Stand-up comedy is a booming business

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The Future. These days, stand-up comedians are laughing all the way to the bank, with the industry tripling in value over the last decade and commanding the audiences of even hit bands. Netflix is to thank for the boom, with social media and podcasts expanding the market even further… which could finally make comedy a dominant theatrical genre again, too (if Hollywood gives it a chance).

Funny money
We’re in a peak stand-up comedy era, analyzes Lucas Shaw at Bloomberg.

  • Comedians like Bert Kreischer and Taylor Tomlinson have mostly avoided acting roles in favor of true moneymakers — touring and TV specials.
  • Just how big of moneymakers? Ticket sales for live comedy events have skyrocketed from $371.4 million in 2012 to $909.6 million in 2023.
  • Mike Berkowitz, the co-head of comedy at WME, sums up the market expansion best: “When I started, there were three or four active comedians who could fill even a small theater. Now there’s hundreds.”

In decades past, comedians could only blow up by either starring in a sitcom or getting a guest spot on a late-night show. Specials were reserved for only the biggest stars.

But Netflix changed that equation, paying up to $20 million for specials… which the streamer made a lot of, releasing 50 or more in 2017, 2018, and 2019 and solidifying a new generation of stars, who used those specials as key marketing for their tours.

Things have slowed down slightly since then (while also growing with Netflix’s Netflix Is a Joke Fest), but now that Max and Prime Video are writing big checks to bid on specials as well, the market for laughs may be better than ever.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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