Is Stand-Up Comedy Dying?

Look, I’m not a comedy connoisseur or anything. I’m not an expert in stand-up comedy and I certainly don’t know any of the big names from 20 years ago unless they’re still somewhat popular today. But I think it’s an interesting form of entertainment that everyone is familiar with and probably has experienced to some extent.

Netflix, I think, revitalized and perhaps saved the stand-up industry in a way. It brought HD quality specials from big names right to your house. Before that, you had to watch the Comedy Network channel on TV and it was usually a grab bag of Just For Laughs segments from years ago. Unless there was some other way to consume it… But now, thanks to Netflix, John Mulaney has become a household name, and thank goodness, because he is a gift to mankind. (Yes, I know Amazon Prime also has stand-up, but its content just not as talked about or popular).

You breathed new life in me gif.
Stand-up comedians to Netflix

But I don’t know how sustainable stand-up is. A lot of the major players in the game are easily aged 30+ and soon they’ll probably not want to tour as much (perhaps because of family), want to branch out permanently to TV/film as many do, or just retire altogether. And there doesn’t seem to be a lot of younger people getting any success. I can’t think of any up and comers aside from maybe some SNL people, but then again, I’m not going out of my way to learn any either. Of course, I don’t expect Netflix to hand a contract to some random 22 year-old no-name, but I do wonder if there are any efforts being made to bring in a new generation of comedians.

I also think the audience is changing and that’s dictating the content a little. Obviously, there are more females and minorities in the stand-up industry than there were years ago and they’re big names, so in turn, I’d think women and minorities are watching more. And because it’s widely available at home and you don’t need to go to some sketchy bar at night, younger people are more into it too. The other week my father watched Jerry Seinfeld’s new Netflix special and most of it was him griping about new technology in that very typical boomer kind of way. Dad was laughing, but I did not find it that great, and I think it was because of the age disconnect.

OK, Boomer.

Furthermore, because we now mostly consume stand-up comedy from our couches, I wonder if that has or will take a hit on live performances. Do comedy clubs still have large audiences? Are people less likely to pay to see a big name comedian’s show if they know it’ll be on Netflix in a few months? Are comedians going on shorter tours because they know they’ll reach more people online? Are the many stand-up specials on Netflix enough to keep people subscribed to the platform?

Lastly, and this does tie to the audience perception, online I’ve seen a criticism of male comedians that I 100% agree with and it’s to stop with the ‘I hate my wife’ schtick. It’s so annoying when some male has whole sets about how annoying it is when the wife wants to talk to him or when she “is controlling” by not wanting him to ditch her and the kids for two weeks so he can go to Vegas with his buddies. When you have nothing nice to say about your relationship and have to constantly villanize the person you chose to marry on stage, it’s not fun to watch. It’s weird. It’s a problem. And women do it too, don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of female comedians who go on and on about how lazy and clueless their husbands can be. And I get that perhaps it’s just for the joke and a good portion of it is relatable to other married people, but I think it can and should be avoided if comedians want to appeal to especially the younger generation. (It’s just another reason why John Mulaney is a standout because he regularly talks about how great his wife is and makes himself the butt of the joke more).

That's a yikes from me gif.

Anyway, I enjoy stand-up and I by no means want to see it die out. I’d love to go to a comedy club one day. And going to the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival one year is definitely a bucket list thing for me. But I do wonder if stand-up will still be as culturally relevant in 20 years. I wonder if young people dreaming of making others laugh will bother with the stand-up route. I wonder if comedians of today will stand the test of time.

Do you watch stand-up often? Do you think it’s a sustainable industry? Do you have any criticism of the stand-up content out there these days?

That’s all for now!

 

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Monthly Look Ahead: March 2020

Prepare yourselves for one very exciting post on this leap day.

Just kidding. It’s incredibly boring. Because I, for what I think is the first time, have only ONE thing to look forward to this March. Isn’t that sad? After a moderately eventful February, you’d think I’d be okay with a quiet(er) March, but as this MLA will prove, there’s a difference between quiet and boring. Usually there are a few things going on, but between my social life being a big nope and a sucky selection of movies coming out, I only have one thing.

monthly look ahead logo

  • The soundtrack for the Broadway version of Sing Street, a movie I adore, is out on the 26th. Because I love the movie and its soundtrack so much, I’m excited to hear this version of the songs (two songs are already out!) but if we’re being honest, there’s a good chance I won’t like them as much as the original, because I almost never do.

