Andrew Schulz has built his fanbase on killer content, and a brand of independent multimedia comedy that does not shy away from controversy but rather grins and laughs in its face.
Dave Chappelle’s newest special dominated the headlines when it was released Aug 26th to a mixed reception, but while the flashy premiere of Sticks & Stones got media attention, and the kind of front page visibility that being the biggest comedian on the planet affords, another comedian was clawing itself a size-able space with nothing but content and a rabid growing fanbase. Comedian Andrew Schulz dropped his own 35 minute special, The Crowd Work Special, on the very same day that Chappelle’s “Sticks and Stones” premiered. It’s a ballsy move or at least a move that says Schulz isn’t concerned the types of rules that those who came before him follow. Rules like- don’t release your new comedy special on YouTube. And if you want media coverage, or even conversational word of mouth, you would never put out new content on the same day that the most talked about stand up comedian has a major release on the planet’s biggest platform.
But Schulz did, and he’s made no secret of his aspirations. He has a great deal of respect for the legacy of comedy but also fully embraces the responsibility of pushing it forward, and he’s doing exactly that.
Schulz stated in an episode of his podcast “We’ll never knock Chappelle but I’m going to loosen the belt off his waist one of these days,” showing the heights of his ambition. The release of the new special this week was not so much a move on Chappelle but rather on Netflix. Schulz has been very vocal about the streaming service and it’s new but solid position as a gatekeeper in stand-up. When Netflix announced Friends would be leaving the network Schulz tweeted “Tick Tok.” On Flagrant 2 he stated “We are creating content that’s at the level of what Netflix and all these other things can do and we giving it to the people on YouTube for free. It’s some comedy Robin Hood shit.”
Schulz and his prolific collaborator, cameraman and editor Alexx Anderson (Alexxmedia) are reinventing the way stand-up is delivered, releasing short content segments almost daily on a variety of platforms. Not easy by any means- this special had a less then 10 day turnaround and required a 30 hour edit. It’s working. While mainstream media was still trying to figure out how to frame Chappelle’s special, The Crowd Work Special racked up 150,000 views in ten hours, and after two days has been watched 368,000 times, and that’s just a warm up. His first special “Views from the Cis” debuted on Youtube in February and has since garnered six million views.
The statement Schulz is making with his new special is subtle but clear for those who know where to look. Specifically, in the fact that Netflix released a bonus short content segment composed of a crowd Q&A shot on Broadway. The intent is to humanize the superstar but unlike crowd work, a Q&A leaves an element of control and the possibility of editing anything “off brand.” Crowd Work is a skill- like any other in comedy- that often dulls with fame because it requires one to engage with the audience; an alchemy that can be explosive and inadvertently create hecklers.
In the Crowd Work Special, Schultz utilizes one of the most potent elements in his chemistry set– Charm-monium– to keep the crowd with him the entire time. “Retarded” is one of the most divisive words currently in stand up. Schulz drops it in the opening of his special to thunderous laughter. Because he doesn’t believe in cancel culture. “I think it’s us changing the culture, getting into the ecosystem enough that comedy fans around the world are proving that we like this type of comedy and it’s possible and getting the cancel shit the fuck out of here.” On his choice to use YouTube as a platform he states “You can’t cancel me only I can cancel me.”
Earlier this month Schulz had been shadow banned by Instagram. To combat the ban he released a super smooth inoffensive video of him go karting in Japan to Fashun by Naomi Smalls and called on his followers to help him have the ban lifted. After the story was featured on The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, the ban mysteriously disappeared.
Schulz utilized that same knowledge of the cultural moment in releasing the Crowd Work Special. Knowing the subject matter he is currently touring would overlap with Chappelle and comparisons would surely be made. Rather than fight it, he helped facilitate it, and turned the collective heads of his audience to ultimately scrutinize the power of Netflix.
On a day when everyone was watching comedy it was a a great way to be included in the conversation.
“Jokes don’t divide us they bring us together.”