Fans of stand-up comedy know that Louis C.K. is kind “The King” at the moment. Every era has its “big” comedian. Carlin had his period; so did Pryor; so did Murphy; and Seinfeld; and Ellen; and even Dane freakin’ Cook. They all became these stand-up comedians that transcended the medium and became hugely influential stars. C.K. is that guy right now, and has been for a few years already. His hit FX series LOUIE has won countless awards, his stand-up specials are events, and he’s used this spotlight to do some truly trailblazing things.
A couple of years ago, when he self-produced his LIVE AT THE BEACON THEATER special, he did something quite radical. Rather than having it air on HBO, or Comedy Central, or Netflix, he very conveniently just threw it up onto his website for the nominal fee of $5. It was cool. I did it. Paid five bucks on Paypal, and then downloaded the MP4 directly to my laptop. It was an unorthodox way of releasing something, and it paid off. Made for only $170,000, the special earned $1 million within a week. C.K. reportedly gave half of that directly back to his crew as a sort of Christmas Bonus and to thank them for their hard work, since many of them also worked tirelessly on LOUIE.
Well, C.K. is at it again.
Last Saturday, he did something even more radical: He uploaded the first episode of a full-scale TV series without ever letting anyone know it was even coming. Starring himself, Steve Buscemi, Jessica Lange, Edie Falco, and Alan Alda HORACE AND PETE debuted with zero fanfare on his website. WHAAAAAAT??
Here’s C.K. himself, describing what’s up with this multi-camera web series that has all the production value of a major network show:
“Part of the idea behind launching it on the site was to create a show in a new way and to provide it to you directly and immediately, without the usual promotion, banner ads, billboards and clips that tell you what the show feels and looks like before you get to see it for yourself. As a writer, there’s always a weird feeing that as you unfold the story and reveal the characters and the tone, you always know that the audience will never get the benefit of seeing it the way you wrote it because they always know so much before they watch it. And as a TV watcher I’m always delighted when I can see a thing without knowing anything about it because of the promotion.”
The series centers on C.K.’s Horace running a century-old bar with his brother Pete (Buscemi) after their father dies. His sister is fighting him for ownership of the bar, and his daughter hates him. Horace’s uncle works at the bar, and his uncle’s ex shows up. Hilarity ensues.
What does the episode cost? Here’s where things get tricky. The price of that first episode $5 alone. The second episode drops down to $2. Then all the subsequent entires will run you $3 a pop.
“The dirty unmovable fact is that this show is f—ing expensive. Horace and Pete is a full-on TV production with four broadcast cameras, two beautiful sets and a state of the art control room and a very talented and skilled crew and a hall-of-fame cast. Basically this is a hand-made, one guy paid for it version of a thing that is usually made by a giant corporation. I charged five dollars because I need to recoup some of the cost in order for us to stay in production.”
C.K.’s comments all come from his own website, which is also where you can find the series: LouisCK.net
He’s definitely taking a gamble here. While there’s no word yet exactly how many episodes are being planned, the final cost of viewing the entire season will likely be more than most people pay for access to ALL of Netflix or Amazon, or to subscribe to a premium network like HBO. He’s really counting on his loyal fanbase to generate enough positive buzz to get people to buy into this unique release model.
SOURCE: The Hollywood Reporter