Thousands of comedy fans woke up to excellent news this morning: Aziz Ansari has a new hour stand-up special. Even better, the special was already available for purchase. Better, still: In mere minutes and for only $5, the thing could live on their computer forever (or you can choose to simply stream it)– all by visiting azizansari.com. I chatted with Ansari a few minutes ago to see why he made the decision to release it this way.
“When I was recording the special in June, I knew I wanted to release it online somehow. I saw how many people watched my last special on YouTube and I know how many DVDs I sold, so it seemed like online is how people wanted to watch it,” Ansari tells Laughspin. “I also liked the idea that there’s no bleeps and there’s no edits for content. You can also release it internationally this way– and all those things really appealed to me.”
And although Ansari knew long ago he wasn’t going to go the traditional route of distribution, the success of Louis C.K.’s self-released Live at the Beacon Theater in December of last year, is what made the comedian’s decision a lot easier. “When I was editing the special I actually went over to Louis C.K.’s place and he showed me his special, a couple of weeks before it came out,” Ansari explains. “I asked him what he was doing and he showed me, and was like ‘Whoa, that’ll be interesting to see how that goes. I wondered if people would be up for downloading that big of a file. Would it be able to reach everyone without traditional marketing behind it?’ And then obviously it was a huge success. And then immediately after he did it, so many people were like, ‘You should release your special this way.’And judging from the response today, it seems people are really behind that technique he pioneered. Hopefully it’ll work out for me”
The big difference, however, is C.K. did some serious press before his special was available. The veteran comedian announced his intentions on Conan more than a month before its release– causing every major news outlet and blog to write about the concept nonstop; and, he uploaded an video outtake a few days before. Jim Gaffigan has also announced he’ll be self-releasing his next special Mr. Universe through his website for $5 and his planning to do press before the release. The extent of Ansari’s walk-up to the big reveal was a Tweet at around 3:30 am his time: “Go to azizansari.com & download my new standup special before everyone wakes up for only $5!”
“I figured all these places would post about it, but it wouldn’t be available,” Ansari said of doing a weeks-long press push before the special’s release. “I’d rather have people hear about it and have them know they can get it right now. It’s something I went back and forth on and it’ll be a slower build up. But eventually I decided it would be better to do it this way.”
Comedy Central premiered Ansari’s previous special, 2010’s Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening and released its DVD, CD and digital versions. I asked Ansari if Comedy Central or any other network tried to convince him to go the traditional route. In the end, he says, it really wasn’t much of an issue. “I control it. I paid for it, so no one else had any say in it,” he tells Laughspin. “That’s why you can do whatever you want with it. If you pay for it yourself, you own the content. That’s the thing with stand-up. It’s much cheaper to film an hour of a stand-up special than to make an hour of traditional television. So if you’re a comedian and you’re touring theaters like me or Louie, then you probably have enough money to pay for it. Once you own it, you can do whatever you want with it. It’s up to you.”
It’s safe to assume Ansari has made a wise business decision. Besides maintaining an already-huge fanbase– most of which are young and addicted to social media, Ansari will be dropping into late-night television (keep an eye on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon); he’s also kicking off a four-month theater tour starting April 14 in Montclair, NJ and you can still see him on Parks and Recreation every Thursday on NBC. He’ll be plenty visible. And Dangerously Delicious will sell plenty of copies. Or rather, downloads.
Photo by: Ruvan Wijesooriya