how you can make a successful Netflix stand up comedy special just like Mike Birbiglia

Mike Birbiglia’s new special Thank God For Jokes is out today on Netflix! If you’re a comedian there’s no way you’re NOT trying to get your own Netflix special one day. Who wouldn’t want a way to stream their jokes to an audience of millions? However, the steps up to that point seem so abstract… “I know I deserve it, but how could Netflix want to work with a dumb small-time comedian like me?” you ask. “I’ve never ever even been on TV!” That’s why I’m breaking down Mike Birbiglia’s achievement step-by-step to ensure that, one day, you’ll accomplish your own destiny of Netflix stardom.

Step 1

Get some really good jokes. Mike Birbiglia has a joke about Cats-achusetts, which is a cat-based pun on the state “Massachusetts.” This is a really good joke, for example, so try to write really well like that.

Step 2

Okay, great: you’ve got your jokes. Now it’s time to put them all together. Mike Birbiglia likes to have a theme for his shows. One time he did a show all about sleepwalking because he has rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder. One time he did a show about meeting his wife because he has a wife. This time he did one about jokes because he has REALLY GOOD JOKES (I can’t stress enough the importance of step #1). What are all your really good jokes about? I would make your show about that.

Step 3

Now it’s time to get Netflix on board. For this one it would help if you were Mike Birbiglia.

Step 4

Okay perfect. Use all your experience from having done stand up for 20 years and releasing three other specials as leverage to get a good deal. All that producing experience from writing/directing/starring in Sleepwalk with me and Don’t Think Twice will help you run a tough bargain. Make sure nobody gives you any shit; you’re Mike Birbiglia. You’re the boss. What are you afraid of? Nothing. Except bears.

Step 5

The first day of the taping you make sure everything goes as planned. Make sure all your cameras are scattered around the theater so you can use a bunch of sexy camera angles in the editing. Make sure you wear your favorite blue plaid shirt in all the shows so it doesn’t look like you’re suddenly wearing your (second-favorite) green plaid shirt for half a second.

Step 6

Make sure you’re feeling your best. Oh no: you’re sick.

Step 7

Time to go! Get out on stage tell those #reallygoodjokes. Do an incredible set about jokes that was molded over the course of 2-3 years of working on the road.

Step 8

Your vast comedy knowledge and experience tells you to make an announcement at the beginning of the show explaining that you’ve been sick for the past week, which made you lose your voice. Which is “unfortunate” because the special kind of features you talking. People will understand. Take a break to take a sip of water whenever you need. Your voice is your instrument. Play it as beautifully as you possibly can.

Step 9

Don’t pay attention to the two peevish women in the balcony who are all like, “I wish he would stop taking sips of water.” .. .What they should have said was nothing. Take another sip of water just to peeve them even more. Don’t spill on your favorite blue plaid shirt.

Step 10


Step 11

You’re in the editing bay. Editing has just wrapped – Joe Bags pops open a bottle of champagne. They say, “This is a good one, Mike.” You say, “I know, thank you. I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment. I worked very hard on this.” They say, “That was a very genuine reaction to the conclusion of a long, difficult project. We thought you might have made a joke.” And you say, “You’re the joke.. .later.” Because that’s just how you feel.

Step 12

Now it’s time for you to promote the show. Pull on your favorite blue plaid shirt to look good on all those podcasts and stuff. “You’re not the Kenny G of comedy. You’re Mike Birbiglia.” – Mike Birbiglia

Step 13

Do it all over again.

If you like this post, you might also like What I Learned From Seeing Mike Birbiglia’s ‘Thank God For Jokes’ Three Times, which was featured on Mike Birbiglia’s website.

This post was written by Stu Melton, a NYC comedian and creator of ACN. You can find him on twitter @tellsjokes.


The featured image is original art from Brian from Comedy Artwork. Comedy Artwork specializes in illustration & poster design, logos, album design, profile avatars, graphic design, web graphics, etc. If you’d like to talk about a project check out his website or you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @comedyartwork

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