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Do it yourself


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By Patrick Beane




Louis C.K. is on to something.

He’s making headlines for his latest DIY experiment. Selling tour tickets for a flat fee of $45 directly from his website, the revolutionary comedian cut out the middle man of ticket sales.

He sold 100,000 tickets in 45 hours.

C.K. has also offered two DRM-free live specials for $5 from his website, earning him $1 million. This DIY approach has since been mimicked by comedians Jim Gaffigan and Aziz Ansari.

There’s more.

C.K. writes, directs, produces and stars in a critically-acclaimed show he can truly call his own (he also edited the first two seasons himself, but he’s since passed on the duty to sometime-Woody-Allen-editor Susan E. Morse).

“Louie” premiered on FX in June 2010 and continues to defy expectations.

The unconventional sitcom explores the mundane with beautiful and brutal honesty. It takes a closer look at the routine minutia of adult life than most shows dare.

Take, for example, FX’s description of one of last season’s most commanding and emotional episodes: “Louie rides the subway and hangs out with his friend.” Most day planners have more exciting plots, but C.K. trusts his audience as he trusts himself to appreciate the nuances of his scripts.

Another great episode ends with a fart joke.

“Louie” thrives for its range. Most sitcoms hinge on predictable narrative arcs where zany conundrums meet tidy endings. Few “Louie” episodes look alike.

The show’s third season premiered Thursday, June 28, to the delight of over 2 million viewers. The second episode airs tonight at 10:30 p.m. on FX.

The first episode is a variation on his theme: how to keep a bleeding, bitter heart pumping.

C.K.’s comedy is observational and self-effacing. It doesn’t need punchlines like his show doesn’t need pratfalls.

His missteps are few, but demand attention. In his ironic acknowledgement of his own privilege, C.K. still eludes meaningful confrontation with race and gender issues. If you can scoff at the notion of these conversations taking place in comedy, you’re not giving enough credit to the form, and not holding a comedian like C.K. to the high standards he sets for himself.

It’s important to remember C.K.’s vision isn’t universal, but his observational comedy does unearth relatable experiences. It imagines a way of living in a confusing and often unkind world.

The situated perspective he captures so well can breathe meaning into moments we leave unnoticed.

Maybe that’s why Louis C.K. is hailed as a “comedian’s comedian” by many and “the country’s best standup” by the New Yorker. He’s a visionary director and performer, willing to sacrifice for his art and go to the sad, dark places comedy was always meant to go.

While most mainstream projects demand executive input and commercial support, C.K. decided it was best to do it himself and tell the stories he wants to.
It’s paid off, financially and creatively.

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