Need a good laugh? These days, we all do. Meet the TV auteurs, the stand-ups scoring $20 million Netflix specials and the ventriloquist booking arenas (for real!) as The Hollywood Reporter profiles the players behind billions in funny money in its first comedy power list.
Maybe it’s the unfunny state of the world or the emergence of global star-making platforms like Netflix, but audiences are devouring comedy these days. Attendance at comedy clubs in the U.S. is up 20 percent since a decade ago, and top touring acts can pull in up to eight figures. In its first comedy power list, The Hollywood Reporter singles out the people who are charting not just the creative culture of comedy but its booming business.
President, Comedy Central
CATEGORY The Suits
Alterman, 61, runs a veritable talent factory, minting stars like Trevor Noah, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. With Netflix and other streamers circling for poaching opportunities, he’s pushed Comedy Central to get better at keeping talent, signing Noah and Glazer and Jacobson to overall deals. Alterman, who led development out of New York before landing his current job in 2016, also helped launch the network’s live events biz with the annual Clusterfest, which has featured such acts as Amy Schumer, Tiffany Haddish and Comedy Central alum Jon Stewart.
I’m funny because… “I once took a course in comedy analytics.”
CATEGORY The Legends
Apatow, 50, made his name with big-screen comedies like Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin and discovering young talent (James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel). But lately, he’s focused on the small screen, producing the four-hour documentary The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling and Crashing for HBO as well as Netflix projects like the series Love and his own special, The Return, in which Apatow did stand-up for the first time in 25 years.
“There is such an explosion of TV comedy that it’s siphoning off good writers who used to write screenplays,” he tells THR. “You never open up the trades and hear about a comedy sale. It’s become a foregone conclusion that people think the market is disappearing for this.”
My most memorable bombing experience… “When I first started doing stand-up comedy, I performed at UC Santa Barbara opening up for Marc ‘Skippy’ Price [he played Skippy Handelman on Family Ties] and was booed off the stage. I deserved it.”
Brilliant piece of comedy that died too soon… “I wish they would bring back Lady Dynamite. I don’t know if it was canceled or if Maria Bamford got tired of doing it. That was my favorite half-hour on television. I think she’s the most innovative person in comedy. ”
Favorite Simpsons character “I probably relate most to Bart Simpson. I wrote a spec Simpsons episode trying to break into comedy and wonderfully, they actually turned it into an episode a couple of years ago. It was one of the great circle experiences of my career. I probably was and still am at heart a precocious, annoying child.”
Dream product endorsement “I’ve always felt like I’ve needed a more intimate relationship with the people who make Haagen-Dazs.”
CATEGORY The Auteurs
The 43-year-old brain behind ABC’s breakout Black-ish (and 2017’s hit film Girls Trip) was said to be in talks for a big Netflix deal after ABC’s decision in March to pull a Black-ish episode tackling NFL players kneeling to protest police brutality. But feelings seem to have been smoothed over, and it’s business as usual at ABC and parent company Disney: Barris recently launched Grown-ish on Freeform, Disney’s youth-focused platform (its premiere drew 1.6 million viewers), where he also has a series order for a comedy called Besties. He’s keeping busy with big-screen projects as well, writing a reboot of Shaft and a sequel to Coming to America (with Eddie Murphy producing, although it’s not yet known if he’ll star).
I’m funny because… “My face started breaking out in seventh grade, and I realized I needed to get very funny very fucking fast — or get ready for a long couple years.”
Dream product endorsement Nike “Air Jordan III’s. Hands down. Not 1’s. Not IV’s. Not even Air Jordan as a shoe. The III. Period. The greatest shoe ever made, and I want to endorse the shit out of it! And, if need be, make sweet love to it.”
If I didn’t work in comedy… “I would have been a lawyer. I can prove anybody wrong or right about anything. Doesn’t matter which side they are on. I just need a couple facts and to know which one they want the most. I’ll prove the other one right. Besides being brilliant at debate, I’m also a bastard and a contrarian. They’re gifts. What can I say?”
(Excerpt) Read More at: HollywoodReporter.com