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Jon Stewart joins a growing list of comics releasing their first stand-up specials in decades

By Elahe Izadi

July 27, 2017 at 1:36 PM

Jon Stewart at the ESPYs on July 12 in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

A monster year for stand-up comedy just got bigger.

This year, longtime comic after longtime comic has announced plans to put out their first new specials in years, sometimes decades. On Wednesday, Jon Stewart joined that list when HBO announced the former "Daily Show" host would put out a stand-up special.

The last time Stewart filmed a special was 1996's "Jon Stewart: Unleavened" on HBO.

"I'm really thrilled to be able to return to stand-up on HBO," Stewart said in an HBO release. "They've always set the standard for great stand-up specials. Plus, I can finally use up the last of the Saddam Hussein jokes left over from my first special."

Related: [The new rock stars: Inside today’s golden age of comedy]

HBO used to be one of the main outlets for stand-up. But recently Netflix has doubled-down on the genre, putting out an average of one new stand-up special a week in 2017, releasing some shorter, half-hour specials from up-and-comers and reportedly inking deals worth tens of millions of dollars with stand-up legends.

Here's when to expect Netflix specials from some of comedy's biggest stars:

Casey Bloys, HBO's president of programming, explained why the premium channel has pulled back from stand-up in recent years. "As a category, stand-up specials account for less than 1 percent of usage on [HBO] Go and Now," Bloys said at this week's Television Critics Association's summer press tour, according to the Hollywood Reporter. He also reportedly referred to Netflix's investment as similar to Comedy Central's stand-up push in the early 2000s.

"It's hard for me to pay exorbitant prices," Bloys added. "When prices come down, or when it makes sense again, it's relatively easy to get back in. We'll wait it out."

HBO has put out some talked-about specials lately, including ones from Jerrod Carmichael and T.J. Miller. But HBO's output is nothing like the pace of Netflix, which so far has released at least 26 original specials this year (and that already surpasses the 19 released last year, and the 12 in 2015).

While HBO didn't announce when Stewart's new stand-up special would be filmed or released, the company added that the comic will also host the "Night of Too Many Stars" comedy benefit, performed live Nov. 18 at Madison Square Garden's theater.

Stewart's under a four-year production deal with HBO that began in 2015. Months ago, HBO and Jon Stewart announced they canceled plans for a short-form animation project.

"We all thought the project had great potential but there were technical issues in terms of production and distribution that proved too difficult given the quick turnaround and topical nature of the material," HBO said in a statement at the time. "We're excited to report that we have some future projects together which you will be hearing about in the near future."

It's now becoming clear that those "future projects" center on a return to Stewart's stand-up roots.

Read More:

Dave Chappelle's unapologetic return to the spotlight — and to a very different world

Is Trump good for comedy? Comedians respond.


Elahe Izadi is a pop culture writer for The Washington Post.

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