Next Tuesday, Netflix bolsters its reputation as the go-to source for comedy with the release of season 2 of The Standups. The six-episode series features all-new half hours from Joe List, Aparna Nancherla, Kyle Kinane, Gina Yashere, Brent Morin, and Rachel Feinstein. What sets the show apart is its choice to shoot 30-minute sets with established comedians who already have at least one full-length album or hour-long special to their name. Season 2 was shot in November at the Globe Theatre in LA, with each comic given two sets to nail it down. I asked all six comics about the taping, their thoughts on the half-hour format, and the power of Netflix. Five of them got back to me (I’m looking at you, Kyle).
How did the taping go?
Rachel Feinstein: It was really fun. I’m usually vaguely terrified before a taping and pray for a storm or something, but then you get there, and it’s fine because there’s a team of people making sure everything goes well. I should be more nervous for some show in Tempe where no one cares but me.
Aparna Nancherla: It was a fun time in a cool venue. I’ve never been to the Globe Theatre before, and it’s nice to get two sets in to get the best overall final version. I also did multimedia as part of my set, so I got to go first at both my tapings out of the three of us. Brent Morin and Rachel Feinstein were the other two. That feels like it could be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how you feel about going first, but I was fine with it!
Gina Yashere: We did two shows, so I was pretty relaxed as I knew at least one of them was gonna be great. They both were great, but I was able to make changes and improvements for the second set.
Brent Morin: It was a great venue and the comics on the show with me were fantastic, which always makes it easier. And I live in LA, so that helps in terms of knowing how audiences may react.
Joe List: I think the taping went pretty well. I didn’t love the first show. The second show I enjoyed and felt like it went pretty well. We’ll see, I guess. I’m never really sure. I hope it will come out good. Now that I’m thinking about it I’m pretty terrified. Do you hate me?
What lessons have you learned from previous tapings that you applied to this one?
Morin: Well, anytime you do a taping you get excited nerves. But what you learn is it’s okay to take some risks and settle into your act, as opposed to being stiff and mechanical. Whatever you can do to make yourself feel as comfortable as you do when you’re playing the comedy clubs or regular gigs I find is best.
Yashere: To relinquish some control. My three previous specials have been self-produced and then sold to networks. I’ve always rented a theater, sold tickets, hired a crew, and filmed the gig, so once I got my head around the fact that I wasn’t responsible for setting up everything, this special felt easy to me, because all I had to do was turn up and do my thing. Also, I’ve always tried not to look at them as tapings, but as standup sets like all others, just they happen to be being recorded. That way, I recreate the same sense of fun I have on my regular, no-pressure sets.
Nancherla: I think mainly that you need to play to the audience at home as much as the audience that is right in front of you, so it’s okay to not just consider the room, but also think about how the set will read “for the edit.”
Feinstein: I paced myself, didn’t curse as much, asked to say something twice if it came out all slovenly. If I flub a line, I start over.
In terms of reach and gaining new fans, where would you rank Netflix against other outlets?
List: I think Netflix is definitely the best way to reach new fans. It seems that way anyway. I’m hoping. I haven’t added a new fan since my niece was born. She’s a big fan of mine. Netflix is huge though, and it stays up there for a long time. So it seems like it should be the biggest. We’ll see. I’m terrified.
Yashere: Netflix is number one right now. I travel all over the world doing comedy, and I already have a good sized fan base in the UK where I’m from, in Australia, and all over Asia, where I tour every year. The fact that my special will be instantly accessible to a worldwide audience is massive. Comedy is international, so I’m looking forward to gaining more fans in America and beyond. The internet has made the world a small place, and Netflix has really tapped into that.
Morin: The great thing about Netflix is your stuff is there always. It doesn’t have an air date and then disappear. Netflix makes it easy for fans or newcomers to find your stuff, not to mention the global reach as well. My first special with Netflix was two years ago and I still get messages each day from new fans all over the world. It’s pretty cool.
Feinstein: Everyone’s watching Netflix and your special is there. You don’t have to be all frantic about people turning on TV at 11 on a Friday, because they won’t. But they’ll go watch comedy on Netflix all over the world when they want and it’s there.
Is the material in your half hour part of a larger act you were building, or did you work up an all new 30 for The Standups?
Nancherla: It was a snapshot of material I’d been touring with on the road during 2017.
Morin: For me, this was a half hour on its own. It was a part of my life that I needed to put out there now. It was perfect timing for The Standups to come along at the time it did. This was the half hour I needed to get out.
Feinstein: This is new stuff with the exception of a couple jokes that I’ve done before but tightened up for this.
Yashere: Half and half. I’d already sold an hour special in 2017 to Seeso, so I wasn’t planning on doing another special so soon. I was working on a new hour to be ready for 2019. When Netflix called, I used some of the new material I’d been working on, plus some stuff I’d been doing on the road that I felt would give a good idea of who I am.
List: The material in The Standups was pretty much just 30 minutes of the 45 minutes I was headlining on the road with. I just cut the 15 minutes that my aunt and uncle wrote for me. I didn’t want to have to pay them residuals. They’re really scary people.
How do you feel about the half hour format versus the standard hour used for specials and albums?
Nancherla: It does feel like a teaser of an hour, so it’s a nice introduction for an audience to you as a comic but doesn’t require the same commitment, especially time-wise. It’s also nice that it’s packaged with the other half hours, so it’s more bingeable in that sense.
Morin: Watching the way The Standups season 1 was made and handled made me really intrigued. I felt it was well made and easy to go from comic to comic. What makes it interesting compared to the normal hour format is it allows people to get almost an introduction to a comedian they may never have seen before. That can be exciting when trying to get people to watch your act.
List: I like the half hour format. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter and I forget what I was just talking about. Just kidding! I’m terrified. I think it’s good. It’s a good way to get a good sense of the comedian and what they do without having to commit too much time away from your phone.
Yashere: I was skeptical at first. My previous specials have been an hour, and to be able to captivate an audience for that amount of time takes a special kind of skill and talent. Not everyone pulls it off. But we are living in a world where attention spans are getting shorter, mine included. There are only a few hour specials that I’ve watched in their entirety, so the half hour is a good, solid introduction to me, for anyone who doesn’t know my stuff. They get a taster, and then hopefully, they come to get the full experience live.
The Standups debuts on Netflix next Tuesday, March 20th.