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Entertainment companies get serious about comedy

Adriene Hill Nov 25, 2015
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If you watch a decent amount of television, you may have noticed there are a lot more stand-up comedians starring in their own specials.

HBO, Comedy Central and Showtime have been cashing in on funny for a while. Now Netflix is rolling out specials. NBC is launching Seeso, a comedy streaming service. Even video services like Vimeo are getting into the mix.

HBO touted “Amy Schumer Live at the Apollo” as the “comedy event of the year.” 

On Netflix, Chris Tucker has a new special this year. So does Aziz Ansari.

And it’s not just big names getting attention. As streaming services and cable channels go after more comedy, less well-known comedians are getting a shot.

Comedians like Brent Morin.

“I’ve built a name in LA, not necessarily anywhere else,” Morin said, “It’s kind of why I named the special ‘I’m Brent Morin.’ I kind of wanted to push my name out there.”

For up-and-comers like Morin, “it’s not a money-making thing,” he said.  It’s the appeal of Netflix’s 69 million subscribers. 

He said he sees the special as an investment in his future and, he hopes, a way to sell tickets to his shows. For the entertainment companies making these specials, stand-up may also look like a good investment. 

“It’s a very cost efficient way to get eyeballs,” said Brian Volk-Weiss, head of Comedy Dynamics, which produces specials featuring stand-up comedians.

Volk-Weiss said the cost depends on the talent, and can range from $50,000 to multi-millions, for the really big names.  

He calls this a “diamond age” for stand-up.

“I’ve been in the comedy business over 17 years, and it’s the best I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Volk-Weiss attributes some of the interest to social media and YouTube, which have increased the ability of comedians to get noticed. 

At some level, it’s simple supply and demand, and right now, we have an appetite for funny.

That’s what people are into” Volk-Weiss said. “I think if the public was into watching lizards climb rocks, then that’s what the networks would make.”

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