Netflix may be most known for its prestigious original dramas and binge-worthy content; however, over the past few years, the streaming giant has been trying to carve out a niche for itself in the comedy arena. The website has been spending millions of dollars to net the prominent comedians for exclusive stand-up specials and content. No price is too high.
They don't just bring in the notable names either, as lesser-known comedians have gotten their start on Netflix with smaller specials that have increased their value over time, such as Ali Wong. Here is a list of the comedians Netflix has paid the most money for exclusive stand-up specials.
10 Wanda Sykes - $2.5 million
Sykes was outspoken about being low-balled by Netflix when they initially approached her about doing a stand-up comedy special. She had seen her peers getting lucrative $20 million dollar deals and claims she was only offered half of Mo'Nique's earnings (a controversial $500,000 that was well-documented on social media).
Eventually, Sykes ended up doing a special for Netflix because she states "they moved the comma." She doesn't confirm exactly how much the streamer ended up paying her but if she was initially offered $250,000 and the only difference was a comma change, we can assume it was $2.5 million. Her special, Not Normal, launched globally in May 2019.
9 Amy Schumer - $13 million
Back in 2016, Amy Schumer was one of the hottest comediennes on the block. Between her Comedy Central series (Inside Amy Schumer) and her unabashedly raunchy routines, people couldn't get enough of her. As it so happened, the same extended to Netflix! The streaming service commissioned Schumer for an hour-long comedy special called The Leather Special.
Initially, Netflix only offered her $11 million for the special. Variety reports that when Schumer asked for more money after seeing the amount male comedians Dave Chapelle and Chris Rock were making per special. Netflix eventually agreed and upped her paycheck to $13 million in total for one hour of comedy.
8 Jeff Dunham - $16.5 million
Dunham has been around the block for a while. He's notable for his schtick involving puppets and ventriloquism. Apparently, people can't get enough of Jeff Dunham and neither can Netflix. They were willing to pay him $16.5 million for one hour-long comedy special called Jeff Dunham: Relative Disaster.
Before Netflix, Dunham spent years on Comedy Central and then even did a few specials for NBC. The allure of Netflix came from doing something new he'd yet to experiment with that would available to people all around the world. They filmed his special in Ireland, and he even introduced a character in celebration of the location, Shamus, a drunken Irish baby.
7 Jim Gaffigan - $17.5 million
If you're a regular viewer of comedy routines on Netflix, then odds are you've already watched one or more of Jim Gaffigan's stand-up specials. Five of his specials are on the site and he has received a handsome of $17.5 million for them in total. For his sixth special, Nobel Ape, Gaffigan decided to go a different direction.
During an interview with Business Insider, Gaffigan explained his reasoning for why he decided against putting his sixth stand-up special on the streaming platform, "You didn't just have to have Netflix. And I thought this was appealing, that it'd be available to everyone at the same time."
6 Kevin James - $20 million
The King of Queens star was enlisted by Netflix to create a new stand-up comedy special after being out of the game for nearly 17 years. While confirmation of the exact amount James made for his special isn't available, it's estimated he made the same amount, $20 million, as other comedic giants who also had specials booked around the same timeframe as Kevin James.
Ellen DeGeneres, Chris Rock, and Dave Chappelle all signed deals within weeks of one another. It stands to reason James's own deal would be on par with his comedy peers. His special, Never Don't Give Up, premiered last year.
5 Ellen DeGeneres - $20 million
Ellen's stand-up special on Netflix is a big deal for multiple reasons. For starters, before booking her Netflix exclusive stand-up special, she hadn't done stand-up for fifteen years. In addition to making a grand return to the stage, DeGeneres marks the first and only female comedian to make that much money for a single special.
Her price tag is on par with other big-name stars like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle. It makes sense given how revered Ellen is in the industry. She went on a brief tour last year and performed eight shows. Two of her Seattle sets were filmed for the streaming site.
4 Ricky Gervais - $40 million
Gervais's most recent Netflix was not in the stand-up category. He debuted the critically acclaimed series, After Life, earlier this year. Netflix has since renewed it for a second season. His current partnership with Netflix is going strong since he also received $40 million for two stand-up specials.
The first netted him $15 million and was titled Humanity. It debuted in 2018. Netflix has yet to release information on when the follow-up will premiere. It appears Gervais is doing just fine with the company given his work on After Life has been praised by audiences and critics alike.
3 Chris Rock - $40 million
As part of Netflix's efforts to rebrand their website as a pioneer in stand-up comedy specials, they netted established and Emmy Award-winning comedian, Chris Rock in a lucrative business deal. Rock made a return to the arena have an eight-year absence. Considering Netflix was willing to shell out $40 million for two stand-up specials, its easy to see why Chris Rock decided now was the time to make his grand return.
His first exclusive released in 2018 and was titled Tambourine. No word yet on when his second special will come out. "Chris Rock is a beloved actor and director, and his remarkable stand-up makes him comic royalty. There is no one like him." Said Netflix's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, on the deal per The Hollywood Reporter.
2 Dave Chappelle - $60 million
Years ago Chappelle made headlines for leaving his successful series, The Chappelle Show. Since then, he has mostly stayed under the radar until he returned to host Saturday Night Live. His hosting gig was such a success, Netflix got into a bidding war with several other companies to snap up new comedy specials from the comedian.
The deal amounted to $60 million and included two specials from his archives in addition to a new one explicitly produced for Netflix. The initial Netflix specials included Age of Spin, Deep in the Heart of Texas, Equanimity, and The Bird Revelation, divided into two different segments.
1 Jerry Seinfeld - $100 million
The name Seinfeld is synonymous with success. No one understands that better than the man himself. From the Seinfeld syndication deals alone he has made more than $400 million. Therefore, Jerry Seinfeld is awarded the luxury of being more selective in his projects.
His recent hit series, Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, has become a proven success but Seinfeld was unhappy with his lack of creative control over the project. He sought a new home for it outside of Crackle and decided on Netflix. The streaming service offered him a $100 million deal to acquire the rights to the series in addition to a stand-up special, his first in two decades, titled Jerry Before Seinfeld.