This is the sort of move that might have DVD distributors worried. For his latest show, Louis CK has bypassed the entire industry, paying to have his performance filmed and edited himself, and releasing it directly via the internet.
And it costs just $5 – or £3.20 in the Queen’s money – around a quarter of the price of the most keenly priced new-release stand-up DVD. It’s more than largesse that it’s so cheap; it makes good business sense, too. This is surely a price many casual illegal downloaders might be prepared to pay to assuage their guilt, especially as the cash goes straight to the man who makes them laugh, not a faceless corporation.
CK has put no copy-protection on the footage – presumably believing it’d be cracked anyway, but also a way of saying he trusts us to do the right thing, put it on any of our own devices we want, but pay the price of a beer to have it in the first place.
Physical DVDs won’t die just yet. After all, you’d be hard pressed to release a big-budget movie on the same model. Even stand-up DVDs have some protection as so much of the market is down to gifts, more than people buying for themselves, and it’s hard to wrap a download. But as with his sitcom,CK has proved that you can bypass executives and businessmen – at least once you’ve proved yourself successful and talented.
As for the Live At The Beacon Theater show, it takes up the usual defining themes of his stand-up: that’s he’s a spoiled, selfish jerk – and so are the rest of us. He has principals and morals, but is damned if he’s actually going to live by them; instead he’s the sort of man who’ll be consumed by a vendetta with a six-year-old boy. He feels smug just for having the idea of doing a good deed, even though he has no intention of actually following through with action.
It’s something of a guilty pleasure to hear him confess these unedifying thoughts on stage, saying things no one’s supposed to think or vocalise. He’s ‘edgy’ by being honest, not offensive, right down to opening the show by telling his 2,500-strong audience that, statistically, a few will be dead soon. Not the cheery news they were probably hoping to hear.
CK does air a couple of potentially truly horrendous ideas, but by acknowledging just how horrible they are, manages to snake his way along the line of acceptability. Likewise with the appallingly self-centred actions he describes, the acknowledgment of his own arrogance is – just – enough to forgive him.
There isn’t, perhaps, the moments of comic perfection to be found in some of his earlier specials - especially Chewed Up – which is perhaps an inevitable consequence of his work ethic of turning over a new show every year. But even cruising in third gear, CK is better than most comics over-revving in fifth.
Over the brisk 62 minutes, absurdities are highlighted, home truths are exposed and there are plenty of excellent laughs at the shittiness of human behaviour from the individual to the entire race. And, come on, it’s only five measly dollars to watch one of the best stand-ups of his generation – what are you waiting for?
- Louis CK Live At The Beacon is available here.