When Louis C.K. sat down for a conversation with TV critic Emily Nussbaum at the New Yorker Festival on Friday, their talk covered many topics: Donald Trump, Dane Cook, even how he handles work and family as a male comedian. But first, they touched on a subject that will be familiar to anyone who followed the story of his self-funded web series, Horace and Pete: C.K.'s unrestrained spending habits.
“I think of money as a resource, like oxygen,” he explained. “I think of it as something that should be out there doing something. I feel like it’s not my money, it’s the Money. It’s like holding your breath forever to save money. So, I like to keep throwing it out.”
He went on to explain that he prefers spending his money on experiences, things he can do with his daughters, and work that requires a different kind of investment from his audience — like Horace and Pete and its $4.5 million budget.
“I mean Horace and Pete was 100 percent my money, and then some that a bank used to own, that I now owe,” he quipped. Back in April, C.K. told Howard Stern that he was in debt from the show — a statement he later corrected on The Hollywood Reporter’s awards podcast. "I said on Howard Stern that I took on debt," he told THR. "I mean, Howard's a comedy guy, so I wanted to make it sound funny, and I knew he would laugh if I said I'm in debt ... I told him, 'Yeah, I'm millions of dollars in debt,' which I was, technically — I took a line of credit to finish the show. But there's no other way to make a TV show! Every TV show that you ever see is running a deficit ... I took on debt so I could get through production, but I knew that I would make the money back — I knew it. I almost have. I mean, in a couple of months, this show will be paid for.”
All ten episodes are still available on C.K.’s website with a tiered pricing system ($5 for the first episode, $2 for the second episode, and $3 for episodes 3–10), and it seems that alone has already paid off.
“I made it all back with people buying it.,” C.K. told Nussbaum. “It made back everything, and it’s going on a service, a thing.”
“What does that mean?” she asked.
“It's one of those things that's gonna happen soon. It’s one of those services. It's Hulu," he said, before adding, "I have no idea if I have the right to say that.” The audience burst out laughing.
“It’s great, it’s good,” C.K. continued over the roar. “I get to write checks to Alan Alda and Steve Buscemi, because they own a big chunk of the show. So that, to me, the thing that’s fun is the checks you’re writing. To me that means things are set, it’s all going good. That’s not because I’m a nice guy. If you’re writing checks to Steve Buscemi, you’ve got a great fucking life.”