There was a day when, if you wanted to see a big-time stand-up comedian perform new material, you went one of two places: an actual, real-life comedy club or HBO. The network had been the home to comedy ever since the days of Robert Klein and George Carlin; still-famous specials like Eddie Murphy: Delirious and Chris Rock: Bring the Pain made the premium network the place to be. In time, both Showtime and Comedy Central began showcasing stand-ups in their own specials. And until a few years ago, that was pretty much the norm.
Enter Netflix. All of a sudden, it seems like every big-time stand-up has signed a deal with the streaming service. Thanks to deep pockets and a hunger to constantly pump out original material, it’s an attractive place for comedians to ply their trade. However, it’s also a matter of availability.
“If you liked me or whomever, you would either have to know when the premiere was and set your DVR, or get home and stumble upon it,” Kathleen Madigan told TV Insider. “Netflix is on all the time; it’s like a library. It’s the ease and the accessibility and it’s literally, you demand it and it appears.”
Here are six comedians who have made a big splash with their Netflix deals and a bigger list of the streaming giant’s new and upcoming offerings.
What and When: Three new specials, two of which, The Age of Spin and Deep in the Heart of Texas, were released simultaneously on March 21.
Why We Care: First, the big reason: It’s Chappelle’s return to specials since he walked away from Chappelle’s Show in 2005. But this also speaks to the deep pocket issue; the reported $60 million that the service paid the comedian for two specials he had in his vault and a new one that will come out at a date to be determined more than made up for the reported $50 million he sacrificed when he ended Chappelle’s Show. In the meantime, the specials show a more mature Chappelle who has spent the intervening 12 years getting back to basics, both in his life and career.
What and When: Two new specials, including 2017, which will be released on April 4.
Why We Care: Louis C.K. revolutionized the comedy world when he released one of his comedy specials direct to fans via his website, rather than go through HBO or one of the other big outlets. He got such a great response, selling the special for $5 a pop, that he ended up making money, giving him the confidence to release other material, including his series Horace and Pete, directly to his fans. But when Netflix came a-callin’, even the entrepreneurial Louie couldn’t say no to the money being thrown around. It also helps bring eyeballs to some of his previous specials, which are also on the service.
What and When: Two new comedy specials, to be released in 2017, plus all episodes of his Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee series — including an all-new 10th season — which move from Crackle to Netflix.
Why We Care: It’s a supposed $100 million deal, but since Jerry is still swimming in Seinfeld money, cash wasn’t the biggest factor. According to Business Insider, it was more a matter of creative control. Jerry was tired of Crackle’s advertising model and wanted to make sure his new home was free of those restrictions. And it helps that folks like C.K., Chris Rock, and others have made Netflix their new home. Speaking of Rock…
What and When: Two new comedy specials, air dates to be determined.
Why We Care: If there’s anyone who owes his career to HBO, it’s Chris Rock; Bring the Pain resurrected his career in 1996 after he left Saturday Night Live. But it’s been eight years since his last special, and the landscape has radically changed. It’s likely not just the money — though a reported $40 million isn’t pocket change — but that he had to know that his high-profile signing would lead to buddies like Seinfeld and C.K. to join him.
What and When: New special to be released on May 30.
Why We Care: Silverman might have been encouraged by Maria Bamford’s success on the service: Bamford’s specials and her series Lady Dynamite have both done well. Silverman’s comedy is in the same experimental vein as Bamford’s, albeit a bit more on the raunchy side, and she’s willing to play with formats and do things like film a special in a tiny comedy club. So she likely feels Netflix is a good landing spot that will expose her to a wider audience than her previous home, HBO, could.
What and When: The Leather Special, which debuted on March 17.
Why We Care: There isn’t a hotter name in comedy these days than Schumer’s, so it was news when she decided to sign with Netflix for her latest special. It also provides a wide audience for the comedian, as her new special debuted in all of the service’s 190 countries. Judging by the reviews she’s been getting, though, she might have wanted to wait a few more months to hone the material for the quickly produced special.
What and When: His first special for the service, Talking for Clapping, was released in 2016. A new special is slated for Fall.
Why We Care: Oswalt has been at the forefront of finding new outlets for his specials, ones that will not only yield more money up front but give him more control over how the special is distributed. He was one of the first comedians, for instance, to debut a special on the Epix channel; that partnership, however, ended quickly when they didn’t air his special Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time online ahead of its TV debut, despite the promises he made his fans. In his new special, out this Fall, the comedian will examine how his life has changed since the sudden death of his wife. He told his Facebook followers that it’s “easily the most horrific 12 months I’ve had to wade through in my 48 years on the planet. And there’s a lot of …intense… stuff in this newest hour that I don’t think I’ll be able to just do again on the road for yuks and money.”
Jen Kirkman: Just Keep Livin’?
Jim Gaffigan: Cinco
Neal Brennan: 3 Mics
Cristela Alonzo: Lower Classy
Gad Elmaleh: Gad Gone Wild
Bill Burr: Walk Your Way Out
Katherine Ryan: In Trouble
Trevor Noah: Afraid of the Dark
Mike Birbiglia: Thank God for Jokes
Amy Schumer: The Leather Special
Jim Norton: Mouthful of Shame
Dave Chappelle: Deep in the Heart of Texas
Dave Chappelle: The Age of Spin
Felipe Neto: My Life Makes No Sense
Jo Koy: Live from Seattle
Louis C.K.: 2017
Kevin Hart: What Now?
Keith and Kenny Lucas: The Lucas Bros: On Drugs