Latham Entertainment is widely regarded as the most successful comedy promotion company in the country, responsible for promoting such known comedic talents as Chris Tucker, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Lawrence, D.L. Hughley, Cedric “The Entertainer”, Bernie Mac, Steve Harvey and countless others. Founded in 1992 by Walter Latham, Latham Entertainment is the largest independently owned and operated comedy promotion-company in the country.
In December 1997, Latham Entertainment took the comedy world by storm with the development of the groundbreaking “Kings of Comedy” tour. Steadfastly believing that packaging a number of popular comedians on one bill could be greater than the sum of its parts, Walter mounted a triple-headliner tour starring Steve Harvey, Cedric “The Entertainer”, and Bernie Mac. Playing sold out arenas from Coast to Coast; the tour grossed over $18 million in its first year. In 1999, both Seagram Americas and HBO sponsored the tour. D.L. Hughley was added and the two year gross exceeded $37 million.
USA Today described “Kings of Comedy” as being “the top-grossing comedy tour in history.” In fact, the “Kings” tour which consistently sold out arenas seating 10,000 or more grossed more than the hugely successful Backstreet Boys tour in 1999.
Taking the success to the next level, Latham Entertainment captured the phenomenal experience of the live Kings of Comedy Tour on film. Directed by Spike Lee and produced by Latham Entertainment and MTV films, the $3 million dollar budgeted motion picture included both concert and rare backstage footage of the four comedians. Surpassing all expectations, the film grossed over $37 million during its run at the box office and went on to be nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture. The accompanying soundtrack released on Universal Records was nominated for a Grammy for the Best Spoken Comedy Album in 2000.
Recognizing the immense drawing power of festival-style comedy, Latham Entertainment launched the lucrative “Queens of Comedy” tour in the spring of 2000 featuring Miss Laura Hayes, Adele Givens, Sommore, and Mo’Nique. The sold out theatres and enthusiastic crowds inspired Latham to believe that lightning could strike twice if their performances were captured on film. The female quartet appeared in a “Queens of Comedy” special, which aired on Showtime on January 27, 2001. In its debut, the special rated higher than any other special on the network that year. In a marketing coup, Paramount Home Entertainment simultaneously released and promoted “The Original Kings of Comedy” and the “Queens of Comedy” on VHS and DVD in February 2001 to rave reviews. The accompanying soundtrack for this project was also nominated for a Grammy in the Best Spoken Comedy Album category in 2001.
In 2002 Latham Entertainment released Latham Entertainment Presents featuring the amusing antics from comedians Earthquake (Def Comedy Jam), Bruce Bruce (The Wash), Rickey Smiley (Friday After Next), Sommore (Queens of Comedy) and D.L. Hughley (Original Kings of Comedy), hosted by J. Anthony Brown (Drumline). Again capturing the tour experience on film, Latham Entertainment, in conjunction with Paramount Home Entertainment, released the VHS and DVD in the fall of 2003.
The following year, Latham Entertainment produced the much-anticipated Crown Royal Comedy Soul Festival, a 20-city tour which featured legendary R&B bands Earth Wind & Fire and The Isley Brothers, along with comedians Rickey Smiley, Adele Givens and Earthquake. The show was hosted by Bruce Bruce. This was the first time that music and comedy headlined on the same stage.
Walter Latham always has his finger on the pulse of the comedy world and proved that he was still a power player in Urban Comedy when he and Diddy co-Executive Produced, P. Diddy Presents the Bad Boys of Comedy. The show, which aired on HBO for two seasons in 2005 – 2006, was filmed live at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and was MC’d by Doug E. Fresh. Aired as nine 30-minute episodes, P. Diddy Presents the Bad Boys of Comedy features “the next generation of raw, risk taking comedians.” On November 15, 2005, Latham Entertainment and Bad Boy Entertainment released the P. Diddy Presents the Bad Boys of Comedy DVD featuring backstage interviews and bonus footage hit stores.
2005 was a busy year for Latham Entertainment, in addition to the Bad Boys project, the Latham Comedy Collection, a 4-disk collector’s edition set was also released on DVD. It features not only “The Original Kings of Comedy”, “The Queens of Comedy” and “Latham Entertainment Presents”, but also a special bonus disc packed with hilarious outtakes and deleted scenes not available in the movies. As if two DVD releases were not enough, Latham Entertainment also partnered with Zingy and Paramount to offer ringtones and wallpaper featuring excerpts from all Latham Entertainment releases to date.
In 2006, Diageo’s brand, Crown Royal turned once again to Latham Entertainment to broaden their appeal. Following the success of branding shows targeting African American audiences, Crown Royal wanted the Latin Community. The highly successful Crown Royal Latin Kings of Comedy toured from 2006 – 2008. Headlined by Paul Rodriguez, the tour included performances by Johnny Sanchez (MadTV), Gabriel Iglesias (Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central), Gene Pompa (Comedy Central, Si TV) and many others.
Latham Entertainment was approached by MyNetwork TV to create and produce a modern version of the Dean Martin Roasts. Latham Entertainment surpassed expectations and in 2008 produced Shaken not Stirred, five one-hour “toasts” to some of the biggest names in America. After months of looking for just the right “toastmasters” which Latham called “Toasters”, he selected Anthony Anderson, DL Hughley, Paul Rodriguez and John Salley to host all five specials. The “Toastees” were the controversial political activist, Reverend Al Sharpton, the former Playmate of the Year, Pamela Anderson, the King of R&B, Bobby Brown, Original Gangster and now star on Law & Order, SVU, Ice T and Rev Run from MTV’s Run’s House.
In February 2011, Walter closed a long-awaited deal for a digital label. The label, which will be distributed by Paramount Digital Entertainment, will include the digital release of all classic Latham Entertainment titles like <em>Original Kings of Comedy</em> and <em>Latham Entertainment Presents</em> as well as never-before-seen concert footage of some of the biggest names in comedy. The label will also release new and original productions in long form, clips and applications for mobile devices.