On the cover date of our special issue dedicated to humor, it’s appropriate that our Tiger of the Week is a television executive who is helping to add laughs to daily cable programming. On Jan. 17, Mitch Semel ’81, a longtime producer and TV consultant, was named general manager of The Onion, the popular satire website and newspaper that is expanding its video offerings with a pair of cable programs – Onion SportsDome, which recently debuted on Comedy Central, and Onion News Network, coming soon to IFC. Variety said that Semel’s hiring is “more proof that the Onion is serious about expanding its TV biz.”
Semel, who has worked for a half-dozen broadcast and cable networks, has a history of launching new comedy ventures. In the early 1990s, he was the first programming head at Comedy Central, and he helped the network plunge into topical humor with shows like Politically Incorrect. More recently, he founded and ran Semel Media, a New York-based firm that advises clients on media strategy and content. In a news release, Steve Hannah, president and CEO of The Onion, said that Semel “strikes the rare balance between respecting the creative process and realizing that creativity has to translate into good business.”
While Semel may have developed his business skills in the TV world, Princeton can take some credit for providing a launching pad: As a Woodrow Wilson School major, he wrote his senior thesis about “the evolution, programming, and future of cable television networks.”
Do you have a nominee for Tiger of the Week? Let us know. All alumni qualify. PAW’s Tiger of the Week is selected by our staff, with help from readers like you.