The Bull's Eye

Switching up the punchline

With the rise of streaming services, stand-up comedy has returned to the spotlight.

Johnny Wang, Asst. Sports Editor

From witty one-liners to crude puns, comedy is deeply rooted in the media and entertainment, creating humor for a mainstream audiences. Popular in the 1970s and ‘80s, one form of comedy has made a comeback with the rise of streaming services: stand-up.

A live performance, stand-up creates the opportunity for an audience to enjoy a comedian talking about relatable life experiences, politics or culture. Stand-up can also be a platform where the performer expresses or satirizes their view on controversial topics. Constantly changing, stand-up allows each comedian to reveal a part of themselves to their audience through the style in which they tell their jokes or explain stories.

Modern stand-up, an offshoot of turn-of-the-century vaudeville theater, began in the 1940’s, finding popularity among soldiers and public audiences alike. With the need for laughter during WWII, comedians began to perform to lighten the mood.

Famous names like Bob Hope, Frank Fay and Milton Berle started to gain traction with their unique personalities and humor. Comedians travelled to military bases to ease tensions for soldiers, bringing comedy to frontlines.

In the years that followed, new stand-up comedians gained fame, including Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, and Jerry Seinfeld, who became famous on his TV show. During the 1970s and ‘80s, comedy clubs were popular, providing a constant stream of new stand-ups.

But eventually the trend faded as comics moved to TV and movies.  They were everywhere, and stand-up was left behind. But now, stand-up is back on the map.

In the past few years, stand-up has been reinvigorated with the popularity of the internet. Comedians rely on getting their shows professionally recorded and uploaded onto streaming sites. From Netflix, Hulu to YouTube, live stand-up shows have found an audience from those sitting behind their computer screen. With the convenience of the internet, stand-up has received the publicity it has lacked over the past few decades.

Following this growth, Netflix has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on comedians. With over 104 million Netflix paid subscribers, and over 100 Netflix comedy specials, stand-up continues to gain exposure on streaming services. Comedy has grown to a whopping $300 million industry, and people from all over the world want to see what America stand-up comedians has to offer.

Successful comedians such as Chris Rock, Jo Koy, John Mulaney, Kevin Hart and Dave Chappelle have gained a following from their internet presence and have brought stand-up back to life, gaining their own shows and deals with Netflix.

Women are joining in on the act as well, with comedians such as Tiffany Haddish, Ali Wong, Rhea Butcher, Aparna Nancherla and Jen Kirkman taking the stage. Though they are less watched, female comics are slowly rising in popularity.

This is not the only the only thing that has changed about the industry.  New forms of stand-up include dynamic duos and comedians that incorporate their talents into their routines. For example, well-known comedic pair Key and Peele have shifted from historical event parodies to stand up, and Gabriel Iglesias uses voice impressions to act out the many encounters he’s had.

Comedians often make use of various current events as the source of jokes.  Some of the most sensitive issues are tossed around, yet comedians are able to present their take on the subject lightheartedly.  For example, one of comedy’s most notable comedians, Chappelle, often comments about racism in America, talking about his life experiences and personal reflection.

 However, not all comedians joke about the country’s most debated issues. They bring life experiences, family happenings, parties, drugs and much more, adding their style and a bit of themselves in all their jokes.

As more and more online services provide people with stand-up comedy content, the comedy scene will continue to gain stature.  

The ideas that come with comedians will get wilder and wilder, as seen from the beginning to the revival of stand-up comedy.

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