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Netflix steps into live events with its inaugural Netflix Is a Joke Fest

Netflix is leaning into its comedy brand to diversify its offerings beyond streaming—but in a space as crowded as streaming, are live events the way to go?

Netflix steps into live events with its inaugural Netflix Is a Joke Fest
Left to right: Amy Schumer, Kevin Hart, Ali Wong, Dave Chappelle, and David Letterman. [Photos: Elizabeth Sisson/Netflix (Schumer); courtesy of Netflix (Hart); Ken Woroner/Netflix (Wong); Mathieu Bitton/Netflix (Chappelle); Joe Puglise/Netflix (Letterman)]

Netflix is making it clear that it wants to be more than just a streaming service—and it’s using comedians as its guinea pigs to figure out exactly what that means.

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The company branded its comedy division as Netflix Is a Joke last year in the form of a Sirius XM partnership—and now the streaming service is dipping into live events with Netflix Is a Joke Fest.

Produced in association with Live Nation, Netflix Is a Joke Fest is a festival of stand-up and activations across Los Angeles that will take place April 27-May 3 and showcase Netflix’s stable of comedians, including Dave Chappelle, Ali Wong, Bill Burr, Martin Lawrence, Amy Schumer, and more. The festival will have more than 100 live shows spread across more than 20 venues in L.A. Certain sets will be taped for distribution on Netflix later this year.

Netflix Is a Joke Fest will culminate in the inaugural edition of The Hall, a hall-of-fame ceremony honoring the greats in stand-up, with a physical location for The Hall set in a newly designed wing of the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York. The Hall’s inductees for 2020 will be George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, and Joan Rivers, and will feature the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Kevin Hart, Billy Crystal, Chris Rock, and more paying homage.

View larger image here. [Image: courtesy of Netflix]
“This festival is a unique celebration of the art of comedy, and the role it plays in reflecting our lives and defining culture,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, in a statement. “It’s a chance for comedy lovers to come together and see their favorite artists as well as discover new ones, and for us to be able to share the electricity and excitement of the festival in Los Angeles with Netflix members around the world.”

It’s also a chance for Netflix to tap into another revenue stream.

Netflix joins a growing list of networks and platforms taking their content into the real world in the form of live events. In 2018, Adult Swim launched the Adult Swim Festival, and a year before that, Comedy Central threw its hat into the ring with Clusterfest. Netflix would be wise to learn from its competitors’ mistakes, particularly Clusterfest, which attendees dubbed #clusterfyre (a portmanteau of Clusterfest and the notorious Fyre Festival) last year after issues of overcrowding overshadowed the event.

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Netflix Is a Joke Fest certainly has the star power to bring an audience, but the question remains: Do we need another comedy festival as much as Netflix needs another way to diversify its brand and revenue in an increasingly crowded streaming landscape?

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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