Earlier this year, comedian Ron Funches posted a semi-cryptic (and since-deleted) tweet responding to fans who wanted to know why his first hour-long stand-up special Giggle Fit was on Comedy Central instead of Netflix.
Beside the word Netflix, he put one money bag emoji. Comedy Central got three. But as Funches reveals to me on this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast, it was a bit more complicated than that.
“They didn’t offer me an hour,” Funches says of Netflix, which pitched him on the idea of appearing as part of The Standups, a collection of half-hour specials from comedians like Nikki Glaser, Kyle Kinane, Aparna Nancherla and others. “They said they didn’t see me as an hour comedian at that time,” he added. “And I firmly disagreed.”
Funches says Netflix tried to “convince” him by saying they “get more engagement” on half-hours due to viewers’ shorter attention spans. “What I didn’t enjoy was them trying to sell me on a half-hour—that they are trying to tell me what comedy is, that people don’t watch hours anymore,” he says. “And I was like, then why are you making them? Then why are the big contracts you’re giving going out to the people with hours?”
He’s right. The biggest comedians on Netflix are still producing hour-long specials. Just this past month, Amy Schumer and Kevin Hart both put out new hours. Two years ago, the streaming service made headlines by offering contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to comics like Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and Louis C.K.—another comedian we discuss during the episode—to make hour-long specials.
“To me, if you just were honest and said, ‘Hey, maybe in a couple of years,’ but they were never honest with me,” Funches says. “They just tried to sell me and tell me what comedy is. And I’m the comedian. I tell you what comedy is! Executives don’t tell me what comedy is. I tell you.”
So that’s the real reason he ended up going to Comedy Central. Funches also confirms the network offered him “substantially more money” to make his first hour, Giggle Fit, which got higher ratings than the average special on that network by a wide margin.
That makes him a hotter commodity heading into his next special, whereas if he had gone with Netflix, he says he would have been under contract to work with them again—but only if they wanted him. And since Netflix notoriously doesn’t share streaming numbers with talent, he wouldn’t have had the same leverage when it came time to renegotiate.
Still, Funches knows that many more people would have seen his half-hour on Netflix than will see his hour on Comedy Central.
“Oh, absolutely,” he says. “But for me, that’s no different than anytime any promoter has come at me in that way, that’s always been a red flag: ‘Do it for exposure,’” he says. “To me it was a no-brainer. My son does not eat exposure.”
Subscribe now to ‘The Last Laugh’ on Apple Podcasts, the Himalaya app or wherever you listen to podcasts to hear our full conversation—including Funches on how losing over 140 pounds has affected his comedy and his uncensored opinions about Louis C.K. And look out for new episodes featuring a different comedian guest every Tuesday.