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Arts & Entertainment

Hustlebot members among finalists in Comedy Central contest

| Friday, March 16, 2012

Picture this: Three dudes discover a time machine.

But instead of, say, traveling to the Renaissance or checking out how dinosaurs lived, the roommates use it to settle stupid arguments. Who took the last beer• Who didn't replace the toilet-paper roll• To unmask the culprit, the aggrieved party need only take a short trip back to the previous hour or day.

This idea, in the form of a short film, was pitched to Comedy Central by four guys in Hustlebot, a local improv troupe.

"Stoners with a Time Machine" is among 25 finalists in Comedy Central's Short Pilot contest, a nationwide talent competition. The winner, who will be announced in April, will receive $7,500 and a development deal from the network.

It doesn't guarantee the show will air, but, at the least, the four Hustlebots -- David Fedor, John Feightner, Larry Phillis and Joe Wichryk II -- would get their eight feet in the door.

"We came up with the idea a year ago, and were working on it independently from the contest," Fedor says. "We had originally been planning to produce it ourselves as a web series."

Contestants had to submit a script and an 8- to 15-minute pilot presentation for an original TV show. Hustlebot rewrote and lengthened the first episode to convert it to the required format.

The premise mixes the type of geeky science of "The Big Bang Theory" with the stoner perspective of "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure."

"None of us are into drugs," Fedor says. "But it basically boils down to three stoned-out type people who all share an apartment, and happen upon a time machine. Instead of using it for something worthwhile, they use time travel to solve little disputes, like going back in time and buying cheaper groceries or finding out where the weird stain on the carpet came from. "

Formed in 2006, Hustlebot performs at First Night Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Improv Jam Thursdays at the Cabaret at Theater Square in the Cultural District. Their short film, "Roll the Dice" won the Steeltown Film Factory Competition in 2010 and premiered at the Three Rivers Film Festival that year.

As a finalist in the Comedy Central contest, Hustlebot will attend the 2012 New York Television Festival in Manhattan and to participate in NYTV Pitch, an opportunity to pitch their pilot to six additional channels including the BIO Channel and Sundance Channel.

"All the finalists have a three month-option," Fedor says. "If it's not selected ... they have the opportunity to have other studios, other networks look at it."

Details: www.nytvf.com/2012_comedycentral.html

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