The recent use of streaming platforms that allow comedians to offer comedy specials directly to their audience is absolutely no laughing matter. In December of 2011, world famous comedian Louis C.K, star of the sitcom “Louie”, released his special “Live at the Beacon Theater” as a $5 download from his personal website. Within 72 hours, C.K. had walked away with nearly a quarter-of-a-million to show for his efforts, and to date the special is closing in on nearly a million. Within a few months, Aziz Ansari, the star of NBC’s hit “Parks and Recreation” took the cash cue and also offered his special “Dangerously Delicious” as a download directly to his fanbase. Although Ansari has not released his numbers, most suspect that he found similar results in the experiment. It appears that a new day has dawned for American comics.
The advent of paid content has allowed comedians and other entertainers to offer their performances directly to their audience and sell comedy videos online, thus cutting out costly middlemen. It used to be that stand ups who wanted to sell their material, whether it be in the form of DVDs or televised events, were at the mercy of studios, networks, and distribution companies. This meant that each chain in the sales link took a larger and larger portion of the profits, often leaving the performer with only pennies on the dollar for their efforts.
Not only was there a financial price to pay, but also a creative one. Comic Jim Gaffigan recently had some of his favorite material left on the cutting room floor after a powerful financial entity found a portion of the comedian’s set less than funny. This offense spurred Gaffigan to begin looking for distribution alternatives where he would have more creative control over his own material.
Up to this point, only the highest tier of comedians have been able to take advantage of this new technology to sell comedy videos online. While it was successful, C.K. paid over $30,000 to have his website and streaming platform built by experts, a price tag that is way out of the league of most other comics in this country, many of which just fight to keep the bills paid while they are on the road. Comedians with less of a following not only do not have the financial ability to create their own costly system, but also, with a smaller fanbase than the humor giants, they would stand to make less of a return even if they could cough up the cash.
Streaming media platforms also allow comedians to offer their material to their audience during a performance without the need to burn, print, and haul cases of DVDs to clubs every night. Now, these low-price delivery options will give mid-level and even small-time stand ups the ability to grow their audience by giving them the simple tools they need to send their comedy out to the world while at the same time attracting a wider range of viewers. With any luck, these media alternatives will allow lesser known comics to stand out in a world of stand ups!