Chris Rock was a guest on The Champs podcast this week, and the topic of self-released stand-up specials came up. Rock, who has released all four of his specials on HBO, explained why he prefers the old model of debuting a special on cable as opposed to the $5 DIY Louis C.K. method:
“I probably won’t [self-release]. It’s crossed my mind … The thing about HBO or Showtime or Comedy Central or whatever: not only people get to see you that want to see you, people get to see you that don’t want to see you. When you put it out yourself, only your fans see it, so you’re not really expanding your fanbase. You’re satisfying your fans, and it’s great they get something cheap and all of that. But hey man, sometimes people are coming from the clubs and my HBO special’s on and they never saw it and they never liked me … they don’t turn the channel, and they’re like, ‘Oh shit! This motherfucker’s funny!’ You don’t get that when you put it out yourself.”
Rock’s argument against self-releasing is a pretty strong one, and it might be part of the reason the tide is turning back to cable. Louis C.K. put his special Live at the Beacon Theater out himself in 2011 and comedians like Aziz Ansari, Jim Gaffigan, and Rob Delaney followed suit, but even C.K. himself went to HBO for his next special, Oh My God, which debuts on the pay-cable network next month. It seems like the self-releasing trend has petered out for now, but maybe the pendulum will swing back that direction sometime soon.