In the span of barely a decade, stand-up comedy has gone from something enjoyed exclusively in dingy clubs to a regular feature on streaming services such as Netflix. What was once an intimate affair has now become a mainstream phenomenon, with a different comedian making headlines every week. In this article, we will be taking a look at stand-up comedy’s journey from clubs to Netflix specials.
1. Origins of Stand-up Comedy
As the world has shifted to remote work, streaming services, and socially distanced entertainment, the stand-up comedy circuit has been completely upended. But behind the success of today’s virtual comedy spots and imposing special-guest slates lurks an interesting tale: the .
- 18th Century - First known for its European roots, stand-up comedy was an established format by the 18th century. During this period, court jesters, campfire stories, and performers were some of the earliest adopters of the approach.
- 19th Century – It was during the 19th century when many of the story-telling tropes, style of humor, pacing, physical movements, and delivery were refined. By the end of the 19th century, comedians were making appearances in the vaudeville circuit and theatres around the world.
- 1950s and 1960s – The 1950s are considered the birth of the modern stand-up comedy style, where topics such as family life, race, religion, and love were discussed candidly and humorously on stage. This decade marked the emergence of a new generation of comedic talents, as well as the rise of iconic comedy clubs.
- 1970s – The 1970s saw the rise of long-form comedy, with iconic acts such as George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Steve Martin taking the stage. This decade was the peak of the stand-up comedy version that fans are familiar with today.
- 1980s – Throughout the 1980s, stand-up comedy flourished, with networks, clubs, and production companies devoting vast time and resources to the craft. Television specials and live shows made comedians household names, and the demand for stand-up talent has been growing ever since.
- 21st Century – The start of the 21st Century saw the rise of streaming services like Netflix and YouTube, creating endless opportunities for stand-up comics to introduce their acts to new audiences around the world. As a result, many comedians and entertainers have experienced tremendous success on the global stage.
Today, stand-up comedy has taken an international trip with new clubs, unique acts, and comedy specials reaching millions of viewers worldwide. Whether it’s a stand-up show in Shanghai or a YouTube special in London, there’s no denying that the territory may have changed over the years, but the spirit of comedy lives on.
2. Evolution of Stand-up Comedy Venues
Stand-up comedy has been around for some time and the and delivery has followed an unpredictable route. From close-knit circles of stand-up comedy in small clubs to international streaming services, it’s been quite a journey!
The Small clubs
In the early days, stand-up comedy had an underground appeal. Comedians would hone their craft on the amateur circuit, performing in mostly small, informal clubs. This era produced some of the greatest stand-up material, helping to cultivate an audience for stand-up comedy and establish it as a viable form of entertainment.
Theatres & Arenas
As stand-up comedy’s popularity grew, so did the venues. Theaters and arenas quickly became the most sought-after venues for the stand-up comedian. With larger stages, these venues could accommodate larger audiences and provided the space for more theatrical elements. Stand-up comedians were able to produce more elaborate and involved performances.
Stand-up comedy began to break into mainstream television in the 1990s, with the rise of the TV specials. These one-off performances allowed stand-up comedians to showcase their talent to a wider audience and capture the spontaneous energy of stand-up comedy in a controlled setting.
The latest evolution for stand-up comedy has been the introduction of streaming services. Not only do streaming services provide the tools and platforms necessary for comedians to produce and distribute their material, but they also provide a chance for comedians to reach an even larger audience. From comedy clubs to Netflix Specials, this is stand-up comedy’s journey.
3. Netflix’s Impact on Stand-up Comedy
How Stand-Up Comedy Was Monitored Before Netflix
Before the online streaming service revolutionized the entertainment industry, stand-up comedy shows relied heavily on local comedy clubs and other presenters to book and deliver performances. A comedian would typically rely on their personal network to book shows and build their career, meaning that professional recognition was limited at best.
Top performers have long found indirect ways to reach a larger audience, which has included securing a television spot and sometimes appearing on larger stages alongside fellow comedians. But, this all changed when Netflix came on the scene.
Netflix as the Comedy Frontier
In the early 2010s, as Netflix began to secure deals with stand-up comedians, the industry underwent a rapid transformation. Netflix began investing heavily in producing and streaming stand-up specials from some of the best known and most successful comedians around the world.
These specials were highly edited and featured a wide variety of production value, amounting to a more polished and professional performance. This sparked a wider audience in the industry and ensured a wider reach for the performers.
The Impact of Netflix’s Disruption
Netflix’s disruption of the comedy scene opened the door to a variety of different opportunities for comedians, including the chance to closely monitor the performance of their material and capture a wider audience.
