Isn’t That Special
The dynamo behind top comedy specials draws on his business and creative chops.
The average comedy fan might not know the name Brian Volk-Weiss. But everyone who works in comedy does.
A Queens, New York, native, he moved to Los Angeles in the late 1990s to get into entertainment. Soon he was managing comedians, and by 2003 Volk-Weiss was producing television and film projects, which led to comedy specials. In 2008 he started the firm that became Comedy Dynamics.
The Burbank-based comedy production and distribution company has since grown into a powerhouse, amassing a huge catalog of stand-up specials from the likes of Bob Saget, D. L. Hughley and Sam Kinison, as well as newer talents such as Tiffany Haddish, Aziz Ansari and Chelsea Peretti.
The company has also produced a slew of television shows, including Kevin Hart’s Guide to Black History for Netflix, The CW’s Discontinued, Animal Planet’s Animal Nation with Anthony Anderson and the Mad About You limited-series reboot that debuted on Spectrum Originals November 20.
Over the years, Volk-Weiss has helped such talents as Ali Wong, Tom Segura and Iliza Shlesinger reach bigger audiences. “It’s my favorite part of my job,” he says. “Shooting a special with somebody that couldn’t sell 20 tickets and then, six months after it comes out, they can sell 2,000 to 5,000 tickets.”
While Netflix has been the go-to place of late to watch stand-up, Comedy Dynamics inked an exclusive production deal this year to create original comedy specials for Amazon Prime.
The partnership kicked off in August with Jim Gaffigan’s latest special, Quality Time. Soon after, the streamer released four more original stand-up specials from Alonzo Bodden, Alice Wetterlund, Mike E. Winfield and #IMomSoHard’s Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley — all produced by Comedy Dynamics.
More such specials are in the Prime pipeline, including The Planet Is Burning, the first-ever stand-up special from Broad City star Ilana Glazer.
Volk-Weiss directed the #IMomSoHard, Wetterlund and Winfield specials himself. As the CEO of Comedy Dynamics, he handles business, but he’s also a producer and a director. His directing credits include Netflix’s documentary series The Toys That Made Us (which he also created) and Arsenio Hall: Smart and Classy (Hall’s first stand-up special, it’s also available on Netflix).
“There are parts of my job that are business, business, business, and then there are parts that are creative, creative, creative. I really need to do both,” Volk-Weiss says. “I’m kind of like Indiana Jones. I know he’s a fictional character. But what I love about his ‘job’ is, sometimes he’s out in the field with people shooting darts at him, and sometimes he’s at the school teaching.”
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 11, 2019
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