Fans of Netflix’s standups have been accustomed to getting a laugh from the comfort of their homes, but the streaming giant recently held a new event that tapped into the essence of live entertainment. On April 28, Netflix Is a Joke: The Festival kicked off as a debut experience of over 250 shows that featured both veteran and upcoming comedians. The star-studded lineup included the likes of Dave Chappelle, Wanda Sykes, Ms. Pat, and more. Following the festival, it was announced that shows that will be coming to Netflix as specials.
While the comedy festival was unfamiliar territory for Netflix, being the creators behind standups is far from new for Rikki Hughes, Page Hurwitz, and Linda Mendoza. The producers and director are three women that have been the glue for several of the platform’s specials deemed as comedic gold including Earthquake: Legendary, Ms. Pat: Y'all Wanna Hear Something Crazy?, and Tiffany Haddish: They Ready.
Throughout their careers, they each have found ways to both bring their own style to their work and be a part of amplifying who they work with. Specifically in Hurwitz’s case, being a conduit for diverse voices has been a focal point for her.
While currently working alongside Sykes for their production company Push It Productions, the producer continues to push the envelope with the hope of seeing the culture evolve so there’s space for more comedians that transcend the “norms” of the business, such as Fortune Feimster, to shine.
“Ultimately, we realized that we have more in common and that we are more alike than we are different. And, if we can do that through comedy, that’s huge,” Hurwitz shared with Shadow and Act. “And, that our differences are things to be celebrated and we can laugh together. But, we can laugh about our universal experiences and about our commonality. Right now in this day and age that is so important as seeds of division are routinely and repeatedly sown. Comedians have that ability to bring us together and push against that.”
Working in comedy her entire career, Mendoza has also seen firsthand the opportunities that present themselves to artists in the industry, especially women, when they’re given a fair shot. Following the success of Tiffany Haddish: They Ready — which she directed — it opened up the door for upcoming comedians — at the time — a part of the standup special.
“There was all those comics that they hired who would not have had an opportunity to have a half hour anywhere. But, that was major and they were brilliant and they were brilliant shows.”
"All I can say is thank God for that because it was starting to go away, the standup specials for a little while. HBO and Showtime used to be the only place you could really get in or Comedy Central. If you're a Chris Rock or Wanda Sykes that's one thing, but if you're a Flame Monroe, good luck. But that's not the case, I don't think anymore. I mean sure there’s still people have to get to that point and get the half hour, but having said that at least the possibility is bigger for them."
For Hughes, she’s learned that opportunities also come knocking when artists showcase their ability to get the job done, which women are widely known for doing in all fields. As there’s still more work to be done in regards to more space being created for more women to enter the male-dominated industry, joining a community of supportive, hard-working, like-minded creators at Netflix has played a role in further propelling her being a trailblazer.
“I can honestly say that what we create it’s just been fertile ground. I don’t take it lightly that I stand next to Dave Chappelle. I’m sure there’s a lot of latitude that happens there that is probably not for everybody, but I do like the support that Netflix has always given us and has constantly been a hand in the small of our back as we’ve moved forward.
Hughes continued: “And, even times where it wasn’t the most popular from the very first show that we’ve done, but it was still a voice that was allowed to be heard. When they came for comedy, they came for for it in a big way. I love that we’re able to do premium content that looks amazing and I’m a fan.”