Bobby Richards and Avery Lee

A couple of Chicago actors are on the verge of having their pilot made into a Web series by NBC. Bobby & Iza, written by Avery Lee and Bobby Richards, is a finalist in the network’s Comedy Playground, a national talent search for “original comedy minds.” Two winners, chosen by an NBC advisory board that includes Aziz Ansari, Jason Bateman, Mindy Kaling, Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler, Craig Robinson, and Adam Scott, will be broadcast on NBC. A third selection, decided by audience vote, will stream online. 

Bobby & Iza centers on a Chicago actor, played by Richards, and his wife. In the 15-minute pilot, Bobby goes to a few “soul-crushing” commercial auditions, and Iza deals with an impossible-to-please boss at a company that sells pipes, and manages her Polish parents who drop by with some truly weird food.

“There are hilarious people making videos and programming on the Internet all day and night and it’s time to bring those people into network television,” NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke said last April in her announcement of the contest. “The goal of this is for them to have as unfettered of a process as possible.” The Comedy Central shows Broad City and Drunk History and TV Land’s Teachers all started as Web series; this contest is NBC’s play to get its own crop of fresh comedy before too many television executives have sanded off the edges. 

After the contest was announced, entrants sent in video samples of their work and a two- to five-minute show pitch. Semifinalists were chosen last September; in February finalists were given the budget to produce a pilot. The two shows chosen for broadcast TV were announced yesterday, and another was disqualified because the creator now works for NBC. Voting for the five Web series finalists is open through September 3.