Louis CK Laughs His Way to the Bank

Published December 22, 2011

ABOVE: LOUIS CK

Improbaby, ne’er-do-well comedian Louis C.K. is a pretty popular guy. Fed up with the lack of royalty checks coming his way from outlets like iTunes and traditional DVD sales, the comedian decided to release his latest stand-up special, Live at the Beacon Theater, for only $5 on his website. His approach has been a staggering success. In only ten days, the album has already grossed $1 million.

C.K. announced the figure last night on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, explaining that while he was surprised by the response to his “experiment,” the money was already going to good use. Apart from the $250,000 he put aside for production of the special, the comedian told Fallon that $250,000 was paid out to staffers in benefits, another $280,000 was spread amongst five charities of his choosing, and a healthy $220,000 went to C.K. himself.

“I never viewed money as being ‘my money’ I always saw it as ‘the money.’ It’s a resource. If it pools up around me then it needs to be flushed back out into the system,” he said in a statement on his website. “If I make another million, I’ll give more of it away.”

The comedian is hardly the first entertainer to distribute his work in an inventive way (see “Radiohead”), but it’s great to see people being rewarded for being forward-thinking and unselfish. Granted, novel approaches are nothing new to C.K. His FX series, Louie, has both puzzled and delighted viewers in its two seasons by taking a dark and sometimes hyper-realistic approach to comedy. At no time was this more apparent than in season two’s now famous (and uncomfortably real) showdown with Dane Cook: