EPIX presents Unprotected Sets

I have some problems with Unprotected Sets.

Not a big fan of the title. Definitely not a fan of the promotional poster and imaging, which doubles down on the sexual innuendo by giving you the impression that stand-up comedy is best represented by a bunch of attacking sperm. Unless you want to reinforce that, I suppose. And then learning Mark Burnett is the top executive producer, well, that’s not winning me over, either.

But Push It Productions, the studio of Wanda Sykes and Page Hurwitz (who had mounted the most recent revival of Last Comic Standing), has put together perhaps the most interesting collection of half-hour stand-up comedy showcases out there.

And that’s saying a lot when you also have Comedy Central, Netflix, the historical HBO half-hours, and lots of other stand-up showcases of less than a half-hour out there during this current comedy boom.

What makes Unprotected Sets special, or more special than the rest?

It’s the little things.

No ads. Using the spots for ad breaks to instead cut to brief backstage interview segments that allow us to learn more about each of the comedians. Selecting an intriguing group of comedians that we’d want to know more about in the first place. Shooting in a variety of locations: The first six episodes take us from Curious Comedy Theater in Portland, Ore., to Esther’s Follie’s in Austin, to The Punchline in Atlanta, to The American Comedy Co. in San Diego. Shooting the half-hours as part of a regular night out at those clubs, and thereby also giving us brief glimpses of comedy from the feature acts (and sometimes the MC, too!) for each of these headliners.

There are 12 episodes in the first season. Six so far have aired on Friday nights on EPIX, and I caught up with all of them during this weekend’s “free EPIX preview” on Verizon Fios.

They featured Zainab Johnson, Army vet Raul Sanchez (who compared stand-up to jumping out of planes!), Daniel Webb, Rocky Dale Davis, Mia Jackson and Rob Christensen.

Check ’em out. Roll the clips!



Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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