Comedy Wrap

Everything that is going on in the comedy world

Friends Reunion Possible!

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Can you believe it? Classic 90s sitcom, Friends, is celebrating its 25th year anniversary, and according to the The Hollywood Reporter, discussions are underway among the cast (six core stars) and Warner Bros. TV creative team to bring Friends crew together for an unscripted reunion special on the new WarnerMedia streaming service, HBO Max.

Principle stars include Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer. Series creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman are expected to be involved. Word of caution … this is deal far from final as there are many details to sort through.

Despite past denials from the cast and creative team regarding their decade long collaboration, WarnerMedia is highly incentivized and crazy not to leverage its highly valuable IP for its streaming service launch into this very crowded landscape. The most of the cast came together in 2016 to join NBC’s special honoring of legendary director and producer James Burrows. Five of the six stars — save for Perry — participated in the look back that also featured the casts of Will & Grace, Cheers and The Big Bang Theory.

Recently, Aniston told daytime comedian talker, Ellen DeGeneres, “We would love for there to be something, but we don’t know what that something is. So we’re just trying. We’re working on something.”

Why is Friends still popular? The 10-season long series has remained popular in various television syndication deals, but has managed to generate new fans on Netflix. So, it’s no surprise WarnerMedia snagged the series back for its HBO Max offering. The series leaves Netflix at the end of the year and will debut on WarnerMedia’s HBO Max. Fans will have to sign up for a $15 monthly subscription fee to hang out with Friends again.

Sources say WarnerMedia paid $85 million per year for five years ($425 million) to reclaim streaming rights to Friends for its own platform. (Netflix, for its part, paid somewhere between $80 million to $100 million.

Check out some bloopers from the Series

Netflix Stand Up Specials You Should Check Out

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Comedy nerds regularly debate which platform is the best for stand up comedy specials. The stand up comedy boon really got its first start in 1980s as new cable channels began to emerge to give club comedians TV exposure. Tradtionally, comedians would develop their comedy acts and hope to get on Tonight Show w/ Johnny Carson or Late Night with David Letterman. By late 1980s, Arsenio Hall entered the late night arena with his popular urban appeal talker that dominated most of the 1990s.

Also around this time HBO and Showtime added fuel to the comedy fire by offering hour long unedited stand up comedy specials that enabled not safe for primetime comedians to get their exposure.

20 years later starting from 2010s to present, Bloomberg reports profiles Netflix as they discovered that that stand up comedy is a cost-effective way to build a large content library featuring celebrities around the world that would help the streaming company grow their subscriber base. Now, Netflix is refining their content strategy and starting to look at different forms of comedies like sketch comedy and perhaps different formats. This year Netflix streamed about 30 comedy specials so far this year compared to last year where it offered 50+ at this point last year.

Having said that Netflix is still far and away the biggest financier and distributor of standup comedies among all the major TV networks. Some of my favorites (in no particular order) from this list.

Dave Chappelle, The Age of Spin In less than a year, Chappelle dropped four stand-up specials on the streaming platform in one ear. All are good but my favorites is Age of Spin and Equanimity because I think they best showcase his brilliance.

Hasan Minhaj, Homecoming King Former Daily Show correspondent, Hasan Minhaj weaves an intricate and hilarious account of his life as a son of Indian-American immigrants. Truly relatable to fellow Indian but other Asian Americans born and raised in the US.

John Mulaney, Kid Gorgeous At Radio City Mulaney brings his self-effacing humor with this comedy special. The guy’s still a tall, lanky, baby-faced, squeaky-clean dude who can bring the funny in familiar and baffling norms of society

Richard Pryor, Live In Concert Many comedy aficionados would argue this Pryor comedy special is the blueprint that has influenced many of the stand up comedy specials we see today. Live in Concert was the first feature-length film to entirely focus on a stand-up comedy routine. Eddie Murphy has described Pryor as “the single greatest stand-up performance ever captured on film.”

Aziz Ansari, Right Now This is Ansari’s first Netflix special after allegations of sexual harassment hovers over this performance. This experience has given Ansari time to really ponder the current wokeness culture, importance of family, and #MeToo controversy. This is an honest and rare look at Ansari’s willingness to peel back the layers of fame and his own self-preservation in this new era.

Wanda Sykes, Not Normal Filmed in D.C., Sykes takes everything on from Trump to aging to body image. She brings her irreverent and very relatable experiences on full display in this special.

Chris Rock, Tamborine This is by far one of his most personal and best performances. We get to see a more grown up Rock. His last special was on HBO in 2008 (just ahead Barack Obama’s first election win.)

Mindy Kaling Paves Her Own Comedy Path

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Mindy Kaling has written and staring alongside Emma Thompson in a new movie, Late Night, that chronicles her character’s journey as Indian American woman who aspires to be a late night comedy writer. The consensus among movie reviewers has been positive. As a fellow big comedy fan and Indian American, this storyline of multi-cultural representation in a mainstream American comedy world is right up my alley. Check out her recent interview discussing her career trajectory & the movie trailer for Late Night.

