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How will the business of live comedy respond to advances in technology?

26 September 2018 No Comment

By Sarah Henley, NextUp Comedy

We love to laugh and we love to watch comedians at local comedy clubs, and at special events like the Edinburgh Fringe. We also watch comedy TV series, Hollywood movies and, particularly as busy parents we find our favourite comedians on YouTube when we have time to relax.

Comedy is a tough business to be in but new avenues are opening up to help comedians to earn money and develop their careers.  It is possible that breakthrough comedians catering to a wider range of tastes will find their audience with the launch of new online comedy platforms.

 Reaching New Fans

We predict that niche online streaming services, such as NextUp Comedy, will draw in new audiences who wouldn’t previously have considered themselves ‘comedy fans’.

Watching comedy online is more flexible – you can do it in your own time, wearing your next-to-nothing (if that’s what you like to do). You can take a punt and watch someone new. The new comedian may be so good you’ll want to see them live.  As a result streaming comedy will bring bigger, more wide-ranging audiences into live comedy venues.

Developing viable careers

Online video also provides greater longevity of individual shows for comedians. Imagine writing a full hour of carefully crafted material only to have it disappear after a month in Edinburgh. With much easier access to great camera equipment, when their shows are captured and preserved, new comedians will have a better chance of building an audience of fans, creating a new revenue stream, and developing a viable long-term comedy career.

 More Diverse Comedy

Greater career opportunities for new comedians will mean a broader range of comedy.

Legendary comic George Carlin said “’I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.”  Many people yearn for comedy that pushes boundaries, rather than the cautiously curated comedy we tend to see on TV. By establishing online comedy as a major platform, viewers will have a choice over what comedy they watch and comedians can be their true, unedited selves. Hopefully, this will contribute to a new golden age of comedy, where creativity and diversity are highly-valued.

 Introducing The Comedy Stage

As comedians like Michael McIntyre are filling huge arenas, there’s no reason why comics won’t become the headline acts at big arts-focussed festivals like Glastonbury. Festivals like and Bestival and Latitude already have dedicated comedy tents and sign-up big names.

I think the dominance of comedy at mixed arts festivals like the Edinburgh Fringe will lead to more cities hosting comedy festivals – utilising pubs, clubs and libraries as venues. We already see this happening, for example at Brighton and the Camden Fringe.

Integrating Technology into Sets

Technology will help comedians spread their material, but it could also change the very nature of their acts. Using props, sound and lighting, comedians already transport viewers into different worlds, whether it’s a childhood flashback or a surreal post-apocalyptic sketch. As VR, AI and Augmented Reality become cheaper and more accessible, I can imagine comedians using these technologies to transport the audience even further into their weird and wonderful minds.

Rather than technology being a negative, I am optimistic that comedians will use technology to mix things up, further engage their audience, and find new fans.  They will continue to contribute to our society and culture.  Perhaps now is the time for you to turn your dream of performing into reality and make a new career or business as a comic!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SARAH HENLEY is co-founder of NextUp, a worldwide subscription video-on-demand platform specialising in stand-up specials. NextUp, described as is ‘The Netflix of UK Stand-Up’ (engadget), showcases the full spectrum of the live comedy circuit from sketch, character and storytellers, to gag merchants, observationalists and surrealists. As well as familiar household names, there are also acclaimed rising stars and circuit legends for you to discover.

 

NextUp members have access to recording tickets and exclusive discounts whilst comedians are supported through a 50/50 revenue share model. If you’re a comedian interested in being on NextUp, please get in touch.

 

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