As a result, stand-up comedy has become increasingly accessible and recently, with the introduction of the “Comedy Plus” package in the United States, viewers can watch an unlimited amount of comedy specials free of charge.
Finally, Netflix’s connection with comedy has enabled producers to connect with audiences in unexpected ways. For example, its “Com-100 Challenge” had comedians pitching as many comedic ideas as possible into a closed box with a camera, adding a creative and intimate element never before seen in the industry.
4. Strategies of Professional Comedians
- Focus on Brand: Professional comedians work to build their personal brand in order to gain fans and recognition. They use social media and other mediums to talk about key topics in interesting ways. The focus is on creating an image and reputation that is distinct and recognizable.
- Cater to Multiple Audiences: It is important to remember that no two audiences are the same. Professional comedians with more success often are able to craft material that appeals to a wider range of cultures and ages.
- Collaborate with Other Comics: Humor is often best when shared, and by working with other comics, successful comedians are able to come up with larger and more impactful performances. Writers also help, as do production houses.
- Utilize Technology: Stand-up comedians are designing and incorporating technology into their performances. From using digital technology to create humor, to incorporating drones and lighting into their performances, technology brings added depth and flexibility to comedians work.
Moreover, professional comedians build a loyal fan base by putting on an exceptional show each time. They come up with new material regularly, such that fans are being served with something fresh each time. To increase their visibility, comedians are often utilizing the real-time streaming platforms, allowing them to interact with fans in a matter of minutes. However, it is important to note that most stand-up comedy today is being done up the mainstream venues that are being featured on streaming services like Netflix. A wide variety of comedians now have their own Netflix specials, including the likes of Ali Wong, Dane Cook, and Eric Andre. These specials have allowed them to reach a much larger audience and have definitely aided their careers.
5. Successful Comedians on Netflix
- Dave Chappelle:
Dave Chappelle rose from a relative unknown to one of the most celebrated comedians of the modern era. After his premiere of The Chappelle Show in 2003, Dave rocketed to superstardom and has since released two Netflix specials, Deep in the Heart of Texas, and The Age of Spin. His comedy is characterized by sharp political comment and jokes that often tackle uncomfortable subjects.
Amy Schumer is the definition of a self-made success. In her stand-up special The Leather Special on Netflix, Schumer talks about her struggles and successes as a comedian. She offers an interesting view of the changing landscape of stand-up and how she sees it developing in the future. Schumer delivers a captivating performance and has established herself as one of the best stand-up comedians on Netflix.</li>
Ellen DeGeneres is a household name and one of the most popular stand-up comedians on Netflix. Her comedy covers a range of topics from everyday situations to topical politics. Ellen has released a number of specials, including Relatable and A Little Bit of Laughter. She offers a perspective that audiences can relate to and laugh along with. </li>
Bill Burr is known for his biting and often brutally honest comedy. His Netflix specials, You People Are All The Same and I'm Sorry You Feel That Way, cover a range of topics from relationships to race. Burr's comedy is always sharp and often controversial. He offers an opinionated and caustic take on modern life and culture. </li>
John Mulaney is beloved for his relatable yet often surreal style of comedy. His two Netflix specials, The Comeback Kid and John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch, cover a range of topics from small-town life to his own personal experiences. Mulaney has established himself as a comedic force to be reckoned with and his specials on Netflix continue to delight and surprise audiences. </li>
These five comedians have helped to bring stand-up comedy from the clubs to the larger world of Netflix specials. As stand-up comedy continues to evolve, these comedians will continue to shape the culture and set the industry standard for other comedians to follow. Netflix specials from these five comedians allow viewers to take a journey through the art form and experience the art in its modern form.
For audiences interested in comedy, these five comedians provide a range of experiences between them. From Dave Chappelle’s political commentaries to Amy Schumer’s self-made success story, and from Ellen DeGeneres’s relatable musing to Bill Burr’s controversial takes on modern life to John Mulaney’s fantastical experiences, each of these comedians offers something unique and captivating to viewers.
Sit back, relax, and take the journey with these hilarious stand-up comedians. With their Netflix specials always on tap, you won’t be disappointed.
6. What to Consider Before Making a Netflix Special
1. Appealing to the Audience: Before producers can make a stand-up comedy special for Netflix, they have to ask themselves: is this material something that will appeal to Netflix’s audience? Be aware of the ratings of TV-MA and TV-14, films that appeal to either must be carefully considered so that your special does not violate them.
2. Testing the Material: Your material must be tested against theater or TV audiences, so that you understand how the material will be received. Many well-known comedians hone their material at small, local comedy clubs before taking it to the bigger stages.
