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Television

Netflix to launch major L.A. comedy festival this spring

Dave Chappelle, Ali Wong and David Letterman will appear at Netflix Is a Joke Fest.
Dave Chappelle, Ali Wong and David Letterman are among those performing at the Netflix Is a Joke Fest.
(Netflix)

Netflix is known for going big or going home — whether that means its original programming slate, awards campaigns or subscriber base. Now, the streamer is applying the principle to an old-school format: the comedy festival.

On Monday, the company announced Netflix Is a Joke Fest, with more than 100 performances from some of comedy’s biggest names across 20-plus Los Angeles venues and culminating in a hall-of-fame tribute to four late legends: George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers and Robin Williams.

Participants in the festival, which is set to run from April 27 to May 3 and is produced in partnership with Live Nation, are a who’s who of contemporary comedy — with an emphasis on the ever-growing stable of performers with a Netflix series or special. The lineup includes Dave Chappelle, David Letterman, Amy Schumer, Ali Wong, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, Jamie Foxx, Sarah Silverman, Kevin Hart, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Ken Jeong, and Martin Lawrence.

“It’s our honor to transform L.A. for one week into the funniest place on earth,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer, said in a statement. “This festival is a unique celebration of the art of comedy, and the role it plays in reflecting our lives and defining culture. It’s a chance for comedy lovers to come together and see their favorite artists as well as discover new ones, and for us to be able to share the electricity and excitement of the festival in Los Angeles with Netflix members around the world.”

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Netflix Is a Joke Fest, named for the streamer’s comedy brand, won’t be the biggest of all comedy festivals — that title likely belongs to Montreal’s Just for Laughs, which runs for two weeks and boasts more than 2 million attendees each year.

But the L.A. event has already attracted more than 130 artists, with additional names to come, and Netflix projects attendance to be around 80,000. Individual tickets will range from about $15 to about $500 per event, according to organizers. (There will be no festival-wide passes.) For those who can’t make it in person, 11 of the live shows will be available to stream on Netflix at a later date.

Among the schedule’s highlights, Chappelle (and friends) will appear in “an evening of music and comedy” at the Hollywood Bowl. Letterman will host an event at the Fonda Theatre, mixing stand-up performances with live interviews. The cast of “Schitt’s Creek” will lead a “live, interactive” farewell tour that takes fans inside the making of the Emmy-nominated comedy. Foxx, Schumer, Lawrence, and Fonda and Tomlin will all host comedy nights at the Palladium. Other festival headliners include Bill Burr, Pete Davidson, Chelsea Handler, Jenny Slate, Whitney Cummings, Marlon Wayans, Iliza Shlesinger and Michelle Wolf.

A number of themed events during the festival bring together comedians to highlight national or regional talents — such as showcases of Indian and Latin American performers — or queer comedians — as with “Stand Out: An LGBTQ+ Celebration” at the Greek Theatre, featuring Sandra Bernhard, Alan Carr, Margaret Cho, Hannah Gadsby, Rosie O’Donnell, Wanda Sykes and others.

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Festival venues also include the Wiltern, the Orpheum, the Largo and the Laugh Factory, among others.

During the closing event at the Theatre at Ace Hotel, “The Hall: Honoring the Greats of Stand-Up,” Chappelle, Crystal, Goldberg, Hart, Rock, Seinfeld, Silverman and Sykes will fete Carlin, Pryor, Rivers and Williams. In addition to the event being recorded as a Netflix special, an exhibit of the same name will have a physical home in a newly designed wing of the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, N.Y. Inductees were determined by a nominating committee composed of agents, managers, producers, TV executives and comedy club owners.

“Netflix has become the dominant player in the comedy space, which made them the ideal broadcast partner for this long overdue acknowledgment of the art of stand-up comedy,” “The Hall” director Marty Callner and fellow executive producers Randall Gladstein and David Steinberg said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. “The relationship with Netflix and the caliber of our four beloved inductees have made it possible for us to bring together, for the first time, every leading voice in stand-up to honor those that paved the way.”

The festival’s official charity partner is nonprofit organization Comedy Gives Back, which provides mental health, medical and financial crisis support to comedians in need.

Pre-sale tickets are available starting Tuesday via a unique code to be published on artist, venue, Ticketmaster, Live Nation and Netflix Is a Joke social media accounts. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday. The full lineup and ticketing information are posted at the festival website.


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