Perry's House Party

With his new show "House of Payne" debuting this summer, Tyler Perry plans to resuscitate the Black family sitcom.

Lavan Davis, Allen Payne and Lance Gross, the leading men in the new sitcom "Tyler Perry's House of Payne", are sitting on logs in a mock campsite, waiting for their boss Tyler Perry to say, "Action." Suddenly Davis, unsolicited, suggests that the scene open with the men laughing. Somehow, between checking his e-mail and directing his production crew, Perry warns his star not to direct the scene. "Let me handle it," Perry says. Not a beat later, he leans into the mic again: "Don't listen to Lavan, but I want you to start the scene laughing," says Perry with a chuckle, inspiring a fresh round of giggles from his staff and crew.

Perry and the "House of Payne" folks have a lot to laugh about these days. The media maverick negotiated an unprecedented $200 million deal that has cable network TBS and five big-city Fox stations distributing and airing 100 prepackaged episodes of his show, which chronicles the high jinks of a multigenerational family living under the same roof. In the sitcom, there's drug abuse, blended family issues, romance, teen problems and the like -- all familiar fodder for Perry -- drenched in African-American colloquialism, old-time religion and plenty of knee-slapping humor. "It's the same recipe," says his costar Demetria McKinney, "just in a different pan." For Perry, it's simply another extension of his commitment to make his audiences feel right at home: "People will take away from the show what many people take away from my films -- real people dealing with real issues."

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