Let's call it the wave of direct comedy. Today, another high-profile comedian has launched their new standup special from their website, straight to fans, without any middleman to speak of. The eternally pale Jim Gaffigan's special "Mr. Universe" is now available to stream and download for the now-standard price of $5.
From his site:
Mr Universe is my all new 75-minute stand up special which is available only here to stream or download. Mr Universe will NOT be available in stores or on television. For the cost of $5 worldwide paid via Paypal or Amazon Mr Universe can be yours. No DRM, no regional restrictions. You can play it as much as you want or burn it and then play it even more than you want. You can gift Mr Universe to anyone if you have their email.
Gaffigan now joins Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari as comedians who have bypassed the networks and released their own product, free from the constraints of editorial control. Louis C.K. is credited with starting this trend with his $5 direct release of his special "Live at the Beacon Theater" back in December of 2011.
Three months later, Parks & Recreation star Aziz Ansari followed suit by releasing his special "Dangerously Delicious" on his site for, you guessed it, $5. He can be seen promoting Gaffigan's special today on Twitter:
We know how Louis C.K.'s experiment worked out. Well. He announced that he had recouped his cost of production in just 12 hours of release, with over 50,000 purchases. After a week of being available online, Louis C.K. had made $1 million on the venture. We've yet to hear exactly how Aziz Ansari did with his direct release.
Louis C.K., Ansari, and Gaffigan are all very popular comedians. They will most likely succeed in this type of venture. But the real question is can other, less prominent comedians and artists do the same without the already-established fan base? Do they need the help of networks for promotional value and to take some of the risk?
PayPal definitely thinks that this model helps artists:
Inspired by Louis C.K., Gaffigan is making “Mr. Universe,” available to download today for just $5, representing another big step for the viability of independent distribution of artistic works. As we’ve said before, PayPal fully supports the direct-to-fan business model for a number of reasons – it helps artists maintain creative control over their work, it typically makes the products more affordable for fans, and gives the artists themselves a larger cut of the profits!
We'll have to wait and see as this trend (hopefully) continues in the future. Now, here's some of the funny: