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Ellen DeGeneres Weighs in on the Current State of Comedy: ‘The World is a Boys Club’

Digital distribution models aren't enough to overturn the patriarchy, as Netflix's own numbers reveal.

"Ellen DeGeneres: Relatable"

“Ellen DeGeneres: Relatable”

Getty Images for Netflix

Comedian and TV host supreme Ellen DeGeneres spoke plainly on the red carpet for the Netflix FYSEE event for her first stand-up special in 15 years, weighing in on whether or not alternate distribution models have evened the comedy playing field for women.

“The world is a boys club,” the star of “Ellen DeGeneres: Relatable” stated. “I think we’re in a place where it’s still very imbalanced in so many ways.”

“And, yes, there are more women doing it, but there’s more men doing it,” DeGeneres continued. “It’s still imbalanced, it’s just more people are doing comedy. I think we have a long way to go for women to ever feel like we’re equal or, God forbid, surpass men doing any job at all.”

The comedian’s take appears to be supported by a glance at the rest of Netflix’s own stand-up comedy offerings. Of the 86 original English-language stand-up specials offered in the United States by the streaming content provider since January 2017, over 80% are fronted by men. In 2017 and 2018, Netflix didn’t produce a single hour-long comedy special by black women. So far in 2019, Emmy-winner Wanda Sykes’ “Not Normal” is slated for debut May 21 and Tiffany Haddish has a special scheduled to premiere later this year.

In January 2018, comedian and Oscar-winner Mo’Nique called for a boycott of Netflix after being offered $500,000 for a stand-up special, compared to $11 million given to Amy Schumer and $20 million to Dave Chapelle and Chris Rock. At the time, Sykes – who apparently found common ground with the company this year – stated that Netflix had offered her only $250,000 for her special, citing it as the reason she took “What Happened…Ms.Sykes?” to Epix.

Last month, Sykes explained her change of heart with regards to working with Netflix to Variety. “This time around, Netflix came in with a good offer. It wasn’t Dave Chappelle money but I’m not doing Dave Chappelle business. The offer was commensurate with the business I was doing.”

In September 2018, the New York Times reported that Robbie Praw, Netflix’s director of original stand-up comedy, conceded that “programming so few black women has been a failure.”

Despite the bleak reality suggested by the hour-long special numbers, Netflix does much better on representation when it comes to its short-form stand-up shows, including “The Comedy Line-Up,” “The Standups,” and “The Degenerates.” Wanda Sykes and Tiffany Haddish are also serving as producers on “Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready,” which will feature six of the “Girls Trip” stars’ favorite unsung comedians.

According to DeGeneres, the world has a ways to go before women are going to see anything akin to equality. And so far, it appears the needle is moving, but not far or fast enough.

Additional reporting by Liz Shannon Miller.

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