Hulu to Launch New Stand-Up Comedy Brand in November

Hulu has announced the launch of its comedy stand-up brand, “Hulu’s Laughing Now,” which will officially bow in November.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan made the announcement at the Disney Upfront presentation on May 14 in New York City. Gaffigan will be the first comedian to host a stand-up special as part of the new brand, with his special “The Skinny” launching on Hulu on Nov. 22. “Hulu’s Laughing Now” will feature 12 comedy specials per year, adding one new comic per month.

Outside the United States, the Gaffigan special — which was taped earlier this year in Boston at the Wilbur Theater — will stream on Disney+.

“With the launch of ‘Hulu’s Laughing Now,’ we are excited to round out Hulu’s world-class comedy offering with a lineup of some of the funniest voices in stand-up comedy today,” said Craig Erwich, president of Disney Television Group. “Our slate is a true celebration of the art of stand-up, and we plan to make this a best-in-class destination for comedic talent through partnerships with other areas of The Walt Disney Co., bringing these comedians into our family in a meaningful way.”

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Gaffigan recently co-headlined with Jerry Seinfeld for a sold-out multi-city arena tour. He was also recently hailed for being the first comedian to reach 1 billion streams on Pandora. Gaffigan regularly does humorous commentaries on “CBS Sunday Morning,” for which he has won three Emmys.

Additional comics, and launch dates for their specials, will be announced at a future date. Hulu also is planning to launch a curated collection of licensed stand-up specials ranging from iconic comedy specials to recent releases from 800 Pound Gorilla and Comedy Dynamics, among others.

Stand-Up Comedy Special ‘Tracy Morgan: Takin’ It Too Far’ to Debut Aug. 17 on Max

The Max original stand-up comedy special Tracy Morgan: Takin’ It Too Far will debut Aug. 17 on Max.
 
Two-time Emmy-nominated actor and comedian Tracy Morgan (“30 Rock,” “The Last O.G.”) leaves it all on the stage in his first Max stand-up special taped live from the Wilbur Theater in Boston. The comedian unabashedly tackles topics such as dating in his 50s (along with the unexpected side effects that comes with it), his dysfunctional family, attempting to reverse gentrification in Brooklyn, and the very public 2014 car accident that left him with multiple broken bones, a traumatic brain injury, and a substantial settlement. 

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Morgan has been entertaining audiences for 30 years across television, film, and stand-up comedy. He became a household name during his seven year run as a series regular on “Saturday Night Live” and has continued making leaps in his career with another seven year stint portraying the hilariously unpredictable actor Tracy Jordan on the Emmy-nominated sitcom “30 Rock.” He returned to television in 2018 with “The Last O.G.,” which he co-created, executive produced, and starred in for four seasons. Morgan has also been part of some of the most successful animated films in recent years, such as Spirited, Scoob!, Rio, Rio 2 and G-Force. In addition to his Emmy noms, Morgan has been nominated for two NAACP Image Awards.

 

‘Maria Bamford Stand-Up Spotlight’ Headed to DVD May 9

Mill Creek Entertainment will release the stand-up comedy DVD Maria Bamford Stand-Up Spotlight — featuring two specials from the daytime Emmy-nominated comedian, actress and writer — on May 9.

The two specials include “Weakness Is Her Brand” and “The Special Special Special.”

Bamford is known for “Arrested Development,” “BoJack Horseman” and “Lady Dynamite!” and has regular guest appearances on “Big Mouth,” “Portlandia” and “SpongeBob Squarepants.”

She has won awards at the American Comedy Awards and Montreal Comedy Festival and is embarking on a new tour.

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Jim Gaffigan and Mike Birbiglia Stand-Up Double Features on DVD March 28 From Mill Creek

Mill Creek Entertainment will release two comedy double features from Comedy Dynamics — Jim Gaffigan Stand-Up Spotlight and Mike Birbiglia Stand-Up Spotlight — on DVD March 28. 

Gaffigan is a six-time Grammy nominated comedian, actor, writer, producer, two-time New York Times best-selling author, three-time Emmy winning top touring performer, and multi-platinum-selling recording artist. He is also known for the children’s films Luca and Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation and makes regular guest appearances on the TV shows “Rick and Morty” and “Bob’s Burgers.” Included in the double feature are the comedy specials “Noble Ape” and “Quality Time.” “Noble Ape” is his sixth hour-long comedy special, in which Gaffigan steers away from the conventional as he faced a medical crisis that hit his family. “Quality Time” is  his seventh comedy special, in which he doesn’t understand why we aren’t more honest about the reasons we don’t want to attend events and at the same time embraces lying to kids.

