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Comics Say Producer Byron Allen Is No Joke

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Comics Unleashed Productions and its founder Byron Allen owe "several hundred" comedians wages and residuals, stand-up comedienne Bernadette Pauley claims in a class action.

Pauley sued CF Entertainment, Comics Unleashed Productions, Entertainment Studios, and Byron Allen Folks in Superior Court. Folks, known as Byron Allen, is the founder and principal of all the corporate defendants, according to the complaint.

Folks hosted the half-hour talk show that began in the 2006-07 season, produced by CF Entertainment nka Entertainment Studios. Shows are still rebroadcast on CBS and the TV One cable network, according to industry publications.

Pauley claims that she "and several hundred other actors and comedians" worked for the defendants on the syndicated TV show, "pursuant to a standardized contract providing each actor with a residual payment for subsequent airings of each episode. While working on the show, plaintiff and class members were subject to repeated violations of the California Labor Code.'

The complaint continues: "Subsequent to its production, the show 'Comics Unleashed' went on to become tremendously successful, catapulting its creator Byron Allen Folks to celebrity status. Standing on the shoulders of the shows' success, defendant Byron Allen Folks and his affiliate corporate entities have become the largest independent producer/distributor of first-run syndicated television programming for broadcast television stations. To date, plaintiff and putative class members have not been reimbursed for residual payments pursuant to the contract."

Folks got his start in comedy doing stand-up in clubs while he was a teen-ager, according to IMDB, an entertainment industry website. He was discovered by comedian Jimmy Walker, who hired Folks to work as a writer alongside David Letterman and Jay Leno. At 18, Folks landed a job hosting NBC's comedy talk show "Real People," which aired from 1979 to 1984.

Pauley claims she was one of "several hundred actors and comedians" Folks hired to perform on Comics Unleashed. But for the past four years, she says, Folks has failed to pay residuals to her and the class, despite the show's success and "widespread circulation on various networks."

"On numerous occasions plaintiff reached out to her union and agents of defendants in an effort to recover her residual payments. Although both the union and defendants acknowledged that plaintiff was entitled to residual payments in communications with plaintiff, defendants responded to plaintiff's inquires with continued delay and evasion," the complaint states.

Pauley claims the defendants "have acted in bad faith, either misrepresenting to plaintiff the status of their payments, failing to return plaintiff's phone calls, and at times lying to plaintiff as to when her payments would be received. Such conduct unfairly interfered with plaintiff's right to receive the benefits of the contract."

Pauley says she does not know how much money Folks owes her and the class, and that it "cannot be ascertained without an accounting from defendants of all subsequent airings of the television show Comics Unleashed."

She also claims Folks refuses to reimburse her and the class for business expenses on the show, including "air travel, hotel accommodations, car rentals, wardrobe expenses, and gas required to drive to and from locations."

Pauley seeks disgorgement of wrongful profits, wages due, lost profits, reimbursement for expenses, and damages and statutory penalties for breach of contract, failure to pay wages and expenses, and unfair business practices.

She is represented by Matthew Matern of Torrance.

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