3. Production Funds: You should be aware that many shows and films produced for Netflix are budgeted upwards of five million dollars. You will need to work with your team to develop a roadmap that meets Netflix’s standards and can be funded.
4. Working with Netflix: When collaborating with Netflix, it is important to understand the company’s rules and regulations. They have a strict “no time waste” policy, so for quick decisions to be made, everyone must stay on track.
5. Scheduling and Negotiation: The timetable for negotiating, shooting and editing must be outlined through clear schematics. If the timelines cross each other, the production can suffer from it. Additionally, if budget negotiations are mishandled, they can delay the production process.
6. Production Quality: Netflix requires a certain quality for their productions that involve special lighting, music, sound, set design and sets. Knowing the minimum requirements, and then going a step further with an excellent production team, can bring a fresh angle and attract Netflix’s attention.
7. Creating a Trailer: After the special is produced, you should create a trailer that will be used as visual promotional material. It should speak to the special and encapsulate its content. A cleverly shot trailer can draw viewers even before the show airs, further increasing viewership.
7. Rewards and Challenges of a Netflix Special
- It’s hard to deny that producing a stand-up comedy special for Netflix is a privileges. After years of paying your dues on the club circuit, a Netflix special gives stand-up comics the chance to shine in front of a wide, diverse audience.
- Not only does a Netflix special allow the comedian’s talent to shine, it also allows them to gain a steady income from the royalties that streaming services provides. This could lead to more opportunities, such as touring and a larger following.
- The production value of a Netflix special is far superior to clubs, as Netflix will provide the comedian with an established production team and help create a higher quality result that can fit into the framework of their brand.
- Many comics working on a Netflix specials get the added bonus of having their sets written for them. Whether the comic is working with Netflix’s writing team or with their own staff, writing hilarious content for the special can help deliver the comic’s definable message.
However, there are some challenges in producing a Netflix special. Firstly, it often unlocks the door for higher expectations from both fans and critics alike. A bad special will be quickly forgotten, while a great special will get raving reviews. Secondly, comics often have to change their tone and content when creating Netflix specials to serve Netflix’s brand, which can feel constraining to some comics. Finally, the process of producing a Netflix special can be daunting and overwhelming sometimes. From creating sets and writing jokes to fine-tuning editing, the process can be a lot for anyone to handle.
All in all, the work of a stand-up comedian is constantly evolving, especially with the advent of Netflix specials. While these specials might come with their own set of challenges, they can also provide many rewards. With new technology and digital platforms, stand-up comedy is no longer a small affair. It can now reach an even larger audience, creating greater visibility for comic and their work.
8. Essential Elements of a Stand-up Special
When we think of stand-up comedy we envision big names at popular venues, selling out shows in the hundreds each night. As the genre has grown, so has the technology allowing for comedians to go beyond their regular shows and cut a special. Here, we’ll explore 8 .
In The Room: While the audience can be seen as a deeply integral part of any live show, some factors in the room itself need to be considered. Professionalism is key, such as the position of the cameras, audio engineers, lighting adjustments, etc., that all work to deliver the best package for viewers.
The Look: Rather than a live show’s dress for success or hipster look, stand-up specials come with their own guidelines. Allowing the comedian to cut their own identity, with a tailored outfit choice or relaxed clothing.
The Teams: Crafting the perfect joke relies on other professionals just as much as the comedian. Working with a talented hard-working team, including directors, writers, producers, brainstorming sessions and more.
Material: Where links, recurring jokes, and one-liners live on stage side by side. It is also where the comedian’s attitude and ideas come to life, allowing viewers to be stylistically immersed into the experience.
Timing: As any good comedian knows, timing is everything. Without a good flow, jokes can easily become lost in an audience. For the special, producers and comedians have to be in sync to ensure a showcase that runs smoothly.
Editing: A stand-up special needs to be throughly edited, both with transitions and callbacks to create a consistent show. As such, producers and directors both need to sync up and have a unified approach when editing the show down to a manageable size.
Promotion: A stand-up special is only as successful as its promotion, running in tandem with the production. Promotional material needs to be fun, creative and draw attention.
Standardization: A standardization needs to be met in order for a special to be viewed as successful. This involves using similar styles of editing, setting high quality standards for the audio, video, and other factors throughout the special.
9. Guidelines for Struggling Comedians
1. Know Your Audience: Once you’ve figured out your style and found your niche, it’s time to determine who your target audience is in your comedy. Audience is everything when it comes to comedy, since it shapes your jokes and how you approach them. Once you’ve determined who you’d like to target, you’ll have a much better idea of where you can perform.
