Netflix announced on Thursday that it will produce “Def Comedy Jam 25” to mark the 25th anniversary of the comedy show, to air this fall. “Def Comedy Jam” originally ran from 1992 to 1996 before being revived in 2006. The show, which was produced by Russell Simmons, helped to launch the careers of the likes of Martin Lawrence, Cedric the Entertainer and Sheryl Underwood.
The lineup of performers for the special thus far include: Lawrence, Underwood, Bill Bellamy, Cedric the Entertainer, Dave Chappelle, Mike Epps, Adele Givens, Eddie Griffin, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Kid Capri, Tracy Morgan, Craig Robinson, JB Smoove, Sommore, Joe Torry and Katt Williams.
Lionsgate has formed a partnership with Kevin Hart and his Hartbeat Digital to launch the Laugh Out Loud video-on-demand service in the fall.
The new over-the-top service will operate 24-7 and serve as the exclusive home for all content created by Hart outside his theatrical and live touring activities and include original series starring Hart — such as a hidden-camera premium original series in which Hart stars as an undercover Lyft driver.
“Lionsgate has always been a great partner of mine, and I’m more than excited to take our business and creative relationship to new levels,” said Hart. “I understand the direction in which the television business is headed, and I see this big new space toward which audiences are starting to gravitate. I believe that launching this venture together now puts us ahead of the pack.”
Laugh Out Loud will also showcase content curated by Hart along with shows featuring social-media stars and up-and-coming comedians. That will include a series starring social media personality Logan Paul, who generated 300 million video views on Facebook last month along with nearly 4 billion loops on Vine.
Codeblack CEO Jeff Clanagan, who has served as Hart’s business partner for the past decade, has been named president of Laugh Out Loud and president of Hartbeat Digital.
Clanagan told Variety that the idea of forming a digital content partnership with Lionsgate had been in the works for several months as vehicle to leverage Hart’s growing worldwide popularity as a stand-up comedy performer. He performed Wednesday in Cape Town, South Africa, for a crowd of 11,000, and was due to appear in Dubai on Friday at a 5,000-seat arena — the final performance in the “What Now” tour.
“Kevin has a worldwide appeal that transcends cultures, particularly in the 18-to-30-year-old demographic,” Clanagan noted. “And they all have smart phones so it makes sense for us to provide them with more comedy content.”
Clanagan also said that the tour, which saw two London shows draw 100,000 attendees, has afforded the Laugh Out venture to start making content deals with up-and-coming comedians from an array of markets.
The alliance will also include Lionsgate teaming with Hart and game developer Fifth Journey to create a social adventure mobile game starring and written in collaboration with Hart. The game will allow players to become comedic rock stars with Hart as their mentor and include touring the country, starring in movies, hosting award shows and more.
On TV talk shows, the host introduces a guest, then music plays while the guest emerges from backstage. On podcasts, the etiquette is still being worked out. The host often launches into an introduction while the guest sits quietly in the same sound booth. A couple of years ago, the co-hosts of a podcast called “Alias Smith and LeRoi” began this way, speaking about their guest, the comedian Leslie Jones, as if she were not there.
“This is gonna be kind of a hot one,” Ali LeRoi said.
“I’ve been waiting to sit her ass down for a minute,” Owen Smith said. “One of the funniest women in the game.”
“Funniest comedian in the game,” Jones interrupted. “Not just woman. I hate that shit.” End of introduction.
Comedians are combatants: they “kill,” they “bomb,” they “destroy.” Such bluster can mask insecurity, and Jones had good reason to feel defensive. She was forty-six, and had been a standup comedian for more than a quarter century; her peers respected her, but that respect rarely translated into high-paying gigs. “I remember some nights where I was, like, ‘All right, this comedy shit just ain’t working out,’ ” she told me recently. “And not just when I was twenty-five. Like, when I was forty-five.” She was a woman in a field dominated by men, and an African-American in an industry that remained disturbingly segregated.