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Birbiglia is an award-winning stand-up comedian, actor, storyteller, director, producer and writer. He has appeared in the TV shows “Orange Is the New Black,” ‘Broad City,” “Billions” and “Inside Amy Schumer,” and recently appeared in Taylor Swift’s 2022 “Anti-Hero” music video. The longtime comedian has been nominated for numerous comedy and film awards, winning at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Sundance Film Festival and Nantucket Film Festival. The stand-up specials on the DVD include “What I Should Have Said Was Nothing” and “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend.” “What I Should Have Said Was Nothing” features a selection of the unique insights and observations culled from Birbiglia’s diary. In “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend,” Birbiglia shares a lifetime of romantic blunders and misunderstandings.

Ted Sarandos Defends Comic Dave Chappelle Over Controversial Netflix Special

Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos is defending the streamer’s decision to keep “The Closer,” an original new stand-up special featuring comic Dave Chappelle on the platform. The program has drawn protests regarding Chappelle’s comments about the transgender community.

Specifically, Chappelle, in the special, defends “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, who has criticized transgenders and claimed they represent a threat to her own gender identity.

“They canceled J.K. Rowling – my God,” Chappelle says on the program. “Effectually she said gender was a fact, the trans community got mad as [expletive], they started calling her a TERF [“trans exclusionary radical feminist”] … I’m Team TERF. I agree. I agree, man. Gender is a fact.”

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In an Oct. 8 staff memo, Sarandos reportedly said Chappelle is known for controversial comments — and generating lots of viewers. Netflix’s previous Chappelle special (the fifth under a long-term deal), “Sticks & Stones,” was one of the “stickiest” stand-up specials, according to the executive.

“Several of you have asked where we draw the line on hate,” Sarandos wrote. “We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe ‘The Closer’ crosses that line.”

Sarandos said he understands that distinguishing between commentary and harm is difficult, especially with stand-up comedy, which exists to push boundaries.

“Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited, but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering,” he wrote.

Redbox Inks Free Streaming Deal With Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Comedy Brand

Redbox and Laugh Out Loud (LOL), the global multi-platform comedy brand founded by Kevin Hart, have announced a content deal to bring more than 100 hours of stand-up specials and television shows to Redbox’s free AVOD streaming service.

The titles will be available through the Redbox streaming app via the LOL! Network, which is available on a wide range of devices, including Roku, Vizio, Samsung, LG, Xbox, iOS and Android.

The lineup includes comedy series, stand-up specials and television shows from LOL, including “All-Star Comedy Jam: I’m Still Laughing,” “All-Star Comedy Jam: Orlando,” “Gary Own: True Story,” “Kevin Hart: What Now? All Access,” “DeRay Davis: Power Play” and “Shaq and Cedric the Entertainer Present All-Star Comedy Jam.”

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Kevin Hart’s LOL! Network free streaming channel is also available to watch 24 hours a day via the Redbox app.

“Laugh Out Loud has an amazing collection of comedy specials and movies that will entertain our viewers for hours and hours on end,” Chris Yates, GM of Redbox On Demand, said in a statement. “Kevin has created a media powerhouse and we’re excited to add Laugh Out Loud’s amazing and hilarious content to Redbox On Demand.”

“Our goal at Laugh Out Loud has always been to be where the audience is. We are comedy in color wherever, and whenever, our audience wants or needs a laugh,” Laugh Out Loud CEO Jeff Clanagan said in a statement. “Redbox has been a dominant force in home entertainment for years, and we’re excited to partner with Redbox to bring our catalog of original series, stand up specials, and movies to millions of households throughout the country.”

The Opening Act

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 12/15/20;
RLJE Films;
Comedy;
$27.97 DVD, $28.96 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Jimmy O. Yang, Alex Moffat, Cedric the Entertainment, Neal Brennan, Debby Ryan, Ken Jeong, Bill Burr, Jermaine Fowler, Russell Peters, Whitney Cummings, Tom Segura, Iliza Shlesinger.

Fans of stand-up comedy should get a kick out of The Opening Act, the story of a young man at the crossroads of whether or not his life’s ambition is worth the pursuit. The cast of The Opening Act features a who’s who of the stand-up world, and only a few are actually playing the comedians.