One could argue this film is an autobiographical telling of Kaling’s comedy career. She found her comedy skills early on. In her Vanity Fair interview, she shares her memory of making her father laugh after he read one of her comedic short stories. Encouraged by his response she was bitten by the comedy bug. As she got older she became a huge fan of Saturday Night Live and The Kids in the Hall.

In high school, she wrote a series of regular humor-themed columns for the school’s newspaper. At Dartmouth, she fully submerged herself into the arts. She joined a comedy improv group, created a beloved comic strip called “Badly Drawn Girl” and graduated with a playwriting degree. After Dartmouth, she and her friend and classmate, Brenda Withers, moved to New York and quickly found success in an off-Broadway play called Matt & Ben. It was a quirky play that imagined how Matt Damon and Ben Affleck developed the script for Good Will Hunting.

After some career disappointments and setbacks related to Hollywood fickleness, Kaling created her own path in Hollywood. One silver lining from the Matt & Ben play was that producer Greg Daniels had seen the play and invited Kaling to a meeting. He offered her a role on the writing staff for an upcoming sitcom called The Office.

Kaling played Kelly Kapoor, the lovable if delusional customer service representative in the office, over the show’s nine seasons. Kaling was one of the few initial hires to be a part of the series through its full run and served as producer for the series. The Office’s wild success (garnering 42 Emmy nominations and a slew of other accolades) was Kaling’s ticket to Hollywood stardom. Kaling was the only female and person of color on the writing staff during the first season. Here are some of her funniest moments from the series.

In next series, Kaling pulled double duty as showrunner and star for her own series, The Mindy Project. Kaling played a rom-com obsessed doctor in this series that ran for six seasons between FOX and Hulu.

Kaling was so used to resistance of her own rise to success that she didn’t realize she had become a beacon of hope for others like her. In a full circle moment, Kaling talked about her Late Night film on Lilly Singh’s late night show “A Little Late with Lilly Singh” (the only network late night show currently hosted by a woman and minority), Kaling reflected on how seeing no one like her in late night, “Was like loving something that didn’t love me back.”

Shah Rukh Khan Chats With David Letterman

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David Letterman’s series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction”, featured the comedian speaking with India’s biggest movie star. Shah Rukh Khan, Bollywood’s biggest movie star delivered to David Letterman his biggest IMDB rating (9.5) for his s Netflix series.

Online entertainment database, IMDB, provides fan ratings for virtually every type of entertainment content that is distributed to new media platforms (i.e. movies, tvs, home videos, video games and streaming content). IMDB ratings are derived from the publisher’s registered users voting of various entertainment content on a scale of 1 to 10. This is their way of providing a simplified overview of what other IMDb users all over the world think about these different entertainment titles listed on the IMDB site.

There was a plethora of delightful and interesting moments during the interview where SRK showcased his charm and sense of humor. Apparently both stars had a great time hanging out and released public statements praising each other.

During the interview in front of a live audience Letterman said, “The best part of this job that Netflix has been happy to provide for me is to meet people. And after each one of these sessions I think to myself, it is a very smart, very lovely person from whom I have learned things. You would maybe be at the top of that list.”

Check out the Netflix trailer

RIP John Witherspoon

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Comedian and actor, John Witherspoon, who made audiences laugh for decades passed away unexpectedly.

Witherspoon started his career performing stand-up comedy and acting in the late 1970s. Over his career he has worked in both television and films. Some of his famous movie roles include Hollywood Shuffle, Boomerang, Friday, Vampire in Brooklyn, The Ladies Man and Fakin’ Da Funk.

My favorite is his performance in Boomerang and his appearances on Late Show with David Letterman. Check them out.

Biggest Comedy Stars Bump Into Each Other in Atlanta

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What if you were lucky enough to get a tour of Tyler Perry’s new studio lot in Atlanta? And, as you walk around you see this?

This year Tyler Perry celebrated the grand opening of his newest studio location in Atlanta. He is the first African-American to outright own a major film production studio. It’s here where production is underway for Coming To America 2 & Bad Boys 3.

Four stars filming two different movies bumped into each other and took some pictures. Their collective Box Office earnings has exceeded $15 billion, according to The Numbers.

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith reunite and pick up their next adventure after a 17 year hiatus from last caper. Bad Boys For Life will be hitting the US theaters in January 2020. Check out the trailer.

Eddie Murphy and Wesley Snipes recently worked together in Netflix’s Dolemite biopic and are currently filming Coming to America 2, which is expected to be released next summer.

Dave Chappelle Receives Mark Twain Prize

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This weekend President Donald Trump was booed at Game 5 of the World Series at Nationals Park in Washington, however cross town the vibe was the joyous at the Kennedy Center where Dave Chappelle was awarded the Mark Twain Prize. Many of his fellow comedians and showbiz stars showed up to give Dave his props. In attendance was Neal Brennan, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, Jeff Ross, Michelle Wolf and George Lopez.