Although she had opened for Katt Williams and Dave Chappelle, acted in movies alongside Ice Cube and Martin Lawrence, recorded a standup special for Showtime, and made several appearances on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” and BET’s “ComicView,” she worried that the gatekeepers of mainstream comedy—bookers for the “Tonight Show,” casting directors of big-budget films—had never heard her name. “Every black comedian in the country knew what I could do,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean everyone else is paying attention.” Chris Rock, who met Jones when they were both road comics in the late eighties, told me, “Black women have the hardest gig in show business. You hear Jennifer Lawrence complaining about getting paid less because she’s a woman—if she was black, she’d really have something to complain about.”
Jones spent much of her career performing in what she calls “shitty chitlin-circuit-ass rooms, where you’re just hoping the promoter pays you.” She told me that, around 2010, “I stopped only doing black clubs. I stopped doing what I call ‘nigger nights’—the Chocolate Sundays, the Mo’ Better Mondays. I knew how to relate to that audience, and I was winning where I was, but I wasn’t moving forward.” She lived in Los Angeles at the time, and she began asking for spots at the Comedy Store, where David Letterman and Robin Williams got their starts. A comedian named Erik Marino, who befriended her there, said, “She felt very strongly that she was being pigeonholed as a black comic—a BET comic.”
For a while, Jones performed at the Store at odd hours. Then, she said, “I went to the booker and I threw the race card at him. ‘Why you won’t let me go up at ten on a Friday? ’Cause I’m black?’ ” The booker gave her a prime-time slot. “She destroyed, obviously,” Marino said. “Bookers are the ones who care about black rooms versus white rooms. To us comedians, it’s, like, if you know what you’re doing and you can connect with an audience, they’re gonna laugh.”
Rock saw Jones perform at the Store in 2012. After her set, he told her, “You were always funny, but you’re at a new level now.”
“You’re right,” she responded. “But I’m not gonna really make it unless someone like you puts me on.” Rock took out his iPhone and added her name to a list labelled “Funny people.”
Jay Z’s music streaming service TIDAL is expanding its content beyond just music, according to exclusive reports on Variety.
Today (November 3), a new show titled “No Small Talk” is set to premiere on the service. The comedy, which will initially include five, 25-30 minute episodes, is hosted by DJ Cipha Sounds, who himself is signed to the management arm of Jay Z’s Roc Nation. Each episode is set to detail the lives of three burgeoning comedians performing at Manhattan’s Comedy Cellar.
“I didn’t want it to feel polished like the standup specials you see on TV,” Cipha Sounds says. “My goal is to help new guys get known, like Def Comedy Jam set up a lot of people’s careers.”
Elsewhere, TIDAL has ordered the second season of “Money & Violence,” an urban drama based on the lives of a group of thieves and drug dealers in Flatbush, Brooklyn. The second season, which is scheduled to premiere in January, is set to be comprised of 12 episodes and will be available exclusively on TIDAL for one week prior to wider distribution, Variety reports.
This change in strategy is part of TIDAL’s next step forward to increase value to its subscribers, Tim Riley, TIDAL’s Senior VP of Artist and Label Relations, said.
“If someone is paying for Tidal, we want that to be the best experience they can have,” Riley said.
Chris Tucker’s first stand-up comedy special Chris Tucker Live will premiere exclusively on Netflix on Friday, July 10. Tucker produces through his banner, Chris Tucker Entertainment with Phil Joanou set to direct.
Filmed at the Historic Fox Theatre in Tucker’s hometown of Atlanta, GA, the special will showcase Tucker’s comedic chops, including impersonations, as he shares his experiences from childhood to the big time.
“Chris Tucker is a true global movie star and a one-of-a-kind talent whose remarkable energy, delivery and original style make him one of the funniest comedians of our time,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix Chief Content Officer. “We cannot wait to share his distinct and hilarious voice with our members across the globe.”
Tucker is possibly best known for playing Detective James Carter in the Rush Hour films. He appeared on Russell Simmons’ HBO Def Comedy Jam in the 1990s and landed his first starring role in the 1995 film cult classic Friday opposite Ice Cube.
Chris Tucker Live joins Netflix’s other comedy stand-up specials including Aziz Ansari, Craig Ferguson, Nick Offerman, Chelse Peretti and Chelsea Handler among others.