12:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Chris Rock Sets Comedian Record With $40M for Two Netflix Specials
Chris Rock is making his return to television as a stand-up comic, and he's being paid a king's ransom for his efforts.
After an eight-year absence, the multiple Emmy-winning comedian has signed a massive pact with Netflix for two stand-up specials, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Sources say Rock has secured a whopping $40 million for the specials, which sets a new high mark for a stand-up comic. The $20 million per special is believed to be more than such A-list comedians as Louis C.K., Jerry Seinfeld and Amy Schumer have commanded.
The first Rock show will tape in 2017 and follow a new world tour that is currently being planned. It's unclear when either that first show will air or when the second will tape and be rolled out.
Given Rock's recent Emmy nomination for directing HBO's Schumer special, the deal at Netflix should be considered a big win for the streaming giant, which landed the in-demand comedian's specials following a multiple-network bidding war. The move also is a blow to HBO, where in addition to the Schumer special, Rock has had a 20-year history with the premium cable network that previously aired specials including Bigger & Blacker and Never Scared as well as his talk show The Chris Rock Show.
"Chris Rock is a beloved actor and director, and his remarkable stand-up makes him comic royalty. There is no one like him, and Netflix offers the global platform and creative freedom that will serve as a perfect home for someone with his incredible talent,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said Thursday in a statement.
The specials mark a return to the stage for Rock, who most recently returned to the spotlight to host the Oscars with a well-reviewed performance. In the past year, he also directed the Schumer special and guest-starred on Fox's Empire.
The stand-up specials bring Rock back to Netflix after he appeared in the streaming giant's A Very Murray Christmas special with Bill Murray. In 2014, Rock wrote, directed and starred in ensemble feature Top Five as well as executive produced documentary Eat Drink Laugh: The Story of the Comic Strip. That followed 2009's documentary Good Hair, which he wrote and produced. On the small screen, his credits include The Chris Rock Show, Everybody Hates Chris and Saturday Night Live. Rock is a four-time Emmy winner who also has three Grammys and is a best-selling author. His time hosting the Oscars and directing Schumer's special earned Emmy nominations this year.
Rock's specials join a roster of stand-up performances including Emmy-nominated entries from John Mulaney and Patton Oswalt as well as Cedric the Entertainer, Iliza Shlesinger, Ali Wong, Mike Epps, Aziz Ansari, Anjelah Johnson, Chris Tucker, Chelsea Handler and David Cross, among others. Next up are specials from Joe Rogan, Dana Carvey, Michael Che, Gabriel Iglesias, Reggie Watts and Colin Quinn (with the latter directed by Seinfeld).
"Increasingly, Netflix is becoming the preeminent destination for stand-up comedy, partnering with top-tier talent across a wide variety of styles and humor, enabling them to bring their fresh, distinctive and hilarious voices to our members in 190 countries around the world," said Lisa Nishimura, vp original documentary and comedy at Netflix. "Our members discover every day that we truly offer something for every comedy fan, and the comedians we partner with understand the power of having a direct line to our ever-growing global audience. Coming on the heels of our first Emmy win in the category (Patton Oswalt: Talking for Clapping), now is the perfect time to take things to the next level with Chris Rock."
Netflix's entry into the stand-up space has created a growing arms race to land top talent in an increasingly competitive landscape with featured players Comedy Central, Showtime and HBO, among others.