Louis C.K. changes the comedy industry

As I write this I’m watching Louis C.K.’s latest comedy special. He’s self published it, which is ground breaking. It’s good so far – he’s just starting to sweat a little through his black shirt.

The short version: Louis self publishing his latest special is important and encouraging for all of us. You should definitely go get it for $5 if you like life

I love Louis because he’s a truth teller. He calls out life’s little bullshit moments. He’s insightful. I love that.

I also love him because he’s a creator. He works hard. He makes. His show on FX is his show alone – he’s given a set budget and he can do whatever he wants with it and that’s what he does and all he wants: to make this stuff he wants to make.

Another way he works is he’s committed to writing a new hour of standup every year. That’s a big deal for a standup guy, tons of work.

For example, take all your funniest moments, all your greatest one liners and jokes and things that you could possible say to make someone laugh. That all adds up to about 6.25 minutes of good content on stage. And that’s your whole life. Louis does an hour, every year. He’s committed to the writing and the craft and the working out of things and I really admire that about him.

Louis is not only one of the best, hardest working comics in the world today, he’s also changing the rules a bit. He’s started connecting directly with his fans over the past year, promoting the show on twitter, etc. And now he’s just created his own special which he’s selling himself on his site.

Before now all of Louis’ specials have been made by HBO or some other network/production studio. That’s the regular for a comedian, that’s what every comedian is working for, what they want. This time, however, Louis is doing everything himself: the writing, the filming, the making, the distribution, he ran all of it.

So, Louis C.K. a real craftsman of a comic, has created another brand new comedy special, he’s done it all himself, and now he’s marketing and distributing and selling the whole thing himself, on his website. I think this is a big deal.

We’ve seen this in other industries

Have you ever heard of internet or social media? Yes, you have. If you haven’t… I envy you a little, but I mostly don’t envy you at all or a little.

Internet has effected everything for people who make things. Now creators can build large audiences, create relationships with them, foster relationships, and sell them things directly.

Listen, you should know all this. I don’t like the way that sentence sounded coming out of my mouth. I’m not going to try to prove that stuff right now. OK? Just take my word for it or search on a google for more info.

Other industries have started to take this social media stuff seriously… music guys have followers on Twitter now and promote their FaceBook page. Authors tweet their links to their book’s Amazon page. Etc.

But much of comedy hasn’t gotten the message yet. Comedy’s an industry trapped between show business and radio, big time hollywood stuff and cafe-ed out spoken word. I think comedians, as a crew, have been more scared than other kinds of content creators that the internet would take away from their success; pirating, idea stealing, etc.

But some of the comedians are starting to get it, starting to explore ways the internet can build their business rather than take away from it. Here’s three examples that come to mind:

Rob Delaney: Started making jokes on twitter a while back, didn’t stop, now he’s responsible for 3 of every 10 of my shat pants. At the time of writing he has 265k followers. His twitters have gotten him jobs as a writer on comedy shows. I’ll say that again: he gets hired in the real world because he works hard on his… tweets! Now he can go on shows and tweet about it and have a built-in fan base.

Marc Maron: Started up a podcast because he got laid off from a radio studio but still had access to the equipment. Oh, yea, before that he was one of the best comedians birthed from that whole alternative comedy scene several years back. He’s been a comedian for about 25 years, and he interviews other comedians and it’s a real treat. Now the podcast is wildly popular, and one can only hope that also means it’s successful. Now Maron sells out theaters because he’s fostered an audience of true fans.

And finally, Louis C.K.: See all the crap I wrote above on this guy. Suffice it to say he’s started caring about controlling his own relationship with fans, creating channels to sell through and product to sell directly to them.

This is all very important!

This is all very important! There’s stuff here that’s old hack for blog and internet folks like myself and likely yourself as well. We know about opt-in forms and twitter followers and RSS feeds, so it’s easy to think “what’s the big deal?” But it’s a big deal for these guys…

And, actually, it’s a big deal for everyone. The reason why this makes me so excited is because this is how I think about my life, this is what I want to do, this gives me hope about making a living creating things I’m proud of… rather than the other model: getting all the best stuff sucked out of me and bought, changed, raped by a larger organization like a production company or record label or network or studio.

Think about it, this is Louis C.K. He’s at the top of the comedy world. He can do anything he wants, and he’s fooling about with self publishing? That’s exciting. That makes me hopeful. That gives all of us a chance. Right?

It brings me back around to Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans, which presents the thought that any artist can survive by fostering 1,000 true fans, people who will buy just about anything you put out there. That’s some internet history for you, that’s like the internet version of a new testament parable.

I’m idealistic, young, hopeful, and only a little weather-worn, but I think this will work… for Louis, for me, for others who care and sweat and work towards the big stuff. I hope the reality of a self-publishing superstar is encouraging to you. He’s using our tools. Tools we all have access to freely. And then he just does a shit ton of work to have something to put out there with those tools, something to put in the pipes. That’s exciting.

Some fun stuff

fun stuff on the website

All over Louis’ site there’s some fun stuff, even though it’s only about 2 pages. From the HTML5boilerplate <html> tag class name of “oldie” (a practice I’m likely to begin doing as well), to the “Buy the thing” buttons, everything sounds and feels like Louis. I like that.

fun stuff in the outtakes

fun stuff in the intentions

I also like his words on the whole “don’t torrent this” thing. Here’s what he has to say:

To those who might wish to “torrent” this video: look, I don’t really get the whole “torrent” thing. I don’t know enough about it to judge either way. But I’d just like you to consider this: I made this video extremely easy to use against well-informed advice. I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without “corporate” restrictions.

Please bear in mind that I am not a company or a corporation. I’m just some guy. I paid for the production and posting of this video with my own money. I would like to be able to post more material to the fans in this way, which makes it cheaper for the buyer and more pleasant for me. So, please help me keep this being a good idea. I can’t stop you from torrenting; all I can do is politely ask you to pay your five little dollars, enjoy the video, and let other people find it in the same way.

Sincerely, Louis C.K.

The Matterful Monthly

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