At the event, Chappelle was asked about his eclectic network of friends and collaborators to which he replied “It’s not a secret sauce. It’s just that I love these people, and I’ll try to find any excuse to be around these guys. They inspire me, they make brave, they make me humble, they make me work harder, they make me edit myself by example.”

SNL co-head writer Michael Che shared his thoughts on Chappelle’s appeal, “He can perform, he can write, he can do characters, he can do everything that you want out of a comedian — and that’s why I think his fan base is spread so wide. Dave is a master of all trades, and it’s amazing to watch.” Onstage, SNL creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels shared he wanted Chappelle to host the first show after the 2016 election. Lorne Michaels told the Kennedy Center audience…“Whichever way the election went, I knew I needed someone to explain what had just happened. He’s a truth teller and the funniest person in comedy today.” BTW - this episode won the Emmy for the variety series. Check out this monologue for that show.

Aziz Ansari toured with Chappelle and told the audience “He’s an incredible human being. This man is very deep. He treats every moment like it has the potential to be a wonderful memory.”

In his acceptance speech that will broadcast on Jan 7, 2020 on PBS said, “I know comics who are very racist — and you watch them on stage and you think, ‘Oh, that motherfucker means that shit.’ Don’t get mad at them, don’t hate them. We go upstairs and have a beer and sometimes I even appreciate the artistry that they paint their racist opinions with. It’s not that serious. The First Amendment is first for a reason — the Second Amendment is just in case the first one doesn’t work out.”

'Late Night' Host Seth Meyers Quickly Staffed Up After Trump's Election

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The election of Donald Trump caught nearly everyone by surprise including the media and entertainment industry. For example, over at NBC’s “Late Night” Seth Meyers team scrambled to hire a bunch of news researchers to support ‘A Closer Look’, a longform segment that provides context and jokes about the non-stop breaking news that is bombarding national and international audiences. CNN Jake Tapper interviewed Meyers at its “Citizens By CNN” event recently.

Seth’s debuts each ‘A Closer Look’ segment on his show and later posts them on YouTube which has climbed over 11 million views online. These segments have allowed Seth to distinguish himself from the other late night talkers. These news recaps makes me feel smarter because the most critical details are highlighted in these segments.

Meyers, who has had a long history of mocking Trump, going back to the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, said that the Trump presidency didn’t just change late night TV. Check out the killer jokes that many say motivated Trump to run for president.

Meyers has been hosting NBC late show since 2014. For comedy fans will be able to see Meyers return to his comedy roots in an upcoming Netflix stand up comedy special.

Netflix Celebrates 25 Years of 'Def Comedy Jam'

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In 1992 HBO premiered Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam and Netflix is marking the show’s 25th anniversary by bringing back those comedians to pay tribute and celebrate this ground-breaking stand up comedy show. Many of today’s biggest African American comedians got their first big break and national television exposure on Def Jam. Today’s biggest comedian starts that include Dave Chappelle, Monique and Mike Epps will be there to give their props.

Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos spoke of his passion to air the special at the event. “We’ve been doing stand-up comedy particularly in the last couple of years. This felt like a natural home for [the special] to keep the legacy going and keep the history going,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

One of the best moments from this show happened between segment tapings where comedians D.L. Hughley and Dave Chappelle joked about their public school education onstage and led a sing-a-long with the audiences.

Patrice O'Neal Doc Coming to Comedy Central

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Stand-up comedian Patrice O’Neal, who died in 2011 at age 41, will finally get the recognition he so richly deserves. Nine months before he passed he taped a Comedy Central stand up special, Elephant In The Room.

I was at this show taping and it was incredible. What I noticed he starts off his show by picking on people in the crowd, but as he engages with people I realized he’s not exactly performing … it’s more like a stream of consciousness that is peppered with on-the-spot jokes. A lot of his material revolves around relationships, stereotypes, and offers advice about women. This hilarious special includes deleted scenes and 20 additional minutes from this special. Note for snowflakes…this guy is probably not for you.

Comedy Central announced their partnership with Bill Burr and Al Madrigal’s company All Things Comedy to produce an in-depth documentary that will cover the comedian’s life and career and will feature interviews with the comedian’s family, friends, and fellow comedians.

“Patrice was a tour de force in comedy who left an indelible stamp on the stand-up community and beyond,” Comedy Central execs Sarah Babineau and Jonas Larsen said on the project. “Comedy Central had the incredible opportunity to work with him throughout his career from Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, to the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen and to his last stand-up special Elephant in the Room. Patrice was a fearless and fierce comedian and we’re honored to be able to shine a light on his life and career with this documentary.” Bill Burr added, “So happy that Mike Bonfiglio and Comedy Central are going to make this happen. Patrice was the best that I ever saw.“

Video below includes a collection of Patrice O'Neal’s appearances on Comedy Central’s Tough Crowd w/ Colin Quinn.