Anyway, because I only have that one thing to look forward to, and you blog readers deserve more from me, here’s a list of things that maybe could happen this month, but probably not because there’s been no confirmation. And if they don’t, they you’ll probably see them in some future MLA post.

  • Ben Platt may release his filmed concert on Netflix. In December he said, and I quote, “putting some finishing touches on the @netflix special I cannot wait to share it with you in the new year” so you’d think that would mean he’d be sharing it soon in the new year based on that phrasing. March is the last month of the first quarter, so you’d think it’d be happening, but there’s been no news yet.
  • Neon Trees may be releasing another single (or perhaps the album?). They released their first comeback single in November and have since released a music video, a lyric video, and an acoustic video for that song, so there’s really not much more they can squeeze out of it. Actually, they could do acapella, but that’s not their style. Anyway, it’s time for more music from them.
  • Season two of The Umbrella Academy may come out. Last month they said “soon” and it has been a year since season one, but similar to Ben Platt’s concert, Netflix isn’t really known for surprise drops, so I’m kind of doubting anything.

It could happen gif.

I’m kind of really disappointed that my March is shaping up to be quiet and lonely and uneventful. But who knows, sometimes there are last-minute things that happen, so I’m sure there’ll be at least one more.

What are you looking forward to this March? Surely something better than me?

That’s all for now!

 

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Am I Wrong To Hold Streaming Services To A Higher Standard?

I’ve always kind of held Netflix to a high standard when it comes to TV show/movie quality. Of course, it’s not just Netflix. I hold other streaming services like Amazon Prime and Crave to the same standard. The problem is that I feel like my standards are not being met in general. This post is going to mention Netflix the most because a) I use it, b) it’s the most popular, and c) it was one of the first mainstream streaming services so it largely paved the way. I also want to disclaim that this is about the original content produced only.

Recently, a friend and I both watched a Netflix show, and I disliked it so much that I ranted a bit about how disappointed I was in Netflix, which prompted this question from my friend: why do I have these standards? I’ve touched on this topic before, but I wanted to expand on it and see what y’all think. I’m so serious about this topic, I’m about to use subheaders. I rarely use subheaders in posts.

hear me out gif.

No advertisers

In my mind, since streaming services don’t have to appeal and cater to advertisers the way networks heavily do, they should be able to be more creative and bold with their content. I’m not saying I want edgier jokes or more gratuitous sex, I just want them to be able to really hone in on what the viewers want without worrying as much (or even at all?) about money and reputation and politics and content ratings.

Their own timeline

And since streaming services don’t need to follow the typical yearly setup of fall premieres in September and midseason finales in December and summer shows in May, they should have the time to ensure their content is as good as it can be. And yet, I’m just not finding that it is. Forced acting beyond pilots, bad jokes, weak plots…the only thing I haven’t noticed as being too bad have been special effects.

Specific stats

Furthermore, these platforms have their own active viewing stats. They are able to see what people actively like, what genres are actively being consumed, and then should cater more to that. Are people watching period pieces? Great. Make some really good period pieces, then. Impress the people who have a taste for that and are actively watching that on your platform. See, network TV has to use Nielsen ratings, and it’s not a perfect system, because they only use a sample population to represent the whole country and can’t accurately account for things like online streaming or viewing from an app. Though Nielsen has been able to track some Netflix shows and shows on other platforms, they don’t have access to it all. But that’s not the point; the point is that these platforms have more access to stats and viewing habits than networks seem to, yet they don’t necessarily act like it except when they want to make funny tweets.

netflix stats tweet.

Concerning cancellations

I also expect them to treat customers better. These are literal paying customers paying specifically for your content, and yet I find that Netflix especially cancels shows that are fan favourites. There’s apparently a slew of legal and financial reasons behind some of the decisions, and I do understand that Netflix is a business, but when so many shows are left without closure and can’t be picked up by other networks/platforms, it’s rude and weird. If they want to keep shows under four seasons because it’s cheaper for them, then that’s fine. Make that clear to the showrunners and viewers. Force them to wrap up their stories. Fans want that. Fans don’t want to keep watching unfinished business.

The non-original content

As I said, everything above was about the original content, but it’s relevant to consider the non-original stuff too in the larger discussion. These streaming services started as a place to house old, off the air shows/movies for fans to binge without buying DVDs. Only now network shows are being split up between a bunch of different services, and even then, it’s not a worldwide thing. I’d love to know if Netflix and the like are taking money they could have used to get streaming rights and instead using it to create original content. Are streaming services destined to end up looking like Apple’s where it’s only original content? It’s something to consider as I’m sure there a lot of people who use streaming services primarily to watch network content and theatrical movies.

don't forget who you are gif.

