When I began covering the world of stand-up comedy more than 11 years ago, the way in which we consumed laughs was drastically different. There were only a few networks that ran original stand-up comedy specials. HBO, of course, was the most respected; it’s what every stand-up comedian aspired to accomplish.
And the comedy album, obviously, was there—but in far lower numbers than we’re getting now. I remember actually being able to listen to or watch every stand-up comedy album and comedy special released in a given year; there were maybe 50 or 60 to get through. Now there are easily over 200 comedy albums and specials released every year—the majority of which are distributed through digital platforms. And that’s great. Though, honestly, it’s all a bit much to synthesize, to digest and enjoy.
That’s part of why I’m digging and digging into Seeso, NBCUniversal’s subscription streaming service that was launched in January. Though the service boasts a roster of stellar original program – Bajillion Dollar Properties, Debate Wars with Michael Ian Black and Take My Wife with Cameron Esposito to name a few – its Seeso Stand-Up Streaming Fest is what’s most compelling to me right now. Launched on Oct. 20 and running through Jan. 5, Seeso is premiering new stand-up comedy events every Thursday.
Maybe I’m just anal and/or pragmatic to a fault but though some streaming services offer a ton of comedy I find it disorderly and sort of blindly curated, you know? But knowing every Thursday, something new of note in the world of stand-up is coming my way gets me to the point where I don’t feel I’m missing something.
Out of the already-released specials, I’ve taken a keen interest in Jena Friedman’s American Cunt, a well-paced and brilliantly written set that is simultaneously a scathing socio-political commentary on where we are as a nation and yet also a digestible romp through stand-up comedy’s more traditional concepts.
Also solid, is Mo Mandel’s Negative Reinforcement, a balanced set of jokes that sway from light-hearted hilarious stories (see the Julio Iglesias bit below) to some dark, dark shit. How about Mo’s mother’s abortion and sexually transmitted disease, you guys! Yep. Embrace it. All of it is worthy of at least one watch.
Janeane Garofalo’s new special If I May also premiered on Seeso (see clip below); that’s next on my list, seeing as she one of the first stand-up comedians I obsessed over as a young lad. Specials from Tyree Elaine and Robert Powell just premiered yesterday and Dan Levy’s special Lion will premiere next Thursday (Nov. 17). And there’s more coming from Aries Spears, Lachlan Patterson, Joey CoCo Diaz, Nick Thune, Ian Harvie, Laurie Kilmartin, Joe Matarese and Brian Posehn!