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The beginning of the end?
April 11, 2012 4:56 PM   Subscribe

Jim Gaffigan is following in the footsteps of Louis CK and Aziz Ansari and has released his new special as a $5 stream, or DRM-free download. Is it possible for this model to be economically viable to other comics? According to this article, Gaffigan had to invest about $240,000 to produce the special and make in available online. Previously, previously.
posted by cupcake1337 (46 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
* make it available online.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:57 PM on April 11, 2012


Is he actually funny? The teaser is terrible. The whole whale voice thing is lifted right from Finding Nemo and he just comes across as kind of annoying.
posted by unSane at 5:00 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a fan of Jim Gaffigan and a fan of this model of sales. How can you not be? I'm very interested to see how this pans out and hope it gives comedians more control over their distribution.

unSane his schtick is he keeps building something up. I saw him do 40 minutes on bacon in the east village a couple of years ago that had the entire audience dying by the end
posted by slapshot57 at 5:04 PM on April 11, 2012


unSane, I think the whale bit is actually more just derivative of some of his older material.
posted by dougmoon at 5:11 PM on April 11, 2012


Here's part of a Stewart Lee interview where he talks about the economics of doing comedy using the internet as a distribution and advertising tool. While he has a lot of mainstream success, he also has a relatively small audience.
posted by Grimgrin at 5:15 PM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't find the dude the least bit funny, but good on him for giving this a shot.
posted by trackofalljades at 5:18 PM on April 11, 2012


The whole whale voice thing is lifted right from Finding Nemo

Pixar owns the sounds whales make now? This Disney copyright thing is really getting out of control. I'm not a huge fan of Gaffigan's constant running side commentary but almost always find at least portions of his act hilarious.
posted by cyphill at 5:25 PM on April 11, 2012


He better do the "Hot Pockets" bit. That KILLS.
posted by Renoroc at 5:28 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hot Pocket Blue?

Just kidding, Gaffigan is awesome and I hope this trend in $5 videos from truly funny comedians comedians continues (yeah, I'm looking at you Proops).
posted by doctor_negative at 5:33 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


If this is from the tour he just did, then I can vouch that it was funny (he did the hot pockets bit as an encore). I just watched the Aziz Ansari show the other night. I think this is a great business model - at least from the consumer's perspective.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:43 PM on April 11, 2012


I watched the Aziz Ansari video the other day. I only knew his work from Parks & Recreation. I didn't know that he did stand up. It was pretty good. Not amazing, but pretty good. But hey, $5? And it goes to the creator, not some big cable channel? It was definitely worth a chance & it turned out to be more than worth it.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:04 PM on April 11, 2012


Not an especial fan of Gaffigan, but I'll try it out. I mean, $5 is less than a fast food value meal; it'd have to be pretty abysmal to not be worth it.
posted by danb at 6:11 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's cool that Reggie Watts did the music for this special. It's like between his music career and his comedy career, he's become the go-to music guy for comedians.
posted by roll truck roll at 6:12 PM on April 11, 2012


Yeah... loving the $5 comedy special trend. Dunno if I'll watch this, but the Louis CK thing was awesome... and totally looking forward to Aziz's show.

My buddy and I -- old time indie-rock guys -- were just commenting on our walk today about how the indie ethic finally kinda won. Turns out, when you cut out the middleman, things are a lot better.
posted by ph00dz at 6:19 PM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not exactly ... The wealth just moves over to the "middleman" companies that are in the business of helping you create content rather than deliver it. Apple, Canon, Adobe ...
posted by intermod at 6:24 PM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The wealth just moves over to the "middleman" companies that are in the business of helping you create content rather than deliver it. Apple, Canon, Adobe ...

I'm no expert, but my gut says that that's not anywhere near the same kind of money. I mean, record labels and TV networks have all those costs too, but they still make lots of money.
posted by roll truck roll at 6:26 PM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess what's most interesting to me is the infrastructure you have to put into place to make lots of money. That business infrastructure alone, costs money. And so... sure... for some things, totally appropriate to hire ad sales staffs and people to manage them and people to handle all the logistics of everything involved there etc, but at the end of the day, for an increasing number of things -- music, basic digital content (this ain't Avatar), etc... -- keeping it small has some distinct economic advantages.
posted by ph00dz at 6:35 PM on April 11, 2012


Is he actually funny?

Yes, Yes he is.
posted by holdkris99 at 6:40 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I follow a lot of comedians, but I never really followed Gaffigan too closely. I know he kind of has mainstream appeal but I thought him going this route was a bit of a stretch. I'm interested enough to pay the $5 and download it (his servers are extremely slow right now, it's stalled at several hours out).

