FARANDULANOTICIAS

Robbie Praw Interview, VP of Stand-Up



Netflix may not have taken home the Academy Award for Best Picture just yet, but in the comedy industry, the streaming giant is dominant. In the time since Robbie Praw joined Netflix as Director of Original Stand-Up Comedy Programming in 2016, they’ve won five of the six Grammys for Best Comedy Album, as well as five of the six Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special.

No wonder they’re prepared to celebrate with their first-ever live, in-person comedy festival, Netflix Is A Joke: The Festival. Originally scheduled for the end of April 2020, but obviously delayed two years due to the pandemic, Netflix’s comedy confab opened on April 28 and runs through May 8, 2022, with hundreds of shows spread out across Los Angeles.

Several showcases will be filmed for future Netflix specials. Among them:

  • Gabriel Iglesias performing two sold-out shows at Dodger Stadium
  • That’s My Time with David Letterman, hosting and interviewing stand-up comedians
  • Arsenio! Arsenio Hall’s limited-run reboot of his legendary late-night TV show, airing exclusively on Netflix’s YouTube channel
  • Pete Davidson Presents: The Best Friends
  • The Hall: Honoring The Greats of Stand-Up, a tribute to George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers, and Robin Williams, in conjunction with a physical installment at the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, NY
  • Netflix Is A Joke showcases, hosted by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, and by Amy Schumer
  • Snoop Dogg’s F*cn Around Comedy Special, featuring Katt Williams, Mike Epps, Sommore and more
  • STAND OUT: An LGBTQ+ Celebration, hosted by Billy Eichner at The Greek Theatre, with performances from Bob the Drag Queen, Eddie Izzard, Fortune Feimster, Gina Yashere, Guy Branum, James Adomian, Joel Kim Booster, Judy Gold, Mae Martin, Margaret Cho,  Marsha Warfield, Matteo Lane, Patti Harrison, River Butcher, Sam Jay, Sandra Bernhard, Scott Thompson, Solomon Georgio, Tig Notaro, Trixie Mattel, Wanda Sykes and more.
  • Bill Burr Presents: Friends Who Kill
  • Franco Escamilla: Voyerista Auditivo

The festival also features promotional panels and screenings for Netflix series such as Cobra Kai, The Pentaverate, Never Have I Ever, Blockbuster, and Somebody Feed Phil.

Decider caught up with Praw to dish about the festival he’s running, how it compares to his previous gig programming the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, and where Netflix stands in the comedy space.

DECIDER: Was a comedy festival something you’d been pining to do at Netflix since joining six years ago? Or did you think you’d left the festival game behind you in Montreal?

ROBBIE PRAW: Before I was at Just For Laughs, I was a comedy fan. And my favorite type of comedy was going to a comedy club or to a show. So I’ve always believed that in this industry, it’s an honor and a thrill to work with these great comedians and make these great specials, but that feeling of sitting next to somebody in a room and watching comedy, I think is the real true way of experiencing this art form. What happened is, a few years into us really expanding our stand-up slate at Netflix, you look at this group of talent that we had worked with, and I think we’re excited to put on a show or a festival with a lot of the people that we’d already been working with. I actually think that having a background in it maybe me made me more wary, rather than more strong-headed about wanting to do it. So we announced that festival two years ago, and then I think ever since we cancelled the first version of this festival, I think that it’s really taken on this next meaning of, all right, well, comedy’s back. Let’s celebrate it. Let’s do it in this even bigger way. So I think that’s really been the genesis of it.

I did not come to Netflix with festival-throwing ambitions. If you would’ve told the me of six years ago we were doing this now, I wouldn’t believe you.

Before the pandemic, the pacing of stand-up comedy specials on Netflix really took off. Just among the English speaking specials, there was one a week, without fail. What was that like for you as a curator as an executive producer? 

