HBO Max Expands Stand-Up Comedy Special Roster

Tracy Morgan - Getty- H 2019
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HBO Max is furthering its investment in the stand-up comedy space.

The WarnerMedia-backed streamer, set to launch in May, has picked up hourlong stand-up specials from Tracy Morgan and John Early and rising stars Rose Matafeo and Ahir Shah. Premiere dates for the four specials have not been determined.

"We are incredibly proud to showcase this expansive range of comedic talent on HBO Max,” Suzanna Makkos, executive vp original comedy and animation at HBO Max, said Tuesday in a statement. “From legends to newcomers, this impressive slate of specials will complement the library of premium stand-up specials that HBO has become known for.”

The stand-up specials expand Morgan and Early's relationship with WarnerMedia. Morgan stars on TBS' The Last OG, while Early is part of the ensemble cast of TBS-turned-HBO Max scripted comedy Search Party. Matafeo also has a relationship with HBO Max and will star in Starstruck, a six-episode scripted comedy effort for the forthcoming streamer. Her credits also include the stand-up and sketch comedy series Horndog, which was tapped as best show at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards in 2018. Shah, meanwhile, is a two-time Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee for best comedy show in 2017 and 2018. He is currently on tour with his new stand-up show, Dots.

The four stand-up specials join two Conan O'Brien-hosted specials featuring short sets from up-and-coming comics. O'Brien, who has a long history with TBS and HBO Max chief content officer Kevin Reilly, will also curate three hourlong showcases for comedians to be determined. The streamer also recently acquired a Team Coco-produced special from comedian Jason Veitch.

Stand-up comedy continues to be a hot genre after Netflix entered the space a few years ago. With the streamer's arrival in the space, competition — and prices — for established stars soared. Earlier on Tuesday, Netflix paid breakout Ali Wong in the low eight-figures for two stand-up comedy specials that saw the billion-dollar spender beat out HBO for her specials.