Comedian and actor (Parks & Recreation) Aziz Ansari is joining the ranks of high-profile comedians that are cutting out the middleman and releasing their work straight to the internet masses. On Tuesday, he released his new standup special, Dangerously Delicious on his own site for $5. For that one-time fee, viewers unlock 3 streams and 5 high-quality downloads. The hour-long special was filmed at the Warner Theatre in DC in June, 2011.
"I wanted to release it online because I saw how many people viewed clips from my last special online on sites like YouTube," he says on his site. "I also like releasing it myself because there are no commercials, bleeps, or any of that stuff. This is exactly like it was if you saw the live show. After seeing the success of Louis CK's special (which was released in a similar fashion) and numerous people asking me if I would do the same, this seemed like the best route."
Ansari brings up Louis C.K., who kicked off this direct comedy thing with his special Live at the Beacon Theater. Back in December, 2011, Louis C.K. released the standup special direct to fans, available to download on his site for $5. Within the first 12 hours, fans had made 50,000 purchases, earning him $250,000 - which broke the cost of production. About a week later, Louis C.K. reported that they had hit the $1 million mark, so he divvied it up and gave about three-quarters of it to charity.
Ansari used a promoted tweet to get the message out:
And gave a hat tip to Louis C.K.:
@louisck for figuring out the internet for us all.Obviously goes without saying, but thanks to my friend & hilarious person
The benefits of comedians bypassing networks are numerous. First, of course, the money goes straight to them. And they can release their own product, completely free of editorial interference. But then again, all of the promotion then resides squarely on their shoulders.
And this "experiment" is far from thoroughly tested and proven to work. Louis C.K. is a rare comedian who commands a huge following - not the least of which use the internet to spread his videos and quotes virally. To put it simply: Louis C.K. is freaking huge on the interwebs, so it makes sense that his standup special, released in this fashion, would do extremely well.
But Aziz Ansari is also a popular comedian. And so is Jim Gaffigan, who plans to follow this model in a few weeks. On April 11th, Gaffigan will release his new standup special Mr. Universe on his website for $5. One dollar of that will immediately go to the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
The direct-to-consumer content delivery thing is really just underway. When more comedians begin to try it out, we'll get a better idea about its success vs. the traditional model. All I have to say is that if Ansari's special is anywhere near as funny as Louis C.K.'s, he shouldn't have a problem selling it once word gets out.