I realize that perhaps I’m being too unfair to these services. It’s impossible for everything they make to be perfect. I realize that there’s a chance that I’m too quick to speak on negatives, and it’s likely because I’m a little annoyed at the streaming-centric world that we’re now living in and the fact that these streaming shows clean up at the Emmys now. There is almost definitely a degree of pettiness at play here, but also, everything I’ve outlined here isn’t incorrect.

So tell me, am I wrong to have these standards? Or am I right but just shouldn’t say it? I’ve watched and enjoyed a lot of streaming shows on a variety of platforms, so I know there is good stuff out there and I look forward to watching more, but this is just about the general quality. Personally, I think the regular network shows I watch on cable are better in a lot of ways to streaming service shows. But who knows; maybe they have triple the budgets.

I’d love to know what you think.

That’s all for now!

 

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Entertainment Echo Chambers

‘Echo chambers’ is a term that we talked a lot about in university when discussing social media, though it was always in regards to politics. In the Trump vs Hillary election, it’s speculated that fake news and echo chambers, specifically on Facebook, played a part in Trump’s win. Google defines echo chambers as:

An environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered.

You can understand how people stubborn in their political beliefs can be in one of these without even knowing it.

Anyway, as interesting as it is to look at echo chambers from an election perspective (that sounds sarcastic; I really do think it is interesting), I think it’s also a concept that we should consider when thinking about other things. Like fandoms. And TV shows.

There she goes again gif.
You readers when you see I’m about to talk about TV again

In this day and age, there are TV shows available from a multitude of sources. And keeping up with them all (even from a place of awareness of their existence, not actually watching them) can be really hard. I don’t even think the people at TV Line or Entertainment Weekly know of every show currently out there. So naturally, fans of smaller shows take it upon themselves to promote the shows, usually on social media. And this is good because sometimes the recommendation of genuine fans can be far more valuable and honest than whatever publications give reviews or whatever the show promotes itself as (like how Riverdale still promotes itself as a good show worth watching…).

Betty side eye gif.

Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed is that when it comes to fans promoting shows, specifically in efforts to save shows from cancellation, is that echo chambers play a huge but silent part. And in my opinion, political views play a part in it, too. Let me give you an example so you can better understand what I’m trying to say here.

There’s a (remake of a) show called One Day At A Time that recently got cancelled from Netflix and last month got picked up by a channel called PopTV. A lot of people I follow on Twitter and Tumblr were fans of the show so though I didn’t watch it, I knew a lot about it. For those who don’t know, the show is about the life of a Latino family including a single mom, a grandmother, a gay daughter, and a son. There’s also a neighbour/family friend who is an ex-addict. The daughter also eventually dates someone who I thiiiink is non-binary. I’m telling you this because a lot of the fan-made promotions for the show highlighted not just the fact that the show was an apparent good comedy (honestly, it didn’t look that funny to me, thus why I did not watch it), but that there was a lot of good representation on the show. A family of colour! Single parent! LGBTQA characters!

Now, I’m a straight white person, so representation for me based on just that is everywhere. And when I look for TV shows to watch, I usually look for genre and plot rather than representation. Call that white privilege if you want. I do know it’s not uncommon for underrepresented people to watch a show solely for a small glimpse of representation, so appealing to this can be good. But there’s a limit. With internet and fandoms and all that, there’s a good chance that people have their finger on the pulse of things they care about a lot more, so if there is a show with LGBTQA characters, for example, especially on a large platform like Netflix, you probably would have heard of it by season two or three if this is something you care about. Does this make sense?

