In a digital age where networks are constantly searching for ways to become more interactive with viewers, Comedy Central’s @midnight has found a unique way in.

@midnight with Chris Hardwick, the self-anointed “late-night game-show thing,” was borne out of a desire to merge comedians and game shows through the social media lens. Playing along with game shows at home has always been an integral part of games’ appeal, and that has only become easier with a phone in your hand. With its current #PointsMe campaign, @midnight is taking the next step by giving anyone and everyone a chance to join the show.

According to Alex Blagg, one of the show’s executive producers, #PointsMe evolved from the success of #HashtagWars, the show’s most popular segment where comics compete to create punny hashtags. The challenges are posted on Twitter beforehand, where “they tend to trend globally every night, [ranging] between 30 and 300,000 entries.”

More impressive to Blagg and company, however, “was not just the level of participation but also the quality of the jokes that we were getting from just regular people on social media.”

@midnight spotlights one tweet every episode, “but we always felt there was more we could do to showcase the fans of our show and how funny they can be,” says Blagg.

Thus began the #PointsMe campaign, an ongoing online casting call, where “anybody who wants to be considered can tag any joke, any tweet, any FB status update, any Instagram videos, Tumblr posts, Vine, YouTube, whatever,” Blagg says.

A team of social media producers then cherry pick the funniest, posting them to The Hall of Faves on Comedy Central’s @midnight website. From there, “we’re looking at people that we think could be funny enough to go on the show and compete against two of our professional comedians,” says Blagg.

#PointsMe is “open ended. It’s not a contest. There’s not a cutoff date. Ideally, if it goes well, we’d like to keep doing it,” he says.

Since launching on Jan. 12, the campaign has increased social media traffic, with over 50,000 people “auditioning.” The show has started the casting process, scheduling one-on-one interviews to learn candidates’ backgrounds and comedic sensibilities, while administering test games from the show. The best of the best make it on a short list.

Comedy Central hasn’t announced the date of the upcoming everyman vs. comic showdown, “but we have a date in mind, and it’s sooner [rather] than later.”

#PointsMe was designed as a way of “getting our core social media fan base involved and engaged with the show,” says Blagg. But it’s more than that: “This is an experimental way for us to see if we can find talent from the new, emerging talent pool on the Internet.”

Comedy Central has consistently been at the forefront of tapping this pool, finding younger talent while developing several online digital series. #PointsMe is another example of Comedy Central’s forward thinking nature, and an extension of the decision to put @midnight on air in the first place.

“For @midnight to kind of represent the socially internet minded hub of their late night programming, is a big honor for us, and I think it’s really smart on their part. I know that out here in LA, just about every network is trying to find their own @midnight format: a show that actually is able to take social media interactivity and integrate it into the show in a way that feels organic and natural,” says Blagg.

With this effort, Comedy Central and @midnight have trail-blazed their way across the social media frontier, and they’re not stopping here. @midnight is “always looking for new ways to interact with our show. This is one of the first examples of that,” says Blagg.

With The Colbert Report over and The Daily Show nearing a big transition, perhaps @midnight has figured out the way to find TV’s next wave of comedy stars.

Produced by Funny Or Die, @midnight airs Monday-Thursday at midnight ET/PT and is executive produced by Hardwick, Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant; Mike Farah and Joe Farrell for Funny Or Die; Alex Blagg, Jason Nadler and Jon Zimelis of Serious Business; showrunner Jack Martin; and Alex Murray of Brillstein Entertainment Partner.

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