A comedian’s fortunes could change overnight with a spot on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.”
Even better? If Carson summoned the comic over to his iconic couch.
Late-night TV no longer transforms a comedian’s career in the same way. Now, it’s snagging a Netflix comedy special or streaming deal, with a few stars landing talk shows to call their own.
Andrew Schulz suggests that era may be waning, too, at least for stand-ups who won’t play by the woke rules.
Schulz, the freewheeling comic known for hilarious YouTube videos and podcasts like “Flagrant,” is part of the new comedy revolution. It’s not exactly by choice, but he suspects it’s the best path forward for stand-ups who loathe censorship.
Call it DIY Show Business.
Schulz opened up to Megyn Kelly about his new comedy special, “Infamous,” and why he decided to share the special independently. He originally teamed with an unnamed streaming outlet but the platform demanded he remove select jokes.
He refused, deciding to buy back the special and produce it independently. So far, so good, according to TMZ, but it remains to be seen if he’ll get a return on his sizable investment.
“I’m not gonna edit my jokes anymore because I built my career without the streamers and I was able to build this career doing the jokes the exact way I wanted to … I amassed this following and was able to tour around the world,” he told Kelly.
“I never felt like I needed the streamer … the people validate me more than anything,” he added.
The big test? Can comedians without that streamer cash and cachet?
“If we prove you can make more money, or as much money doing it on your own than doing it with a streamer, then there’s no point to go with a streamer and get notes,” Schulz said. “How do you make comedy the most pure?”
Kelly agreed, noting how her career blossomed after NBC unceremoniously fired her on dubious charges. She went rogue, creating a powerful podcast and teaming with SiriusXM while retaining full control of the content.
“I can work around the system where I’m beholden to no one and my product will rise or fail entirely on its own merit,” Kelly said of Schulz’s approach, one that mirrors her own.
“The future is ownership, not censorship,” Schulz said. “The companies that get that are starting to succeed. The creators who get that are succeeding.”
Earlier in the chat, Schulz broke down why the culture is suddenly so sensitive to edgy jokes. During the 1980s and ’90s comedians like Howard Stern, Sam Kinison and Andrew “Dice” Clay challenged the status quo with gags that many found offensive.
They faced little punishment for telling them, though. That’s no longer the case, and Schulz thinks he knows why.
“[Jokes] aren’t true, but the feelings are true. We have these feelings that are messed up … that’s what’s relatable about jokes,” he said. “Even the old Borscht Belt comics, the ‘Take my wife, please’ [material]. You don’t really want someone to take your wife, but sometimes you have this feeling where, ‘yeah, if somebody took her’…and that’s funny to you.”
“How can this paradox exist within me? That’s humor.”
Schulz credits Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” fame for the shift.
“He set an expectation for comedy to be true. And a whole bunch of kids grew up watching it, going, ‘oh, that’s what comedy is supposed to be, it’s supposed to be true, to speak truth to power.'”
He also explained why the new wave of progressive humor often is reduced to “clapter,” not laughs.
“Victimless comedy doesn’t even exist, that’s why it’s so hard to be funny and woke because nobody’s a victim, then what are we gonna make fun of?” he said.