Netflix has been beefing up its comedy storehouse for years, luring stand-up giants and upstarts alike to become arguably the best kind of comedy club: one you don’t have to leave home to attend. With the recently announced Netflix Is a Joke Fest, though, it’s hoping you will.
It’s no surprise the streamer, in its quest for world domination, has stomped into the live event space. But with a deep, diverse, star-studded bench of funny folks, this inaugural fest — April 27–May 3, spread across more than 20 L.A. venues — justifies getting off the couch. The following guide is far from comprehensive, but it highlights a handful of can and can’t-miss shows.
What to see
The Hall: Honoring the Greats of Stand-up, featuring Dave Chappelle, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Kevin Hart, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman
May 3 at 7 p.m.
The Theatre at Ace Hotel
This all-star summit honoring four late legends — George Carlin, Joan Rivers, Richard Pryor and Robin Williams — is the top-billed event of the festival for good reason. As most of the elder statesmen and women of comedy take the stage at the gloriously retro Theatre at Ace Hotel, it likely won’t be the weirdest or edgiest night. But then again, if the irreverent ghosts of Carlin or Pryor attend, it just might be.
May 2 at 8 p.m.
The Hollywood Bowl
Bigger isn’t necessarily better, but one of comedy’s biggest draws hosting an “evening of music and comedy” at the nearly 18,000-seat amphitheater is a big deal. Dave Chappelle is a walking, vaping embodiment of the state of stand-up in 2020: He’s controversial, cult, mainstream and beloved all at the same time. His three recent Netflix specials have waded into provocative territory — from Michael Jackson to transgender jokes to politics — but he remains a favorite among fellow comedians and a legion of fans, weaving thorny, urgent issues into his affable and inviting style.
Jacqueline Novak: Get on Your Knees
April 28 and 29 at 8 and 10 p.m.
Largo at the Coronet
Comedian John Early, who directed this show, has compared Jacqueline Novak to Fran Lebowitz; she’s a public intellectual with a millennial wit. Novak’s one-woman show is all about one of the most unintellectual topics — blow jobs — yet she somehow converted the basement into a highbrow palace. Personal and poetic, “Get on Your Knees” finds one of today’s alt comedians exploring the thrilling frontiers of stand-up, in a hit show that had four extended runs off-Broadway and is now touring the U.S. and England. “Her comedy is an overthinker’s delight,” wrote the New Yorker, “and a reminder that a woman’s humor can cut as deeply as her rage.”
Schitt’s Creek: The Farewell Tour
May 1 at 7 p.m.
The Orpheum Theatre
Being in the presence of Canadian comedy royalty — Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara — is reason enough to attend. But more than that, “Schitt’s Creek,” which launched quietly on Pop TV in 2015, has snowballed into a beloved phenomenon in large thanks to its presence on Netflix. The series, created by Dan Levy, Eugene’s son, has evolved from a cutting, rich-out-of-water story about a dysfunctional family into something far richer and even sweeter, and the cast (which also includes Annie Murphy, Noah Reid and Emily Ham
pshire) is giving the show the in-person victory lap that its fans deserve.
Stand Out: An LGBTQ+ Celebration
Featuring: Hannah Gadsby, Margaret Cho, Rosie O’Donnell, Sandra Bernhard, Wanda Sykes
May 1 at 7 p.m.
The Greek Theatre
An embarrassment of riches, this celebration of LGBTQ+ comedians boasts several marquee names across generations — from Bernhard to Gadsby, who rocked the very conceit of stand-up with her Netflix special “Nanette.” But it’s also a smorgasbord of some of the funniest new comics on the scene, notably the hilarious Fortune Feimster — who mines humor from growing up unconventionally female in the Bible Belt — James Adomian, whose Bernie Sanders impression is too good for “Saturday Night Live,” and the riotously uncouth Patti Harrison from Hulu’s “Shrill.”
What to skip
Pete Davidson & Best Friends
Apr. 28 at 7 p.m.
The bro-iest current cast member on “SNL,” Davidson is better known for his off-screen life — bewildering love affairs with Ariana Grande and Kate Beckinsale, struggles with addiction and mental illness — than his wit. His new Netflix special, “Alive from New York,” is mostly a mumbly mess of secondhand pot smoke, with blow job humor on the far end of the intellectual spectrum from Novak’s.
Apr 28 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
The Comedy Store
Comedy Central roast-master Jeff Ross and off-color connoisseur Dave Attell will “hang, riff and roast” with their friends at The Comedy Store for two shows. Which... fine, if that’s your thing—but it’s the kind of event you could find on any given night in L.A., and an unlikely destination for incisive social commentary, much less boundary-breaking.
May 1 at 7 p.m.
The “Community” and “Hangover” actor certainly has his fans, but his 2019 stand-up special, “You Complete Me, Ho,” was a tired recycle of his silly, filthy shtick — and his double-down on Asian stereotypes. Reviewing the special for the Ringer, Donnie Kwak argued that Jeong’s act “exemplifies the lowest-hanging fruit of race-based humor, the kind that has barely evolved over generations. The fact Jeong continues to capitalize on a modern form of Asian minstrelsy is not only a reflection of Hollywood, but also of American audiences.”