Stand-Up Comedy on TV

Aurora Andrus dives into the world of stand up comedy, from its TV origins to its streaming present.

 

The world of stand-up comedy has increased in popularity over the last ninety years and now holds its spot at the top of the entertainment pyramid. From the 1930s, it started to take shape with stand up shows, which led to sitcoms, sketch comedies, late night TV hosts, TV specials, and films.

In the 1950s, the Ed Sullivan Show became one of the most popular on TV, showcasing comedians and giving them a place in the entertainment industry. When Jimmy Carson’s Tonight Show hit screens it worked as a launching pad for young comedians like David Letterman, Bill Maher, and Roseanne Barr. October 11th, 1975 marked a new era of television comedy with the debut of the hit show Saturday Night Live. Since then comedy has taken over.

As times have changed, so has comedy and the way we view it.

Some of the best comedians have come from TV such as Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle, and Jerry Seinfeld. These comedians captured the essence of comedy and pioneered the art on television. Their jokes were honest and relatable. Their ability to do impressions, funny faces, and strange movements made them unique and everlasting. Carrey coined his key phrase “allll righty then” in his stand-up gigs, which made its way to the big screen for the Ace Ventura series. Williams’ stand-up characters segwayed into unforgettable characters like Mrs Doubtfire and films like Good Morning Vietnam and The Birdcage.

As times have changed, so has comedy and the way we view it. More and more comedians are shying away from TV and moving to private companies like Netflix or HBO. This change has a lot to do with the type of jokes they want to tell. The controversial and foul nature of some jokes creates issues with being aired on TV. The lack of censorship makes them more appealing pushing comedians and audiences away from TV. Netflix has released stand-up specials for many of today’s top comedians and has been quite successful in doing so.

Since the noughties, stand-up comedians have pushed boundaries and provided a space that allows for laughter regarding the mockery of taboo subjects.

Since the noughties, stand-up comedians have pushed boundaries and provided a space that allows for laughter regarding the mockery of taboo subjects such as sex, foul language, sexuality, religion, and politics. Jokes of this style have become expected from modern comedians and audiences seem to love it. Some of the best and the raunchiest are comedians like Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Bill Burr, and Jimmy Carr.

British comedians such as Lee Evans, Michael McIntyre, Jack Whitehall, and Russell Howard are appearing on television and Netflix performing stand up comedy, with many also featuring on panel shows or their own programmes. Shows such as Eight Out of Ten Cats, Have I Got News For You, Mock the Week, and QI have helped comedians to make their name in the industry.

Irish comedians also have their own successes with Dara O’Briain hosting a variety of shows along with his own stand up which is shown regularly on Dave. Tommy Tiernan is still going strong with a new role in the popular series Derry Girls. The likes of Des Bishop, Ed Byrne, PJ Gallagher and Neil Delamare still do stand up as well as TV shows.

The growth of comedy has created a space for female comedians to make their mark as well. Comedians such as Whoopi Goldberg, Jo Brand, Miranda Harte, and Sarah Millican showed that women could be just as hilarious as men. Comedians like Amy Schumer and Whitney Cummings keep the competition high amongst women and men. Both ladies have a set of highly racy, sexual, and explicit jokes. Schumer’s first stand-up special, like Burr, was released on Netflix and HBO.  Schumer’s crassness and offensive jokes make her one of the most loved and hated comedians around. However, that hasn’t stopped her from becoming a star on the stage and the screen.

The one thing all these comedians have in common is their abilities to capture audiences at their gigs. Being at a live comedy gig, as opposed to watching one on TV, is incomparable. Live gigs deliver a different type of experience for comedy lovers. The main difference is the crowd. At a live gig, you have a room of people to laugh with. Sitting in your living room watching a TV special doesn’t deliver the same experience. Comedy gigs are meant to be seen live to get the full effect. However, now we have them available at our fingertips and more and more people are discovering the comedy greats.

Comedy has truly become one of the leading forms of entertainment in the industry today.

Comedy has truly become one of the leading forms of entertainment in the industry today. Stand up comedy is unique and holds its own in a very difficult business. Comedians have become some of the biggest stars, producing not only TV specials but films and TV shows too. Comedy is more than just jokes. It’s a way for people to connect and feel safe to laugh about the things that society says we shouldn’t laugh at.