1981 UO graduate who Rolling Stone once called “The man who saved Comedy Central,” will serve as the University of Oregon’s commencement speaker this year.
A bachelor of fine arts graduate of the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, Alterman studied photography and design as a student at the UO. During a recent interview with the UO Alumni Association, he credited his alma mater with providing him the skills necessary to succeed in the entertainment industry.
“What I did in school has played a part in everything I’ve done since,” he said.
Commencement takes place Monday, June 13. Alterman will speak at the main graduation ceremony, which follows the Grad Parade and starts at 9:30 a.m. in Matthew Knight Arena. See the commencement website for more details.
Alterman is responsible for the leadership, strategy and management of the “No. 1 brand in comedy.” He oversees the development and production of all original Comedy Central content and has launched an ambitious slate of new series over the past six years with some of the most significant voices in comedy today.
Those include the Emmy Award-winning series “Inside Amy Schumer,” “@midnight with Chris Hardwick” and the Emmy-nominated “Key & Peele,” along with the critically acclaimed “Broad City,” “Workaholics,” “Nathan For You,” “Another Period,” “Not Safe with Nikki Glaser” and “Idiotsitter,” among others. He was also a key voice in selecting Trevor Noah as the new host of “The Daily Show,” as well as launching “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.”
Alterman developed such shows as “Upright Citizens Brigade” and “Strangers with Candy” in the 1990s during his first stint at Comedy Central, and has been credited for launching the careers of Amy Schumer, Stephen Colbert, Amy Poehler, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, among others.
After graduating, Alterman made his way to New York and was hired by a leading graphic design firm. He worked on image and show campaigns for entertainment clients such as HBO, Lifetime and Comedy Central. He left to pursue development and production of original content and began pitching ideas to his former clients, and one of his first to come to fruition became part of Comedy Central’s “Indecision” election coverage in 1992.
A versatile figure in the entertainment industry, Alterman left Comedy Central in 2000 to work for New Line Cinema, where he directed “Semi-Pro,” starring Will Ferrell and Woody Harrelson; and produced “Elf,” starring Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel; “A History of Violence,” starring Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello; and “Little Children,” starring Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly before returning to Comedy Central as the network’s president of original programming in 2010.
Since then Comedy Central has received 89 Emmy nominations, a number that includes a record 26 nominations in 2015, and in May of 2016 he was promoted to president of the company.
Alterman currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife Michele and children Evelyn and Ezekiel.
—By Damian Foley, University Communications