Live comedy will take center stage for 12 days in more than 30 venues scattered throughout Los Angeles and beyond as the inaugural Netflix is a Joke: The Festival kicks off on April 27 and runs through May 8.
The fest includes more than 250 performances from some of the biggest names in the world of comedy and features diverse programming with stand-up shows, live podcast tapings, sketch comedy, table reads, musical performances, roasts, screenings and comedy drag brunches.
Related: Comic Gabriel Iglesias told friends he was headlining Dodger Stadium. They did not believe him.
What was originally planned in 2020 as a smaller multiple-day festival created to salute the pioneers of stand-up comedy has turned into a complete takeover of Los Angeles.
“In the last two years, the show grew substantially,” Robbie Praw, director of Original Standup Comedy Programming at Netflix said during a recent phone interview. “It’s a celebration. Let’s get out of our houses and go see the comedians who have sustained so many of us in the last few years through comedy. It just feels right at this point and it feels very exciting. Not to mention that we’re going to be able to take all this great stuff and put it out for our members soon after the festival, so people around the world can engage with that. ”
Out of all the performances, Praw said about a dozen are actually being will be filmed for upcoming Netflix specials.
A few of the larger or stand-out events include Gabriel Iglesias at Dodger Stadium May 6-7; Kevin Hart at Crypto.com Arena May 6; Dave Chappelle & Friends at the Hollywood Bowl April 28-30 and May 3; John Mulaney at The Forum in Inglewood on May 3 and the Hollywood Bowl on May 7; Larry David at the Greek Theater May 2; David Letterman at Fonda Theater May 6-7; Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in Conversation at YouTube Theater in Inglewood May 7; Bill Burr at Hollywood Palladium May 4; Stand Out: AN LGBTQ + Celebration with Eddie Izzard, Tig Notaro, Wanda Sykes and Margaret Cho at the Greek Theater May 7; and Snoop Dogg hosting his comedy special at the Hollywood Palladium May 5.
For comedian Taylor Tomlinson, who grew up in Temecula and currently lives in Los Angeles, getting the opportunity to perform at The Theater Ace at the Ace Hotel as part of the festival on May 6 was a big deal. She currently has two specials on the streaming platform, including 2020’s “Quarter-Life Crisis” and “Look At You,” which debuted last month.
“I think everyone’s ever done comedy successfully is going to be at this festival,” she said during a recent phone interview.
Tomlinson said she was headlining clubs when she submitted her first-ever one-hour special to Netflix, but just a week after it was uploaded to the platform the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all live events.
“I thought, ‘Well, there goes my chance,'” she said with a laugh. But when she finally returned to the road she noticed that she had started selling out club shows across the country.
“The special changed my life,” she said. “It kinda was like night and day. The nicest compliment I can get from people when I meet them on the road now or when I get DMs, people are like ‘Your special was my comfort watch during COVID.’ I had those, too! I’m sure many people who either would not have had the time or would not normally have taken a chance on somebody that they’d never heard of, watched that special because they were in quarantine. ”
Tomlinson said she’s grateful that Netflix would take a chance on an up-and-coming comic and said she sees that also reflected in the festival lineup. Though tickets to some shows are already sold out, Praw said he does not want fans to be discouraged from participating in the festival. He advises snagging tickets to events in smaller venues or to even participating in the free outdoor festival at the Hollywood Palladium. Fans can RSVP for certain dates and enjoy a lineup of live comedy, trivia, games, music, food, drinks and other Netflix activations. There’s also the very real possibility that one of the megastar festival headliners could drop in for a surprise set.
“I think part of the fun of what’s going to be happening [at the outdoor festival] is that you’re going to see a big star that you can not believe is performing outdoors for free right in front of you, but also you could discover that unknown gem that could very well become your new favorite comic, ”he said.
With so many events taking place all at once, Praw said the best way to navigate the festival is to use its website, which has a guide and the complete line-up broken down by performer, date, time or venue, as well as all of the information on how to RSVP for the free outdoor festival at the Palladium at netflixisajokefest.com.
Praw said he and his crew kept the diversity of Netflix’s users in mind to create an event that had something for everybody.
“Comedy is the most subjective art form,” he said. “Being able to see yourself on stage or on a screen is particularly important for the genre. You could also grow up in the same household as somebody else and have completely different tastes in comedy. So the only way to properly represent people’s comedy tastes is through great diversity and working with the best-in-class folks. ”
“That’s really what comedy is about anyway,” he continued. “It is very diverse and it is very difficult. Comedians are 10-year overnight successes in some cases, and we’re really excited to showcase the people who have been working really hard for so long just to try to make people laugh. That specifically is something that we think the world is in desperate need of right now. ”
Netflix is a Joke: The Festival
When: Various showtimes April 27-May 8
Where: Multiple venues throughout Los Angeles
Tickets: Price varies by performance; All shows can be found at netflixisajoke.com