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Comedy Streamer Laughly Goes Live, Bringing the Yuks in Real Time

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Once Scott secured enough rights, his next step was hiring a designer. He convinced a Spotify designer from Europe to come aboard. The first thing they realized was that just because this is a streaming audio service, it shouldn’t behave like the existing music apps. And when the interface was worked out, Scott hired programmers to actually create the service. Hosting is done by Amazon EC2, where the team has created its own reconfigured version of the Amazon CDN. As the service has progressed, the team has constantly been iterating, making it easier and friendlier. Version 2.0, Laughly’s first massive redesign, launched on April 2, 2017.

As the service grew, Scott learned that he needed to satisfy two different audiences. The core audience is a stable and diehard group of comedy lovers who have stuck with Laughly since day one. These fans have enjoyed thousands and thousands of hours of comedy since launch. They’re outspoken and not shy about suggesting improvements, something that helped Scott’s team refine the experience. But then there’s a second audience of more casual listeners. These listeners don’t know a lot about comedians or what they like; they just want to laugh. They’re looking for a service that taps into their interests and feeds them a constant stream of funny. This audience was falling away. The solution was to provide a new kind of listening experience.

“We created a Pandora­style radio station,” Scott explains. “Now, when you go onto the app we ask you who your favorite comedian is and, based on 150 different attributes of comedy, we actually will tailor that experience to your likes and dislikes.”

To make that a success, Scott hired Kelly Anneken, who had previously worked in Pandora’s comedy section. She brought a knowledge of comedy radio and helped Laughly create personal algorithms for each listener. The company currently has a staff of 14 and is based in San Francisco. It counts 25,000 monthly active users, with 10 percent taking the paid option.

Laughy has been fortunate to attract several marquee advertisers, including Geico, Progressive, Burger King, and Mercedes­Benz. By the time this sees print, the service should be available through Amazon Echo and Google Home devices. People will be able to create accounts and request comedy using their voices, saying, for example, “Play Kevin Hart on Laughly,” to start a Kevin Hart radio station.

Live Comedy and Beyond

The company also has some unique new content coming up. It’s partnered with the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles and now­closed Comix in New York City to license audio from original video those clubs have recorded over the years. These archives have never been heard before on any service. The material will be presented in a new show called The Vault, starting in June. Fans will be able to hear a young Seth MacFarlane’s standup and an early appearance by Kate McKinnon, for example.

Laughly is expanding with other new shows, as well, such as Randos, an interview show starring Carmen Lynch, and On Second Thought, where Sean McCarthy will dissect old bits from popular comics. Along with comedian Gilbert Gottfried, McCarthy will dive into Gottfried’s version of the famous “Aristrocrats” joke. Other shows include The Back Story (how comics got their start) and The Takeover (where comics take over the app and build a playlist).

The one thing Laughly doesn’t have is video, and Scott has no plans to change that. With over­the­top service Seeso offering original scripted comedy and Netflix producing strong comedy specials, Scott sees competing with video services as a losing game. He believes it’s better to find his own niche and work alongside them.

As for those live events previously mentioned, Laughly had streamed five at the time of this interview, with a plan to do two more every week.

The only downside to all of this growth is that Scott hasn’t had any time to polish up his own standup act. While several people on staff are comedians, Scott has had to take a break for now. No, his old material isn’t on Laughly. That’s okay, because it’s a little blue.

“My stuff was too dirty,” Scott laughs. “I don’t know if the CEO could say the stuff that I used to say. Plus I’m a little busy running the company. But I assume at some point in time, I’ll definitely get back into it ... with maybe a little bit cleaner stuff.”

[This article appears in the July/August 2017 issue of Streaming Media Magazine as "Laughly Goes Live, Bringing the Yuks in Real Time."]

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