they already know what's up

So though the ODAAT creator straight up said ratings weren’t great and it eventually got cut, people were outraged that Netflix would do this. How dare they cut a show that is repping so many minorities and making so many people feel seen. How dare they do this yet give ‘worse’ shows like 13 Reasons Why more seasons. The thing is, though, Netflix is a business. As are traditional TV channels like NBC or Fox. And if a show isn’t getting the numbers it needs, then it will go. It sucks, and I’ve been mad at Netflix before too. But it’s not a hate crime. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in this world who don’t want to watch a show starring POC or a show that has gay characters. Maybe they’re a bigot, but maybe they just don’t find it relatable or fun. Maybe the show is on at a time they can’t watch, or they don’t even have Netflix. So no matter how vocal the fandom is and how many detailed Tumblr posts about why I should watch [insert some show here] I come across, sometimes the echo chamber is probably already developed and the limit has been mostly reached. And it’s something to consider when looking at the success of TV shows and movies over time. TV shows don’t often go up in ratings as seasons go on (huge shows like Game Of Thrones are outliers). Everyone can agree that season 4 of Agents Of SHIELD was phenomenal, but the ratings didn’t go up. By then, most everyone who wanted to watch was doing so, so me explaining in detail why you need to pick it up and highlighting all the great female characters or POC or fun plots or whatnot wouldn’t have done anything. I’d be preaching to the choir.

Actually, preaching to the choir is the perfect cliche to explain what I’m trying to say here. When it comes to fans, to entertainment, and to the internet community, it’s often that the ones most vocal about keeping shows alive/boosting ratings are the ones who already watch things and know what they like, and most of the people they promote to are similar in this way.

Image result for like minded gif

That’s it. I don’t have a point. It’s just something I’ve noticed as I’ve watched TV shows (and movies) rise and fall over the years. I think it’s great that some shows get a second chance and it’s due to fans campaigning and getting their voice heard. But even Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s ratings aren’t thriving, though I think it managed to get out of its echo chamber a little.

I’d love to discuss this more if you’ve got any thoughts on the matter, so leave a comment.

P.S. Related but unrelated, I think shows that shove in a lot of political issues in direct reference to hot topic political issues also play a part in turning away fans and disengaging potential viewers. Supergirl recently did a whole bunch of immigration bits among other topics, and people quit watching because of it. Where is the line of making shows realistic and thought-provoking without being preachy, annoying, or too aggressive?

 

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Ranking Marvel’s Netflix Shows By Season

With Jessica Jones S3 coming out last month, Marvel’s shows with Netflix came to end. And now a lot of the actors are signed on to new projects, so even if Marvel wanted to/legally could revive the shows on Disney+, it’d take a lot to make it happen, so I think it’s highly unlikely. Anyway, since we’re essentially done done, I thought it’d be fun to rank the shows by season (6 shows, 13 seasons). I was going to just tweet this, but then I figured I’d explain my choices and get a blog post out of it. Yay content!

I usually have trouble ranking things because I can never settle on how I feel and don’t want to commit to an order. My top 10 favourite musicals is really like a top 3 and then 8 others in no particular order (and yes, I am aware 8+3≠10). But I think I’ve managed to actually decide on how to rank these Marvel shows, so here they are, from least favourite to favourite.

The defenders.

(Note, I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but there may be some, so be aware!)

13. Jessica Jones Season 2
This season was the pits. Trish was way out of character, the villain was lousy, Jessica’s new boyfriend was boring, and it just did not have the same edge as the enjoyable S1. This was the first Marvel show I watched at double speed, and I have zero regrets.

12. The Punisher Season 2
This season was just really weird for me. I didn’t love Amy or how much she derailed Frank’s doings with her random issues, I didn’t like Billy’s story with the not-Maggie therapist, and I never really liked Agent Madani all that much so I didn’t care for her all that much. Frank is cool and I do like him, but it seemed that everyone else just dragged him and the story down. Plus, the whole season was just unnecessary. Continuing on the S1 plot that had closed nicely this way was just not needed and it bored me.

11. Luke Cage Season 2
Luke is just not leading man material for me. He’s too boring and uninvolved. He doesn’t say much and because he’s near invincible, I find the fight scenes dry. I honestly do not remember the plot of this season, so that’s all you need to know about how interesting it was. I do like some of the characters though. I love Misty, and Shades is a creepy dude, but even that wasn’t enough to save the season, because he and Mariah weren’t really the Big Bads. Overall, not impressed.

Luke Cage kicking ass.

10. Daredevil Season 2
Yeah, another second season here at the bottom. My biggest issue with this season was Elektra. She was the worst. Her arrival was unneeded, all she did was take Matt away from his friends and work, and their relationship was just bad. If it weren’t for the introduction of Frank and the contrast between him and Matt, I think this season would be at the very bottom. It was such a let down for me.

