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Techcrunch Interviews: Laugh.ly The Digital Comedy Play

Media Jobs Laugh.ly The Digital Comedy Play

Dave Scott got the idea for Laugh.ly after spending a year doing stand up comedy.  He realized how much everyone loves a good laugh and he thought he could be the first one to laugh all the way to the bank for the right reasons.  Scott says that 50 million tickets were sold to comedy clubs in 2015 and believes that is an indicator of the potential for his business.

With a similar business model to Spotify, a freemium option with commercials and a $7.99 per month option sans commercials, Laugh.ly will be both an app and a website.

But comedy is all about context and Dave explains how he will catalog, archive and present his humor in a way that will keep you laughing.  Listen in as Roy Weissman of Media Jobs interviews Dave.



Roy: This is Roy Weissman from Mediajobs.com. We’re talking with Dave Scott, the CEO of Laugh.ly.
Dave: The reason I started Laugh.ly was because I actually did stand-up comedy for a year. After I sold my last company, I did open mics and then worked my way up to big headliners and I realized how much people love comedy. In fact, of the 160 people that actually have accounts on Facebook, 91 million of them actually say that stand-up comedy is one of their top five interests. Over 50 million tickets were sold last year to comedy clubs in the United States. That means it’s lot of people who love to laugh, and so what we wanted to do was to create a built-from-the-ground-up streaming app focused primarily on stand-up comedy.


Roy: A streaming app, but isn’t that kind of obvious? What’s the secret sauce here? There’s probably a lot of streaming comedy shows.


Dave: Believe it or not, there’s actually not an audio-only streaming app for comedy. There are other people like Pandora and Spotify that do it, but they don’t really dedicate themselves to it. Just because something works for music doesn’t necessarily mean it works for spoken word. What we’ve done is we’ve built it from the ground up thinking about spoken word in mind. For example, Pandora has the Music Genome Project. It basically allows them to research different tonalities to determine what songs should go after the next in a radio station. The problem is is with comedy there is no tone, it’s all context to jokes. We’ve built ourselves some unique IP that’s focused around understanding the joke and the context of the joke, so if you want to build a radio station of just Trump jokes, guess what? You can do it on Laugh.ly.


Roy: You have a database of jokes, your data is the joke. What else can you do with the data?


Dave: Another thing that we do with it is profanity filtering. Imagine that you’re in the car and you’re listening to Kevin Hart and you think he’s funny and then your kids popped in the car. With a flip of a switch, you can flip on profanity filtering and the same radio station that you were listening to all of a sudden runs clean. That’s because we have a specific, unique IP that we’ve been developing that allows us to be able to understand the context and the words that are said within a joke. That kind of technology is not available in music streaming websites.


Roy: When did you found Laugh.ly?


Dave: I’ve been working on it since 2013, but it’s been officially founded in February of this year.


Roy: You have how many users?


Dave: We have not yet launched, so we’re pre-beta. We’ll be launching officially in the summer time frame.


Roy: How do you expect to get the word out, get the distribution?


Dave: We have a great relationship with the comedians themselves. Because we actually have a revenue share with the actual artists, we’re hoping that they’re going to promote a lot for us. That being said, we have a number of amazing partners and a number of great strategies to be able to get the word out.


What’s really unique about comedy which is different than music, for example, is comedy is shareable. Everyone can remember that joke that they remember that’s really funny, the joke that they told at Thanksgiving. People love to share laughter and love to share jokes. Music is very personal, it’s not shared in the same way. We’re hoping to leverage that social aspect of comedy to really drive adoption.


Roy: If I’m listening to comedy, is it divided up into actual specific jokes? Can I just send one joke to somebody?


Dave: You absolutely can. If you’re a really big fan of a Kanye West joke by Aziz Ansari, you could pass that one joke to your buddies on Facebook and say, “This is hilarious. You have to listen to it.” It invites them to listen right there on the app. If you want to take the whole album and recommend the whole album on Twitter, you can recommend the whole album. If you want to take one playlist, let’s say that you found a playlist that says, “My girlfriend just broke up with me” and it’s a list of jokes that makes someone feel a lot better about that situation, you could pass and forward that playlist onto your friends and family or the person who just broke up with his girlfriend.


Roy: Kind of like with Pandora, I can make my own joke channel?


