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What We Got Wrong About Stand-Up Comedy

Stand-up comedy is in a state of rapid change. The comedy world has been invaded by big networks with karma backstabbing quote, social media apps, and streaming services. Much of the value that was once found in watching “legitimate” stand-up comedy on television has been lost. In the wake of this revolution, an emerging audience has taken up more than half the seats in New York City’s Comedy Cellar — but why? And will these new fans be loyal to their favorite comics?

In this blog post I’ll explain what we got wrong about stand-up comedy and provide some insight into what’s next for the art form! 

1. Bob Newhart in the 1960s

One of the biggest mistakes that was made about stand-up comedy in the 1960s and 1970s was to think that it would be forever a product of live television. This is why many critics dismissed Bob Newhart at the time, saying that he wasn’t funny on TV . For decades, critics said that what Bob did on stage could not possibly be recreated at home. They were wrong. Audiences flocked to see him on television and they wanted him to come live again. Now, 100 years after his very first appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson , Bob is a household name and performs all over the world year-round.

2. Eddie Murphy in the 1980s

In the late 1980s, Eddie Murphy was one of the hottest comedians in America. He was making six-figures a night on tour. The next wave of stand-ups wanted to be like him — and they tried to imitate him so much that they forgot about who they were and what made them funny. Audiences didn’t want a carbon copy of Eddie Murphy, though at first it looked like that’s exactly what they were going to get. This led to a wave of mediocre, lackluster comedy performances where all an audience could do was stare up at a video screen and wait for their favorite bits from Raw.

3. Robin Williams in the 1990s

Robin Williams seemed to be virtually unstoppable when he first broke on the scene in the 1980s. He was as big as anyone ever had been in stand-up comedy, even bigger than Bob Newhart, and he was just getting started. That was a long time ago now. In recent months, Robin has been falling apart both publicly and personally. His latest comedy special , Weapons of Self Destruction is probably one of his worst ever. The show is not worth watching. Sadly, it’s hard to be funny when you’re so miserable with alcohol and drugs that they are destroying your life.

4. The First Comedy Cellar

The first Comedy Cellar opened in 1981 on MacDougal Street. The club had a stage, some chairs, and a microphone. Comics like Jerry Seinfeld and Ray Romano came to the club to do their first sets. This is where they learned what they needed to know to play bigger rooms or perform on national television. Every successful stand-up comedian who has ever done well in New York City owes at least part of their success to that original club on MacDougal Street. At some point in the future, there will be a legendary new Comedy Cellar for a new generation of comics — but when?

5. Netflix and other streaming services

Today, the largest audience for stand-up comedy is on Netflix . It’s not difficult to imagine a time in the future when that will have changed. Once Netflix started streaming all of the current season episodes of The Daily Show , all of a sudden Albert Brooks was big again. In related news, people stopped caring about Saturday Night Live for being too old and broke. Yes, it’s because of Netflix . Audiences are drawn to “TV” stand-ups who are still active and are willing to go on TV specials — in other words, they want more television!

6. Online Reviews

When you were growing up you probably frequented a lot more websites than you do today. Back then, you would visit a website once every couple of months and you’d probably only read the reviews for the things that you were thinking about buying — so you might read one review about a book on Amazon and decide to buy it based on that review. The best part of that is that Amazon actually takes money from the review! Nowadays, most people spend more time reading reviews than they do reading books. Even if your favorite author puts out some great books, people don’t have time to read hundreds of pages every day. This means that they are more likely to read five-star or one-star reviews than they are to just trust the first few lines of text on Amazon.com .


It’s not exactly easy to see what the future of stand-up comedy is going to look like. We are all still just sitting here waiting for Jerry Seinfeld to put out some new material and leave Netflix . Maybe we’ll get lucky with him in 2018? All we can do is sit back, relax, and enjoy this new kind of stand-up comedy.

And remember: smile!

Aaron Finch
There are many labels that could be given to describe me, but one thing’s for certain: I am an entrepreneur with passion. Whether it's building websites and social media campaigns for new businesses or traveling the world on business trips - being entrepreneurs means constantly looking at yourself in a different light so as not get bored of your own success!