TALK: Josh Kingsford and the Art of the Stand-Up Special


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Stand-up comedy has been booming, and the most common manifestation of this boom is the rise of the stand-up special, the audiovisual recording of a comic’s set. This was especially obvious during the Covid pandemic, but even before there were signs that the cultural importance of specials has quite increased. Streaming services like Netflix or HBO are releasing more and more specials, even smaller comedians try their luck shooting DIY specials, comedy fans debate about their favourite specials and exchange their favourite jokes with friends.

But what exactly is a stand-up special? It is not just a mere recording of a set, it is more: comedians have found different ways to play not only with the art form of stand-up, but also with the form of the special and the cinematic means of the camera. What can they achieve by this?

Today’s guest is Josh Kingsford, a Welsh comedian living in New Zealand. Josh is running the Youtube channel Comedy Without Errors where he publishes in-depth-analyses about comedians, specials and stand-up related phenomena. He argues that there are indefinite ways of filming stand-up specials, and, by embracing cinematic means, comedians can enhance their jokes and their comic persona. And he shows how, vice versa, sticking to the prevalent notion of the special and doing the recording in huge theatres or arenas can, after all, do harm to the comedic act.

Specials we mention throughout the episode: Jerrod Carmichael: 8 (2017) | Bo Burnham: Inside (2021) | Norm MacDonald: Me Doing Stand-Up (2011) | Drew Michael: Drew Michael (2018) | Stewart Lee: Stand-Up Comedian (2005), 90s Comedian (2006) | Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats (2014) | James Acaster: Repertoire (2018) | Maxi Gstettenbauer: Lieber Maxi als normal (Comedy Central filming 2020)

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