This past weekend I went out with one of my comedy friends to just hang out. I realized I don’t normally hang out with comedians beyond Comedians on the Loose, so this is something I’m trying to explore more and change.
During our hangout we went to a cool bar and joined another group of comics where we embraced conversation about comedy (shocker) with the conversation leading to the oversaturation of comedy.
This conversation intrigued me, especially hearing it from other comedians’ perspectives. While it is apparent that there is A LOT of comedy out there, I didn’t start thinking too much into it until after the conversation when I read a Fortune article about NetFlix releasing 15-Minute stand-up comedy specials.
15 minutes? That’s practically nothing compared to the hour specials released by noteworthy comics like Dave Chappelle, Bill Burr, and Sarah Silverman. Hell, even I know a ton of comics on the scene (myself included) with a solid half hour to more than an hour.
You can go to any comedy club showcase and see a comic do 15 minutes so I’m not sure why NetFlix thinks this is such a spectacular idea. At least to comics, a 15-minute set is only applauded for the club scene, not necessarily for a “special.”
Then I began to think further about the current New York comedy scene where you can find a show, open mic, comic barking almost every corner you turn. Current media like NetFlix and social channels kind of mirror what’s going on in the scene. So yes, it is definitely becoming oversaturated.
Is this good or bad for comics?
Right now, with the current oversaturation, I have mixed feelings.
It’s great that comedy has reached a level of such mainstream exposure where it isn’t really taboo anymore to be part of either as a viewer or a performer. However, it comes with a price because it was that taboo element that made comedy so intriguing before I even started.
For the performer, this means you have more competition because now everyone thinks they can be a comedian and you have to be twice as aggressive and multi-talented just to get noticed. It’s not just about your stand-up anymore.
The same goes with things like current media trends which is so content driven that we’re almost drowning in plethora of content. Sure, social media has definitely changed the game in getting yourself noticed in the comedy scene, but the downside is with so much content to consume on the airways, quantity becomes the main focus as opposed to quality. Someone called this the “BuzzFeed Effect” and it’s pretty much on point.
Even NetFlix suffers from this content driven mindset in terms of comedy. So much comedy is there that you end up having flops like Amy Schumer’s “The Leather Special” and others that barely even get noticed.
How do comics deal with oversaturation?
There’s a couple of things comics can do to stay ahead of the oversaturation.
The most important thing is to emphasize quality in your comedy. Make sure what you release is worth releasing and leaves the audience wanting more like a clip or any other type of content. At the end of the day, people will still recognize quality no matter how much content they are viewing.
Second, you have to do something beyond just stand-up to get yourself noticed. We live in an age where it takes more than just being funny on stage to gain traction. Do you write? Produce? Host? Act?
All these extra things can be used as vehicles to gain attention for your stand-up and get you closer to your comedy goals. The more people see you can do more outside of stand-up, the more you become attractive and separate yourself from the fray.
What are your thoughts on the oversaturated comedy scene? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!