Written and directed by stand-up comedian Steve Byrne (“Sullivan & Son”), and based in part on his own experiences starting out in stand-up, The Opening Act stars Jimmy O. Yang (“Silicon Valley”) as Will Chu, a claims adjuster who aspires to be a comic because growing up he bonded with his late father watching stand-up comedy together.

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Struggling just to get enough stage time with local open mic nights, Will gets the opportunity of a lifetime when a friend recommends him for a weekend MC gig for the Pittsburgh Improv. The headliner is Billy G (Cedric the Entertainer), who Will idolized growing up.

However, one awkward encounter after another leaves Will questioning if he has what it takes to make it in comedy. The feature comedian, Chris (Alex Moffat of “Saturday Night Live”) constantly wants Will to party, throwing off his concentration. A disastrous promotional appearance on a local radio show puts him on the radar for hecklers, throwing off his game as he tries out new material that just doesn’t land.

He seems more like he’s trying to go through the motions of what he thinks a stand-up comedian should do, without understanding what it takes to connect with the audience, until Billy G takes some pity on him, reminds him that every comedian has to learn to bomb hard, and gives him some advice that might help him turn things around.

All in all, the message of perseverance should resonate with all viewers.

The Blu-ray includes a six-minute making-of featurette, a three-minute featurette in which the cast members discuss the difficulties of getting started in comedy, and 11 minutes of footage of extended stand-up performances from the likes of Yang, Cedric, Whitney Cummings, Ken Jeong and more.

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RLJE Releasing ‘The Opening Act’ on Blu-ray and DVD Dec. 15

RLJE Films, a division of AMC Networks, will release the comedy The Opening Act on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Dec. 15.

Written and directed by stand-up comedian Steve Byrne, and produced by Vince and Peter Billingsley, The Opening Act stars Jimmy O. Yang (“Silicon Valley”) as Will Chu, who is stuck in a thankless job while trying to pursue his true passion in life, becoming a stand-up comedian. When he gets the opportunity he’s been waiting for, the emcee slot on the road opening for his hero Billy G. (Cedric the Entertainer), the realities of life on the stage come crashing in, from hecklers to drunk groupies to hard-to-impress morning radio DJs.

The cast also includes Alex Moffat (“Saturday Night Live”), Neal Brennan (Get Him to the Greek), Debby Ryan (“Insatiable”), Ken Jeong (The Hangover), Bill Burr (The King of Staten Island), Jermaine Fowler (“Superior Donuts”), Russell Peters (Supercon), Whitney Cummings (“Whitney”), Tom Segura (Instant Family), and Iliza Shlesinger (Spenser Confidential).

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Blu-ray and DVD extras include a making-of featurette; a “Getting Started in Comedy” featurette; and extended stand-up scenes with Yang, Cedric and Cummings.

The film is available now through VOD and digital sellthrough.

Chelsea Handler Stand-Up Special to Stream on HBO Max Oct. 22

Chelsea Handler makes a return to stand-up comedy after a six-year hiatus with HBO Max’s Chelsea Handler: Evolution debuting on the streamer Oct. 22.

During the hourlong special, Handler will share experiences about her family, friendships, and her first foray into therapy — where she unearthed why everyone on this planet annoys her so much. Handler reflects on her personal journey toward self-awareness, assisted by her reliable companion — cannabis.

A six-time No. 1 New York Times bestselling author, Handler filmed the special this summer from her home state of New Jersey on the heels of her most recent bestselling memoir, Life Will Be the Death of MeThe special was filmed in front of a live audience following social distancing and safety protocols.

Netflix streamed its first talk show in 2015 with Chelsea Handler, which lasted two seasons.

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Netflix Signs Jerry Seinfeld for Second Stand-Up Comedy Special

Netflix has reportedly inked Jerry Seinfeld for a second original stand-up comedy special, “Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill,” launching on May 5.

The deal follows a 2017 agreement affording Netflix with original stand-up special, “Jerry Before Seinfeld,” followed by streaming rights to original series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” which originated for nine seasons on Crackle before moving to Netflix in 2019.

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Netflix also gets exclusive rights to “Seinfeld” beginning in 2021.

Seinfeld remains a headline act in Netflix’s previously-announced “Netflix is a Joke Fest” live comedy event in Los Angeles, which has been postponed from its original April 27 to May 3 dates.

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