Comedy Lifeline: Stand-up online

Got the post-fringe blues and itching for your next comedy fix? Why not try... THE INTERNET!

Article by Jenni Ajderian | 19 Sep 2019
  • James Acaster

Supporting the arts always requires a bit of effort – whether it’s taking a chance on a new piece of theatre or paying for your pornography. Comedy falls somewhere along this line, and attracts the problems of both extremes: you can’t have new comedy without giving new comedy a chance, and you can’t have dedicated artists without paying them (yeah, sure you can pay your rent with exposure).

As in most areas of life, many of us are now consuming our comedy on the internet, whether that’s clips of stand-up shows gone by or full episodes of a panel show uploaded by some nefarious YouTube member. But how much of this online love actually gets back to the acts? Some comedians, like Phil Wang, choose to put their shows up online for free, in an effort to attract more fans: judging by Wang’s recent tenure on Taskmaster and subsequent sellout Edinburgh run, it seems to have paid off for him. Other acts can’t afford to give their work away for free, and still others would be giving up a chance at a big payday.

Enter the subscription streaming service: Netflix is currently host to a number of big names from the UK circuit, from James Acaster to Katherine Ryan and Scotland’s own Daniel Sloss. Big names play big venues and, we hear, get paid big bucks to do so. These are shows guaranteed to bring in the views, and guaranteed to put more bums on seats when those big names go on tour. And, even Amazon Prime are jumping on the bandwagon, releasing specials of Flo and Joan in August with more promised later in the year.

If someone’s not on a prime-time panel show, however, they’re unlikely to get a Netflix contract. Fortunately, other comedy streaming services are available.

“We want NextUp to represent (and even start to drive) the diversity of the comedy circuit.” says Sarah Henley, founder of NextUp, an online streaming service dedicated to live comedy. Henley and her team have been up at the Fringe scouting for new comics and filming new shows for the platform. “We also go and see as much live comedy as we can during the year.”

It can be hard for new acts to get the kind of publicity that an online platform can provide, so Henley and the NextUp team are trying to close the gap. As well as accepting pre-filmed shows from emerging comics, they use their in-house film crews to produce new specials, and provide a bursary to under-represented comics. 

“We think it's great to showcase big names alongside people we think deserve to become big names too.”

This year, NextUp can name-drop the likes of Tommy Tiernan and Zoe Lyons alongside newcomers Olga Koch and Jenny Bede. In exchange for a monthly subscription members can also access club discounts and gig recommendations, and even become an investor in an up-and-coming platform for up-and-coming acts. 

Of course, the best way to support your local comedians is to go and see them in the flesh. If you can’t make it out the door though, missed their tour, or if the ticket price is just too much for you right now, the internet can provide.