Netflix looks for an IRL hit with 250-show comedy festival in Los Angeles

Netflix looks for an IRL hit with 250-show comedy festival in Los Angeles

Netflix usually wants subscribers glued to their television screens. But this week, the streaming giant will give comedy nerds at least one reason to get off the couch.

Netflix Is A Joke: The Festival is the entertainment company’s most ambitious foray into live, in-person events since it was founded 25 years ago: an 11-day, 250-show comedy extravaganza across more than 30 venues in Los Angeles.

The festival, scheduled to take place from Thursday to May 8, underscores Netflix’s big-spending commitment to stand-up comedy as an artistic medium and a business venture.

In the last decade, the platform has given a home to dozens of exclusive stand-up specials from some of the biggest — and some of the most incendiary — names in modern comedy, luring comics away from HBO and Comedy Central.

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The lineup at this month’s festival is no less star-studded.

Aziz Ansari, Patton Oswalt and Wanda Sykes at the Orpheum Theatre. Kevin Hart at Arena. Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias at Dodger Stadium. Sebastian Maniscalco at the Art Deco landmark the Wiltern. John Mulaney at the Hollywood Bowl. Amy Schumer at the trendy Ace Hotel.

Robbie Praw, a comedy fanatic who is Netflix’s vice president of stand-up and comedy formats, said the coronavirus pandemic forced the company to delay festival plans that were originally mapped out in early 2020.

“To have to delay because of the pandemic was really disappointing, but it gave us more time to grow the festival substantially, because we felt like the idea of celebrating stand-up and comedy took on a whole new meaning,” Praw said.

Praw, who previously spent a dozen years at the esteemed Just for Laughs festival in Montreal, said the array of events now doubles as a “celebration of being in the same room as your friends again.”

“So many of us in the stand-up community haven’t had the opportunity to get together for a big event like this, so it feels like we’re about to start a major comedy camp,” Praw said.

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