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Friday, December 11, 2015

Seeso Launches The Guest List at The Barrel House

Posted By on Fri, Dec 11, 2015 at 9:30 AM

click image Host Matt Lieb kicks off the first episode of "The Guest List." - PHOTO: @ROOFTOPCOMEDY ON INSTAGRAM
  • Photo: @rooftopcomedy on Instagram
  • Host Matt Lieb kicks off the first episode of "The Guest List."

Armed with blue cups of Lagunitas beer and packed tightly into the small confines of The Barrel House, a crowd of 75 listened as host Matt Lieb prepped them on the evening ahead.

“This is going live in five minutes,” he told the crowd, before testing their ability to spontaneously break into ecstatic applause.

The show being streamed on Tuesday night is one of many shows debuting as part of the Seeso network, an NBC/Universal online enterprise that will serve as a Netflix of comedy. In addition to housing the full runs of beloved shows like 30 Rock, The Kids in the Hall, Saturday Night Live, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the service will also offer a range of original programming from comedy powerhouses like the Upright Citizen’s Brigade. In all, over 20 original series and exclusive stand-up sets will be made available to subscribers for a monthly fee of $3.99.

One piece of original content is The Guest List, a show featuring comics performing stand-up that is live-streamed to subscribers as the event happens. For their inaugural episode, Seeso set up shop at the Barrel House, where they welcomed Ian Bagg, Andi Smith, Andy Erikson, and Michael Palascak, all finalists from NBC’s Last Comic Standing. The season’s winner, Clayton English, served as the evening’s headliner.

Unlike a typical stand-up show, where a host gives way to a feature performer who in turn brings up the headliner, all five comics did roughly the same set length, mining their material and making some San Francisco-specific observations with their time on stage. Bagg broke the mold by dedicating most of his set to crowd work that was highly enjoyable for everyone except the party being engaged. In all, the ten minute sets moved quickly, a tasting menu of humor delights perhaps designed to encourage viewers to further seek out material from the featured guests.

click to enlarge Screenshot of  Andi Smith on "The Guest List" live stream from SeeSo.
  • Screenshot of Andi Smith on "The Guest List" live stream from SeeSo.

The comics on stage run the gamut as far as their styles and deliveries were concerned. Palascak brought to mind John Mulaney with his riffs on relationships and bargain-rate airlines, while Erikson channeled Kristen Schaal in her nervous (but secretly confident) persona and silly punchlines. Topics ranging from divorce to sugar cereals were covered, the latter serving as a highlight of English’s closing set.

The Barrel House did its best to accommodate a room overflowing with bodies, serving beer, wine, and perhaps most crucially, Dixie cups of Goldfish crackers. The cameras, wires, and their handlers spread across the small confines of the venue made clear that the night’s show would not be a normal event, but once things got started, the crew and their gear were entirely unobtrusive, at least for the members of the audience lucky enough to have snagged one of the limited array of plastic black chairs in front of the stage.

While The Guest List is geared towards its online viewers, their presence wasn’t felt. Unlike Comedy Central’s @midnight, where tweets from fans at home inform some of the content on stage, The Guest List serves more as a portal into a live stand-up show, an outlet perhaps most valuable to people whose geographic location would otherwise prevent them from regularly enjoying live comedy.

The success and sustainability of programs like The Guest List still remains to be seen. Seeso, which is currently still in its beta phase and only available to select subscribers, will premiere in full on January 7. At that time, the question of whether a comedy-specific streaming platform can succeed will be answered. Hopefully, the answer is “Yes, and…”.

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About The Author

Zack Ruskin

Zack Ruskin

Zack was born in San Francisco and never found a reason to leave. He has written for Consequence of Sound, The Believer, The Millions, and The Rumpus. He is still in search of a Bort license plate.

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