It’s funny. When we think about the music business, we’re not like, “Wow! 50 albums were put out this year. That’s a crazy amount of albums!” And that’s where I view stand-up. I think that Netflix starting to do more specials in around 2016 — followed by the emergence of Twitter, YouTube, and podcasts — there was this big surge of so many great quality comedians wanting to put out work. And at the same time we were seeing that our members were really responding to stand-up and watching a lot. I don’t have the statistics, but it’s like our members were watching 10 specials each, or a great number. And because comedy is so subjective, and what I may find funny, may be very different than what you find funny. The volume really just made sense, as we’re building our base of specials available on Netflix.

You mentioned the comparison to the music industry. What’s different about the comedy industry is that, before 2016, we saw very few new comedy specials each year by comparison. Comedy Central had been the dominant force, but even they would release a special, air it once or twice, and then it would disappear. HBO would release a handful of comedy specials. But comedy fans didn’t have that much content to consume on TV or streaming before 2016, even though you and I both know there were hundreds of stand-ups headlining comedy clubs and theaters with an hour of material each.

I think that what got me excited about the opportunity at Netflix was, when I was at Just For Laughs around 2014, 2015, I started to see a trend, right? So comedians that had specials on Netflix, they were selling more tickets at the festivals that I was overseeing, whether that was in Australia or Chicago or Toronto or Montreal. Wherever it was. So when we started to grow this initiative in around 2015-16, it was just quite obvious that our members were very eager to watch more stand-up than was currently in the marketplace. And there was a very big opening from a distribution standpoint. It wasn’t that there weren’t great comedians doing work. There was a hole in how distribution was handled at the time. And Netflix was licensing a whole slew of specials, so it was very clear that people were watching them. So it was pretty exciting to watch that movement grow a few years ago to all of these comedians launching specials, and then selling more tickets, and then more people coming into comedy kind of as a virtuous cycle.

When the pandemic in 2020 put a kibosh on the festival’s initial dates and slate, you put everything on hold. But you did film a couple of specials — Nate Bargatze and London Hughes — outdoors in the hills outside Universal Studios. Did you think about trying to do more specials that way, or even do the festival that way?

I truly believe that comedy is best in a room, with an audience. That doesn’t mean that everything needs to be that. One of my favorite specials ever was Bo Burnham: Inside, which he did in a different way. So you know, I don’t think that there’s any rules here, but generally, I think that’s the best way to do it. We experimented with Kevin Hart, shot his special in what looked like his house, and we did more clip-show type of things. So we figured it out, because we knew that our members wanted comedy. Just because we were having trouble filming it didn’t mean that folks didn’t want to laugh. In fact, I think it was a time that people were really looking for this type of stuff. But it was definitely very hard to produce. And, you know, we’re still dealing with the after effects, so many specials not being filmed, that now we’re filming a lot.

Right. Going through the festival schedule, it looks like at least a dozen, maybe more things you’re filming either for the YouTube channel or for Netflix proper?

Yeah, we have a lot of things going on at the moment right now. It’s exciting. We’re shooting around 10 specials over the next 10 days.

How difficult was it to keep some of those show lineups together?

I think individually, nothing was hard. I think the biggest challenge we’ve had is just for scale of how this thing has come together. That’s been daunting, but luckily for us, talent has been fairly game to participate.

Right, because in Montreal, you filmed galas each year for the CBC, but those were all in location. Or you worked with third-parties such as HBO Canada or The Comedy Network or Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud. For this, you’re filming multiple specials in multiple locations, sometimes at the same time.

Obviously being in Los Angeles makes that a little easier than being in another city, just because of the density of not only talent in front of the camera that lives here that you don’t have to fly out for an event like this, but also the density of production crews and all those things. It’s certainly a very difficult undertaking but made a lot easier because we have great crews of people that are ready to work out here.

How important do you think it’s been that you’ve had these longstanding relationships with the comedians, not just to recruit them for Netflix specials, but also have them eager and wanting to be part of this festival?

It’s a lot of people with a lot of relationships. But I think like fundamentally, the relationship here is, Netflix over the last five years has been, I believe, a very interesting part of the history of stand-up. And I think that is truly the energy that we’re marshaling in this thing.

