Stand-up comedians truly have to work their way up from the bottom to create a strong fan base that will support them. Once they have begun to generate enough buzz around their act, a successful comedian will be given the opportunity to sign with an agent who belongs to a large corporation. This can be all very exciting, but can definitely interfere with a comedians performance style by forcing them to stay away from certain topics that their label does not agree with, as well as interferring the the amount of profit the comics themselves deserve to be earning.
A new trend to avoid this system some comedians have begun to try is, self releasing their own albums. By distributing their stand up specials individually comedians are able to cut out the middle men, charge less for the content as well as put out an honest product they can be proud of.
Grammy award winning comedian, Louis CK experienced extreme success when he decided to self-produce, Live at the Beacon Theater on December 21st, 2011. After just twelve days of selling his album for $5 through his own personal PayPal account CK had grossed over one million dollars! This is an unbelievable success for the comedian, who had already began to split the money with 250k to covering the cost for the special, another 250k for his staff’s salaries as well as some pretty sweet bonuses, and 280k in generous donations to charity. That left Louis with a hefty 220 thousand dollars for himself, for which he had to say,
“Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my childen. The rest I will do terrible, horrible things with and none of that is any of your business. In any case, to me, 220k is enough out of a million.”
CK discussed his experience more in depth on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Admiring his success, comedian, Jim Gaffigan, has decided to self release his next album, Mr. Universe, scheduled to come out in April with 20% of his proceeds going towards The Bob Woodruff Foundation, which serves injured veterans. Gaffigan is fully aware of the huge risk he is taking by this decision, especially with the massive amount of online piracy that is present these days, but he is excited to put out content he can honestly be proud of. Gaffigan comments,
“I must admit that I have not felt this excited and nervous since I first tried stand up over 100 years ago. It’s humbling to take a risk that you are not sure will work. You don’t know if a joke will bomb unless you try it.”
Fans of comedy are all in agreement that this is a positive direction for stand-up to be headed. Comedy geeks everywhere appreciate the opportunity to easily download an album at a lower price, knowing that their money is directly supporting the comic. Gaffigan’s release will definitely be a major factor in deciding if this trend will really catch on.
Below is an excerpt from one of Jim Gaffigans previous Comedy Central specials, Beyond the Pale, if you enjoy it share his stand-up with your friends, because the best advertising a self-producing comedy special can receive is positive word of mouth from his audience.