Dave: You can, absolutely, and then share it with all your buddies.


Roy: Who are some of the comedians that are working with you?


Dave: We actually have the comedic libraries from over 400 comedians, everyone from Kevin Hart to Bill Cosby. He’s probably not that popular to say, so we can maybe say Richard Pryor. We have the comedic libraries from over 400 comedians, everyone from Kevin Hart to Jeff Foxworthy. The goal is to be able to create an ecosystem of all comedy that’s out there today. For example, one of the things that we’re launching is a Sound Cloud-like app which allows emerging comedians to upload their own jokes right in the platform and begin to monetize it right away. By being able to do that, we’re going to have, we believe, the largest library of comedic content in the world.


Roy: Will I have to pay for these jokes? How is that going to work?


Dave: Just like at Spotify and Pandora, there is a free service which is supported by advertising revenue, but if you don’t want to listen to those pesky adds you can pay $7.99 a month and get access to it commercially free.


Roy: Do you know how many people access comedy online on a monthly basis?


Dave: We do. We took a look at successful companies like Funny or Die, College Humor, the Chive, the Onion, and other successful comedy apps and they get about 18 to 25 million unique visitors a month. We think it’s not unreasonable for us to do that within the first five years.


Roy: You’re expecting somewhere around 20 to 30 million users a month?


Dave: Yes. Absolutely.


Roy: How many of those do you think will be paying $7.99?


Dave: It’s no surprise, it’s public knowledge, with Pandora it’s around 10% and from what I understand from Spotify it’s around 25% pay for their premium. We hope to get somewhere between the 10% and 25%.


Roy: Right now, it’s going to be just audio. Do you anticipate video at some point?


Dave: It’s interesting, videos are really crowded space. There’s lots of places to get video right now. Netflix is doing a really great job with it. Randy Adams from Funny or Die is on our board and Funny or Die does a great job with it. We think that video is covered. What’s not covered is when you’re on that long road trip and you just want to laugh or want to hear a story or you remember a great joke, there’s no way to get access to that in a meaningful way. That’s what the problem that we’re here to solve.


Roy: This will only be on an app or will it also be on desktop?


Dave: Yeah, we’ll actually be available on Android, iOS, both mobile and tablet, as well as desktop.


Roy: You’re going to be launching this summer you said?


Dave: Yes, mid-summer, so look out for us. If you want to join the beta early, you can go to www.laughradio.com and jump on the beta for early access.


Roy: Do envision the business growing where you’re going to be hiring people?


Dave: Absolutely. We love engineers, we’ll hire as many of them as we can. Also, there’s a really interesting business opportunity here as we think about how to take this technology to different countries. Believe it or not, India has a huge growing comedian population. We’re already starting to work in the UK and Europe where you’ve got great comedians like Ricky Gervais, Russell Brand, Stewart Lee. We think that there’s a really interesting opportunity to help monetize it as well. We need people from all over the business ecosystem.


Roy: Comedy doesn’t usually travel, so do you envision separate databases for each country? How do you figure this is going to work?


Dave: Yeah, that’s right. You’re right. Australians love their Australian comics. The English love their English comics. Even the Irish love their Irish comics. It’s that polarized. We’re going to be building instances for each one of them. Again, comedians can upload their own stuff, so we could actually launch this as far and wide as China and India and let them populate what they think is funny.


Roy: Was there anything you want to add? It sounds like it’s an amazing service. Anything you want to add to share with people?


Dave: We’re having a lot of fun and the whole reason why this business was built was because we’re comedian-friendly. We love the comedians, we wanted to see this business grow, and we love people that want to apply to the job who love comedy, love comedians, and understand that business and just want to be supportive of the whole industry.


Roy: Should it be more engineers or business types? What kind of engineer?


Dave: We love mobile engineers. Front-end engineers are always hard to find. We’re developing on React, so if you want to get access to the latest technology we’re a great place for you to be. In the next six months, we’ll be building out the business portion of it as well.


Roy: Okay.


Dave: People with media backgrounds is really, really useful.


Roy: You’re talking about developers?


Dave: Yeah, and talking about for business, so people who understand licensing, media and entertainment, Hollywood connections. All that stuff’s very useful.


Roy: Fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing. Sounds like we’re going to get a good laugh out of this.


Dave: Laugh.ly is the best medicine.


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