At Netflix Is a Joke Fest, Netflix Was Often the Joke

Over the course of Netflix Is a Joke Fest 2024, I attended eight individual shows and also caught 11 different sets at the Outside Joke space. There was a ton of stuff I missed, but I did feel like I experienced a good cross-section of the festival’s offerings, from big-name headliners at venues like the Hollywood Bowl and Dolby Theater to a podcast recording at Largo to a 100-seat black box theater in East L.A.

Not all of these shows were raging successes: One got derailed by a last-minute cast change and a person with Tourette’s yelling inappropriate statements during the entire performance. One opener I saw got openly combative with the crowd before bringing on the headliner. And a few comics came to the stage with material that still needed more development (even John Mulaney acknowledged that he needed to move around a few parts of his set for future performances).

Yet my biggest takeaway from taking all this in was a new understanding what Netflix means to the comedy ecosystem these days, and the complicated relationship every level of comedian has with major companies like this.

For some of these shows, it was largely business as usual. That said, How Did This Get Made?, Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, and June Diane Raphael’s podcast specializing in mocking bad movies, told the audience during one show that they were asked to feature movies that are currently streaming on Netflix — and they said no.

To be clear, it sounded like that was more of a request than a demand, and the trio went on to cheerily tear apart the 2024 “comedy” Beautiful Wedding. But the hosts also proceeded to “threaten” audience members with expulsion if they mentioned the existence of rival streamer Hulu, before coming up with an idea for counter-programming, a festival entitled “Hulu Is Hilarious.”

The Netflix branding was impossible to escape at the Outside Joke festival hub, which for $25 (or prior purchase of a ticket to any other Netflix Is a Joke Fest show) offered full days of live comedy, along with some Netflix-branded attractions and some damn tasty food stalls. (The Impossible Meat bao became a bit of an obsession.)

Photo courtesy of Netflix


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