9. The Defenders
The shorter season worked for and against this show. It forced away filler and got right to the plot, but for such a big team up and such a big villain, the pacing was off. I mean, the Defenders didn’t even get together until four episodes in. I wish we saw them work together more and get to know each other more. But otherwise, I thought it was cool to see the little crossovers and see them all face the Hand, who most of them had dealt with in their solo stories. It was worth waiting for, but it could have been done a lot better.

8. Luke Cage Season 1
As I already said, Luke doesn’t thrill me. He’s a good guy and I root for him, but I just didn’t connect to him. As for the show, I didn’t love how the villain shifted halfway through from Harlem gangsters to his random brother. This season wasn’t totally bad and I enjoyed watching it and getting to know Luke and his area, but compared to other seasons of Marvel Netflix shows, it was lacking for me.

7. Iron Fist Season 1
Listen, I didn’t hate Iron Fist. I did not find it racist and I did not find Danny entitled. It wasn’t the most thrilling of shows, but it wasn’t awful for me. I think it was just such a huge shift for Marvel and it didn’t perfectly flow. I mean, we go from enhanced abilities due to science to ‘I punched a dragon’s heart and now I have these (underwhelming) powers!’ And we never even got to see the dragon! The villain wasn’t great either. But despite this, it was interesting enough to see Danny try to navigate his old friends along with his new friend, and understand his power.

Iron Fist using his fist.

6. Jessica Jones Season 3
Season 3 surprised me. It wasn’t half bad! It wasn’t superb, but it worked with what it had and put the focus on the right things. Trish’s behavior, though still a bit out of character from what we were introduced to in S1, came full circle, and I came to appreciate the story and what it did for Jessica’s character. I liked the new guy with the feelings and thought he worked in well without stealing focus. I wish this season wasn’t the very end of Jessica’s story or Marvel’s Netflix shows, but I think it was a strong note to end on, and one that very accurately represents the grittiness of this Marvel chapter.

5. Iron Fist Season 2
I too am surprised that this was so enjoyable when all the other second seasons disappointed me. I thought it was fun and had a good plot and everyone was in character. Giving Colleen the power of the fist was a wild move and I wish we had gotten a S3 and been able to see what happened next, especially because the little flash forward at the end was so cool too, but I’m glad we got what we got.

4. The Punisher Season 1
Overall, this was good, though the second half was way better than the first. It was enjoyable, it was harsh enough to work with Frank, and it felt different enough to stand alone, but still feel connected to Daredevil and the rest of the MCU. As in DD2, seeing the softer side of Frank when he’s with Karen (or his family) is really fun compared to his tough army side. I think the Billy twist and fight was good, and I liked his partnership with David (though I haaaaaated David’s wife).

Frank getting ready to do some punishing.

3. Daredevil Season 3
I was so glad that this show had a great comeback after a bad S2. It went back to its roots of Fisk being evil, Matt protecting Foggy and Karen, and the struggle of being a masked fighter and a good church boy. Plus I think Dex was very cool and made for several great fight scenes. Every episode was entertaining and the season didn’t feel too long because I was so into it. A solid season that really showcased how good the show was.

2. Jessica Jones Season 1
This was a very great show. The single season introduced a lot and wrapped it all up well. Jessica was very different from the first hero Matt, but that’s because her villain and her struggle were also very different and it made for a very different kind of dark and edgy. And it was cool to see her get a team and work with them begrudgingly whereas Matt went totally solo for the most part. Kilgrave was an amazing villain. He was creepy and monsterous in a real world way that made it watchable yet disturbing. I still think about the way he said her name. Chills.

1. Daredevil Season 1
I did not totally appreciate this show until I had seen all the others and realized just how strong we started. I mean, Matt from the start was so interesting and likable, and then we see his wonderful friendship with Foggy, and Karen slid in so well, and Fisk was a great and disturbing villain, and that one hallway scene…we had it good and I respect that. There was darkness and there was humor and there were great characters and I enjoyed it a lot. It was Marvel’s first foray into a darker side and I think they did great.

One of the iconic DD hallway fights.

Overall, I think Marvel did well. They created a mini MCU within the MCU and it worked on Netflix for the darker, rougher content. Matt, Jessica, Luke, and Danny were very different and it was fun to see their stories alone but also with each other through The Defenders and the little crossovers. I especially loved Claire Temple and wish she stuck around to be in all the seasons as the one amazing connector. Though there were a lot of disappointments, there were a lot of really, really cool parts to these shows, and I’m going to do my best to remember those more. And who knows, maybe we’ll see them again in the MCU.

What was your favourite season from these shows? How would you rank them?

 

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