I was kind of amazed to see he is playing Portland in a few months and they gave him probably the biggest auditorium in the entire city. Even top shelf comics like Aziz Ansari usually only play the Aladdin theather which holds maybe 600-800 tops, but Gaffigan was slated to play the Keller Auditorium which holds close to 3,000. I just don't see him filling that.
posted by mathowie at 6:41 PM on April 11, 2012


"the "middleman" companies that are in the business of helping you create content" are gonna make money whoever distributes it. Of course, a "home made" comedy special can be done without paying the technicians and production people union wages, but this is exactly the kind of 'ala carte' entertainment that the corporations behind 24/7 TV channels have to be scared out of their pants over. Meanwhile, the average monthly cable bill, currently $86, could go up to $200 by 2020. That would be 17 $5 shows this month, but 40 in eight years (assuming the individual shows are still $5).

This is not anything a 'new undiscovered talent' can do (but some of them are already trying to YouTube to fame) but when doctor_negative mentioned Greg Proops, I thought, "I HOPE this trend reaches down far enough for Proops to successfully use it."
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:45 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting that he's donating $1 out of every $5 to charity.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:58 PM on April 11, 2012


I'm a HUGE fan of Gaffigan. But because of him I haven't eaten a Hot Pocket in years.
posted by daydreamer at 7:00 PM on April 11, 2012


I bought Louis CK's and Aziz's and will be buying this one and all the rest that end up doing it because I want to see this model succeed.
posted by holdkris99 at 7:10 PM on April 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh God that Whale bit was bad. The Flight of the Conchords one was good. I'm torn.
posted by flippant at 7:29 PM on April 11, 2012


$240,000?

I know nothing of video production and suchlike but this sounds like a lot to me to film one guy on a stage for one night. Would anyone who would knows care to have a go at a break down?
posted by Damienmce at 7:39 PM on April 11, 2012


I assume the production costs are more in the $100,000 range which includes preproduction, camera and sound crews, theater rental, lighting and stage crews, set up, tear down, catering, plus post-production (editing and mastering etc). Then you've got the web side of things and the marketing and probably the guy is paying himself for appearing. Plus an overall producer and so on. Basic Hollywood accounting is to inflate your costs as much as possible by paying yourself as much as possible on the front.
posted by unSane at 7:44 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know nothing of video production and suchlike but this sounds like a lot to me to film one guy on a stage for one night. Would anyone who would knows care to have a go at a break down?

That's about what it cost for Louis CK to make and release the download of his concert show:
First of all, this was a premium video production, shot with six cameras over two performances at the Beacon Theater, which is a high-priced elite Manhattan venue. I directed this video myself and the production of the video cost around $170,000...

The development of the website, which needed to be a very robust, reliable and carefully constructed website, was around $32,000. We worked for a number of weeks poring over the site to make sure every detail would give buyers a simple, optimal and humane experience for buying the video. I edited the video around the clock for the weeks between the show and the launch.
And Louis CK edited his himself, saving on editing costs and gear hire (he has his own).

So, I suspect that this was a similar case. Venue hire (a lot!), staff costs for the show. Then video equipment hire, staff costs to film the show. Then editing facilities, an editor...etc., to put the DVD together. It all adds up.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:14 PM on April 11, 2012


I'm probably overlooking something obvious here, but why would one go through the cost and trouble of building a website to handle the downloads? Is there really a significant, compelling market out there consisting of people who would both know about this and download it, yet be unable to or refuse to do it through iTunes? Or are there other barriers (cost, legal, etc) to simply distributing via iTunes?
posted by treepour at 9:35 PM on April 11, 2012


What, you mean like having to give 30% of the purchase price to Apple?
posted by unSane at 9:42 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or are there other barriers (cost, legal, etc) to simply distributing via iTunes?

iTunes charges roughly 30% off the top. Gaffigan is estimating his website/hosting costs at $40K. If people pay more than $133K, he breaks even on the web hosting fees; since the special cost $200K to make, he's presumably hoping/thinking he can do a lot better than that. Also, iTunes defeats the indie aesthetic. I assume that there are more than three comedy specials in the entire iTunes library; yet Gaffigan (like Ansari and CK) are each notable for doing the DIY thing. I was saying at lunch I need to buy the CK special, and I never would if it was on iTunes.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:45 PM on April 11, 2012


I paid $5 last night and listened to half of it at work today. Not his best, but still definitely worth the money, Gaffigan is a funny guy who got his reputation doing standup about food, the "hot pockets" bit is what he's most known for.

I really love this $5 comedy trend, and will pretty much buy it from anyone who puts one out.
posted by furtive at 9:51 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or are there other barriers (cost, legal, etc) to simply distributing via iTunes?


Also, the real money to be made here is in knowing who your fans are. If you hand off fulfillment to iTunes, then it's Apple who can connect the user to the sale and know what to sell to that user in future. But if you take responsibility for fulfillment that information is yours and yours alone, and hopefully you can sell to a useful % of these folk in future.
posted by unSane at 9:54 PM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Or are there other barriers (cost, legal, etc) to simply distributing via iTunes?

iTunes still DRMs video content (music no longer has DRM). These guys have been pretty vocal about wanting selling you a DRM free file that you can do whatever you want with. They believe the best way to combat piracy is a fair price and ease of availability and use (and to accept that some percentage of people will just pirate no matter what and you'll never sell to those people).

