Four stars from Netflix’s ever-increasing comedy roster came together on Friday night to discuss their specials and begin an impromptu competition for Emmy season votes.
At the streamer’s For Your Consideration stand-up event, dubbed “Netflix Is A Joke,” Judd Apatow moderated a comedic panel of Martin Short, Ali Wong and Tig Notaro, all of whom released new specials this year.
After starting in the stand-up comedy world, before his career as a superstar writer, director and producer, Apatow went back to the stage for the first time in 25 years with his Netflix special “Judd Apatow: The Return,” which started streaming in December.
“It’s fun to not have to wait years to see if something’s funny,” he told Variety at the event, held at LA’s Raleigh Studios. “I like thinking of a joke and doing it that night. Sometimes you wait five years, and sometimes it isn’t funny and then you think, what have I been doing for five years?”
Apatow added that as Netflix has offered specials to more and more comics, the comedy field is thriving as a result. “I think the thing about Netflix is they value stand-up comedy, they’ve said a special is worth as much as a movie,” he said. “I think the idea that people are encouraged to write great hours has elevated the form because people used to think in only five minute chunks to get on ‘The Tonight Show,’ now people are trying to tell long stories or reveal more about themselves or just generally be more experimental.”
Short, who has “Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget For the Rest of Your Life” coming to the streamer later this month, said his first experience doing a Netflix special was “fantastic, Steve and I had been touring for a while and it was exciting to kind of memorialize it.”
During the panel, Short joked that Martin couldn’t be at the event because “Steve is older now. Even when we tour he doesn’t really tour, he just wanders off.” He went on to detail how the two comedy icons had started working on a joint act after they were asked to interview each other for a comedy festival in 2011, and “it went a long way from talking with each other to a full variety sketch show.”
Apatow and Short also got competitive, clamoring for Emmy votes from the voters in the room, with the “Trainwreck” director pointing out Short already has three Emmys and Short responding with comments about Apatow’s wealth. Short went so far as to suggest that voters wouldn’t want to make the wrong choice should he die soon, joking they should be thinking, “He doesn’t look that healthy, he’s not going to be here forever. Will we regret it? Will we hear that something happened and we never got a chance to say ‘Thanks Marty?'”
Wong, releasing her second special “Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife” this month after her hit, “Baby Cobra,” talked about the risk she took in shooting her first special before any network was willing to buy it. “I think most people who came to Netflix with their specials were already big stars and big names,” she said. “Interestingly, when we took out my special so many people, everyone, passed on it except Netflix, SeeSo and Showtime. It was a bold move. I always knew that I wanted to go to Netflix because I just wanted eyeballs.”
Wong also spoke about why she thinks there aren’t too many women in the stand-up comedy field, saying, “it’s not doing stand-up that’s hard, it’s going on the road is really not female-friendly. It’s straight up scary and it’s weird and you have no money.”
Notaro, whose special “Tig Notaro: Happy To Be Here” also comes soon to the service, said, “For this particular special I felt like I was just feeling pure joy. This particular special feels like the third piece to a trilogy because I had put out an album called ‘Live’ when I had had cancer and then I put out the second special. My second special was kind of coming out of all of that and this special is really like I don’t have a complaint in the world.”
“Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife” hits Netflix May 13, “Tig Notaro: Happy To Be Here” releases May 22, and “Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget For the Rest of Your Life” arrives May 25.