Although Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam premiered on HBO in 1992, Netflix will air a 25th anniversary special later this month as a tribute to the original show. To celebrate the special and the show, the streaming giant pulled out all the stops at a star-studded event Sunday.
Def Comedy Jam was notorious for launching the careers of many African-American comedians including Dave Chappelle, Monique and Mike Epps. The network taped the special at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Netflix's chief content officer Ted Sarandos spoke of his passion to air the special at the event. “We’ve been doing stand-up comedy particularly in the last couple of years. This felt like a natural home for [the special] to keep the legacy going and keep the history going,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
Coming off of the success of Girl’s Trip, breakout star Tiffany Haddish remembered her initial struggle in the world of comedy and how Def Jam gave her an opportunity to get where she is today.
“I feel grateful and thankful and honored that they even thought to call me out of all the people they could’ve called. They called me. It feels good," Haddish said. "I remember when I was trying to get on Def Jam, and I submitted a tape, and then I was showing up at all the auditions, and they wouldn’t let me get on stage, and then somebody saw that tape and said we got to get her on, and when they gave me the opportunity, I lit that ass up. I will always light it up if they give me a chance to.”
Simmons wants the new generation of viewers watching this special to see where the original stars got their start, but also wants people to see that “there is a wealth of other talent that is still underserved and is still not getting a break.”
Simmons added: “We’re doing six more episodes on HBO. I want to be able to expose [these comedians] and then maybe Hollywood will see them for what they are worth.”
Deon Cole, star of Black-ish and its upcoming spinoff Grown-ish, shared his appreciation as well.
“Having this celebration is so important because there are so many people losing their lives, and dying and so much going on. I think we need this time to show everybody how much we love them and appreciate them.”
Between segment tapings, comedians D.L. Hughley and Dave Chappelle joked about their public school education onstage and led a sing-a-long with the audiences. In addition to the countless unscripted jokes, the show also showed a tribute reel to celebrate original Def Jam performers who have passed away.
Def Comedy Jam 25 will air Sept. 26 on Netflix.