Now if iTunes turned around tomorrow and allowed DRM free video content, they might be more than happy to let Apple handle the distribution hosting and bandwidth for 30% of the price. But right now, they couldn't have both DRM-free and Apple distribution.
posted by device55 at 6:47 AM on April 12, 2012


Gaffigan was slated to play the Keller Auditorium which holds close to 3,000. I just don't see him filling that.

I think it's one of those things where it's easy to feel like people are more or less popular in accordance with how much the people you hang out with talk about them. (Which happens to me, too.) My sense is that he's actually very popular, he's just not talked about as much. Like NCIS. I'm guessing they base the bookings on what he's been able to fill in the past, so I doubt it's out of nowhere.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:59 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thing about Gaffigan that Ansari and CK don't have is that his act is generally "clean". He rarely curses in his act, and while it seems likely that there is at least one bit of his that isn't safe for children, I can't think of one off the top of my head, which I can't say for Ansari and CK. I like all three comics quite a bit, but Gaffigan has a wide enough appeal that my wife actually bought tickets for his show here last November on the day they went on sale (and yes, he did Hot Pocket as an encore). I hope this works out well for him.
posted by mysterpigg at 8:03 AM on April 12, 2012


Gaffigan was slated to play the Keller Auditorium which holds close to 3,000. I just don't see him filling that.

I saw him at Massey Hall here in Toronto, which seats ~2800. I'm not sure if it was sold out but it seemed pretty full.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:51 AM on April 12, 2012


I'm enjoying this trend, having bought the Louis CK video and I'm probably going to buy this one tonight. I feel like Aziz kind of screwed up this idea a bit though; I was set to buy his special as soon as I found out about it but then I read the Terms and Conditions which purported to restrict the consumer's options for usage, down to how and where you were "allowed" to merely store the file you downloaded. Really? I can't save the video on a computer that someone other than me might access? Sure, your words might not stop me from doing that anyway but they sure stopped me from giving you five bucks.
posted by SpaceBass at 10:17 AM on April 12, 2012


While Jim Gaffigan won't be the first white performer at the Apollo Theater, he may set a record later this year for being the whitest.
posted by Gary at 10:37 AM on April 12, 2012


Is there really a significant, compelling market out there consisting of people who would both know about this and download it, yet be unable to or refuse to do it through iTunes? Or are there other barriers (cost, legal, etc) to simply distributing via iTunes?

I don't know if I'm significant, but this was a big reason the Louis CK special was so appealing - I could just download it and watch it on my TV like I could with anything without having to try and find some proprietary subscription or DRM scheme that actually interfaces with my TV. Conversely with the new Paul F. Tompkins special, even though the DVD is being released right after the airing, it's hard not to miss the elegance of the CK model.
posted by anazgnos at 11:12 AM on April 12, 2012


Psyched as hell; I know what we're watching tonight.

CHIP CHOP CHIP
posted by herbplarfegan at 1:29 PM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


He was on my local classic rock radio show pimping this $5 show and he had a great line about having a fourth child. It was something like..."if want to know what having a fourth child is like imagine you are drowning in a lake and someone hands you a baby." I lol'ed.
posted by ian1977 at 3:09 PM on April 12, 2012


I was kind of amazed to see he is playing Portland in a few months and they gave him probably the biggest auditorium in the entire city. Even top shelf comics like Aziz Ansari usually only play the Aladdin theather which holds maybe 600-800 tops, but Gaffigan was slated to play the Keller Auditorium which holds close to 3,000. I just don't see him filling that.

Aziz Ansari is not top shelf, by a long shot. People mostly know him as that guy from that show, not as a standup. He caters to a specific audience, doing a lot of Kanye-based jokes that old people just don't get.

Jim Gaffigan, on the other hand, does jokes about food. Most people know what food is. They get the jokes. He's been doing standup for 20 years, and has been on Letterman and Conan and Leno a kajillion times in that capacity. He fills 2500-seaters reliably.

Top shelf? Russell Peters. Dude sells out 15,000-seat stadiums with astounding regularity.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:01 PM on April 12, 2012


The Radical averageness of Jim Gaffigan's Stand up Comedy
posted by Comrade_robot at 1:55 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jim Gaffigan talks at length on the Nerdist podcast.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:01 PM on April 14, 2012


Paramount Thinks That Louis CK Making $1 Million In 12 Days Means He's Not Monetizing   LOL
posted by jeffburdges at 8:11 AM on April 16, 2012


Oh wow! Jonathan Coulton apparently grossed about half a million dollars last year. I'd figure his music was really niche but I suppose it's a niche filled with well paid people.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:29 AM on April 16, 2012


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