Congratulations. Also, I see that you have a new job title: VP of Stand-Up and Comedy Formats.

Yes, I have a new title. But I’m doing the same thing, Sean.

What is under your purview now, then?

Obviously our team does the stand-up specials for Netflix, but also shows like I Think You Should Leave and Murderville, and roasts or things like The Hall, which are not like straight-ahead stand-up. We do those as well out of this group.

Lastly, I don’t want to put you on the spot.

You can, go ahead.

Well, Netflix has taking a hit from shareholders and from media critics recently. How does it feel, the criticism of Dave Chappelle notwithstanding, how does it feel to know that your department has remained not only a bright spot, but also a dominant one for the platform? HBO Max has been slow to ramp up its comedy pipeline. Amazon Prime Video made a big splash a couple of years ago only to recede. Most of Comedy Central’s bookers and programming executives have left as part of ViacomCBS merging. There’s not really anybody competing with you in the comedy space.

We’ve just focused on our talent. So it dovetails back to like, why are we doing the festival and all that? When I left Just For Laughs, I had a joke that I left a small comedy-obsessed company, only to move to a big comedy-obsessed company. Netflix, at its core from when we started to get into originals, some of the first categories were documentaries and stand-up. So I think it’s really in our bones, and I think over the years, we just cultivated relationships with some of the best stand-ups in the world and also had the opportunity to launch the Ali Wongs and the Taylor Tomlinsons and Hannah Gadsbys and Ronnie Chiengs and all these people. I think that a part of our success isn’t just the fact that we worked with the Dave Chappelles or the Chris Rocks or the Jerry Seinfeldss or the Adam Sandlers, but a big part of the story is the folks that we’ve worked with and who built their careers. Because they always have their great talent, all these comedians, but I think we were able to match that with a great amount of eyeballs. And I think that’s why we were successful. Some of that same energy is, how we do the specials at this festival, which has lot of those big names, but also I think folks are going to be really excited about discovering other people as well.

Speaking of which, are there any plans to reintroduce The Comedy Lineup (Netflix’s 15-minute stand-up showcases)? I know you released a third round of half-hours under The Standups at the end of 2021.

We’re really looking for different ways to make stand-up comedians famous. When I look at the landscape right now, I’m impressed by all these comedians, like the Sam Morrils, and the Chris DiStefanos and Andrew Schulzes who like, have done such crazy business on YouTube, and now are selling out theaters. So I think we’re always looking for different ways of taking stand-up and putting it in front of people. So shows like The Comedy Lineup or The Standups. I think those shows have been great vehicles for that. But I think we’re also open to like, what is the next wave of doing that? Like for instance, at the festival, we have David Letterman doing a show that’s gonna air on Netflix in which he’s, essentially it’s five minutes, just like (comics who) did Letterman back in the day, and then you’re doing panel. So every episode is literally that, and I think that’s going to be such a cool opportunity for those comedians. I think that that’s part of our DNA, not just focus on the biggies, but how to how to make sure that we’re cultivating the next generation.

How does Arsenio Hall’s YouTube late-night talk-show reboot fit into this?

So much fun. You know, we’re figuring it out. And I think we’re going to try to launch some stand-up on it as well. I mean, we’re gonna have high-profile guests. So it’s going to be structured like an Arsenio show, with very cool guests, but I think you could expect that we’re going to try to launch some stand-ups from that show as well.

So if there’s one old-timer who’s still alive who you wish you can get on Netflix before they die?

Mel Brooks is my hero. I would have loved to work with him in some capacity.

Well, there’s still time.

My mother often tells me that I’ve worked with some cool people, but until I work with Mel Brooks, she’s not remotely impressed with anything.

.

TE INTERESA>>  Niurka revela que tuvo intimidad con Juan Vidal en La Casa de los Famosos; así confirmó su relación

Deja una respuesta

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada.

Botón volver arriba