There are two lessons we can learn from Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari and Jim Gaffigan– the trio of comedians who successfully self-released their own new comedy specials. The first lesson is that it works, IF — and it’s a big “if” — you have a large enough fanbase. The second lesson is that — and I’m totally going to use a horrible cliche — you can have your cake and eat it, too.
And here’s why: If a comedian pays for their special, they can do whatever the hell they want with it. They can go punk rock and self release it (and their fans will be all like, “YEAH, stick it to the man!”), and then when the artist feels like it, they could enjoy the warm, safe embrace of a giant, international television and distribution machine. And that’s what Aziz Ansari and Louis C.K. are doing.
Ansari’s latest stand-up special Dangerously Delicious will premiere on Comedy Central on Sunday, May 20 at 10 pm EST. And two days later, the uncut, uncensored album version will be available for digital download– also from Comedy Central. And C.K.’s newest special, Live at the Beacon Theater will make its television debut on FX this Saturday at 10 pm EST.
Ansari and C.K. have made wise business decisions. Both have been able to enjoy profits from their work without having to settle for a flat payout or small percentage share from a network. They’ve also endeared themselves to their fans more than ever before, having offered a normally $20-item for a mere $5. At the same time they struck traditional distribution deals, which helps them maintain relationships with the network that helped develop each comedian’s brand. Because, who knows? The entertainment world is fickle. Ansari and C.K. might need to call in a network favor in the future.
So far, Gaffigan, who released his latest project Mr. Universe through his official website, has not announced plans to distribute his product through network television. However, he’s already made available an audio-only version of the special through his site, so the likelihood of Comedy Central releasing a digital album isn’t great. However, it would still make sense for Gaffigan to sign off on a television premiere for Mr. Universe. Like C.K. and Ansari’s move to television, Mr. Universe would reach a more mainstream audience, those who aren’t otherwise tuned in to the hip, computer-friendly DIY aesthetic. Regardless, it seems all parties concerned are getting what they want.