To any comedian from the 2000’s or earlier, the HBO Comedy Special was the pinnacle of achievement. From George Carlin, to Dave Chappelle, HBO became a hall-of-fame for the greats. That all changed in 2012 with You People Are All The Same, a special from Bill Burr released exclusively on a revolutionary new platform called Netflix...
It was Burr’s third special but a first for Netflix. At that time, Netflix had streaming available but many of its user’s still primarily used Netflix as a DVD delivery service and many thought Burr foolish. That was until a few years later when Netflix almost single handedly birthed the modern comedy boom. They gave out record breaking deals to famous comedians signing them to multiple special contracts at unheard of prices. To have a Netflix special was a sign of success for comics and within a few short years, Netflix had completely replaced HBO as the golden standard for specials. But where HBO had an air of exclusivity, due to their long vetting process, Netflix played fast and loose with deals.
In 8 years, Netflix has published almost 300 comedy specials, completely over-saturating the market and diluting any of the prestige that had come with the mantle HBO once held.
A young budding comic now may have a good shot of landing a Netflix deal, but without a dedicated fanbase, they are almost guaranteed to be lost in the sea of shiny well produced specials on the platform. With Netflix becoming a graveyard of lost dream projects and a global pandemic making live comedy shows temporarily obsolete, it's easy to imagine 2020 as the year that finally bursts the comedy bubble. Enter the Flat Pack™: Joe List, Mark Normand, and Sam Morrill. Three young comedians with dry deadpan delivery and an almost obsolete level of commitment to joke writing. They’re regulars in the NYC comedy scene and, because of their dedication to the craft, are well respected among veteran comics. Jerry Seinfeld even cited Normand as his favorite new comedian and it’s easy to see why. Seinfeld comes from the school of thought that a well crafted joke is always preferable to a great on stage personality. None of the Flat Pack™ are very flashy comedians, and this might be why you won’t see their work on Netflix. But, despite their retro mentalities, they might be lightyears ahead of the curve in their choice of platform. While the rest of their graduating class is all pining after deals from media publishing giants, these three comedians have taken the path untraveled and released their work straight to YouTube.
All three specials performed extremely well, and collectively garnered over 8 million views.
Netflix is notoriously secretive about their viewership, so it’s impossible to know how this stacks up to comparable specials on the platform, but you can be sure that 8 million views has them shook. It turns out, everyone's favorite one-stop shop for everything from cat videos to fail vids may actually be the perfect platform for young creatives. Instead of waiting for the blessing of a giant production studio, comics can now shoot and produce specials on their own and release them straight to their audience with no middle man. Netflix may have killed the prestige of a stand-up special, and 2020 very well might collapse the comedy economy. But, young comedians can rest easy on the shoulders of The Flat Pack™, who’s daring career moves pioneered a new era of creative autonomy.