2. Don’t be Afraid to Take Risks: Stand-up comedy is all about taking risks, and that means you have to be willing to try something out before you know if it’s going to work. Even if you’re unsure of whether or not it’ll be a hit, having the courage to take risks will keep you from getting stale and boring. Your material is more likely to be successful if you take risks every once in a while.
3. Take Advantage of Open Mics: Open mics are an excellent opportunity for new comedians to get their feet wet, since they’re more likely to be accepted than gigs at established venues. A lot of open mics are hosted at local bars and pubs, so start by researching ones near you. Make sure to get there early, and be friendly and outgoing with the other comics.
4. Network and Connect with Other Comedians: Networking is an important part of success in any industry, and it’s especially so in comedy. Connecting with other people in the scene can be advantageous in a variety of ways, from getting advice or tips to being able to collaborate with them. Every single person you meet could be a potential partner, supporter, or employer.
5. Invest in Your Art: Comedy is an art form, and like any artist, you have to invest in yourself and your craft if you want to be successful. Make sure you’re keeping your material fresh and creative, and consider taking classes or workshops to hone your skills. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to take classes, simply watching other performers can be really beneficial.
6. Make Yourself Seen: Whether you’re performing at open mics or networking with other comedians, it’s important to make yourself seen as much as possible. Go to local shows or events and make sure your name is out there. Even if you’re not performing, simply showing up and getting to know others in the scene can be invaluable.
7. Don’t be Discouraged: Comedy is a difficult field and it’s likely that you’ll have a lot of ups and downs. Don’t be discouraged by failure or criticism, and use it as a learning experience for yourself. Make sure you’re using negative feedback to perfect your material and continue to stay motivated.
8. Set Goals: The journey to a Netflix special isn’t easy, and it often seems like an impossible task when first starting out. To make this venture as successful as possible, make sure you’re setting goals for yourself and working towards them. Set milestones and deadlines, and use those as motivation to keep pushing yourself and growing.
: Struggling comedians should focus on honing their craft, networking with other comedians, attending local shows and events, and taking every opportunity they can. It’s important to be bold and take risks, while also remaining open to constructive criticism. Lastly, setting goals and deadlines is key when trying to achieve success.
10. Future Prospects of Stand-up Comedy
The world of stand-up comedy has seen a rapid transformation in recent years. Once confined to the occasional club shows with local and regional comedians taking center stage, the art form is now being showcased in an unprecedented way by some of the biggest names in entertainment. Netflix and similar streaming services have given stand-up comedy an international platform, allowing our favorite jokes to reach far-flung viewers and become a global phenomenon.
Gone are the days of tiny crowds watching stand-up comedy at local bars. The modern scene looks entirely different. Popular stand-up comics are now enjoying immensely successful tours that have helped them reach wider audiences than ever before. It’s a trend that’s only been bolstered by streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime that are now streaming live comedic performances from passwords across the globe. From Chris Rock to Hannibal Buress to Aziz Ansari, these household names can be seen in front of massive auditoriums thanks to their ability to curate a show that they know will resonate with fans.
- Special Events
- Networks Greenlighting Comedic Content
- Growth of Non-Traditional Platforms for Comedy
The great thing about comedy, like many art forms, is its capability to touch people of different walks of life. A good funny bone knows no boundaries and comedians have recognized this and have been able to cash in. Special events like comedy festivals feature up-and-coming comics, as well as the established stars of the industry. These events have become incredibly popular and often focus on the intersection of art, comedy, and community. Such festivals have become part of what allows comics to reach a broad fan base with their creative humor.
Networks Greenlighting Comedic Content
Although the industry may have started in small “mom and pop” clubs and back alley dives that flanked communities, there is no hiding the huge impact that larger networks are having on the rise of stand-up comedy. Networks like HBO, Showtime, and Comedy Central have dedicated entire sections on their platform to the celebration of stand-up comedy. This platform has offered a large platform for up-and-coming comedians and cemented a large fan base for those who have already been established.
Growth of Non-Traditional Platforms for Comedy
Netflix has become the main source of streaming stand-up special. This is a huge benefit to comics and allows them to leverage their material to larger audiences than ever before. Besides streaming stand-up performances, podcast, YouTube, and other online mediums have become fertile grounds for the growth of stand-up comedy. These online mediums allowed for new and unique comedic content to be spread to potential fans in rapid speed.
The potency of stand-up comedy has no doubt been highlighted by the unique way in which it has grown with the help of modern multimedia and technology. These new levels of reach are only going to help to ensure that stand-up comedy is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Stand-up comedy has come a long way since its underground club beginnings, and the future of the craft promises even more exciting moments. With Netflix and other streaming services putting their money and creativity behind the growth of stand-up comedy, there’s plenty to look forward to in the years ahead.