Happy New Year! Louis CK. Horace and Pete. Hubris. Huck Finn. Lenny Bruce. Wayne’s World. Scrooge. Crack. Taking it long form. Marketing.
Roger CortonLouis CK? Why Louis CK?
JCHI recently saw a bootleg episode of this web TV show that Louis CK did called Horace And Pete. And it was a bit scary for me on several levels.
JCHSorry for the detour, but you know how much I revere stand-up comedy, right?
RCRight. I believe you’ve even called it the most difficult of the performing arts.
JCHWow, you actually do stay awake during these things (laughs). OK, since Lenny Bruce, adventurous comedians have wanted to take it long form… go beyond comedy to real ‘storytelling’. Like Mark Twain. Just go into the realm of, I guess you’d call it ‘high art’.
RCOK. I seem to recall being told that Huck Finn was ‘great art’, so I’m with ya so far.
JCHCool. So Louis has been heading in this direction for a while now–not just doing shows for laughs, but getting more and more ‘serious’ in a way.
RCAs in, “not as funny”.
JCHI kinda feel that way. As much as I think the guy is the bomb, I don’t watch his TV series. The more he goes for ‘drama’ the less entertaining they are… for me, that is. But anyhoo, apparently he has this show ‘Horace And Pete’ with all these big stars like Steve Buscemi and I hadn’t even heard of it. So I go to the web site and first off? I can’t see what it looks like; there’s no way to ‘preview’ an episode.
JCHNo snippets. You just pay $5 for the show. And if you don’t like it? He’ll send you a refund. But you do get a discount for buying multiple shows.
RCYeah, that sounds like something you’d do (laughs).
JCHEXACTLY! That’s what got me thinking about this. it’s EXACTLY the kind of crap anti-marketing I do!
JCHAKA ‘Shoot yerself in the foot marketing’. Check it out.. I do a bit of research and apparently Louis lost his shirt making the show. Like $2 million. He financed it himself, then just threw it up there assuming his fans would find it. And THAT is some serious hubris there!
RCYou have to market unless you’re selling crack. I keep saying that, but you never do it. And you have to realise that your fans will not necessarily follow you wherever you want to go.
JCHRIGHT! I’ve seen the light. As great as he is, he wasn’t selling what his fans already know, so it was arrogant to expect them to just pay a fiver without even a free taste.
RCAnd I want to highlight that arrogance. If it’s something people already know and like? Maybe you can get away with that. But you can’t assume it’s you they like; rather it’s your brand. So if you’re trying to take your audience in a new direction? You have to treat them deferentially. You have to respect that you’re asking them to cross a new river. You’re asking them to make an effort; to invest. So you have to acknowledge that and assure them that their investment has a high chance of being rewarded. I know that sounds like corporate-speak to you, but it’s the truth.
JCHYou’ll notice that I am not arguing with you. I’m trying to get people who like Progressive Rock—already a teensy-weensy market, to get on board with opera. OPERA, for fuck’s sake! I don’t care how great it is, I’m asking a LOT! After I read about Louis’s financial troubles, I thought about my fans and got down on my knees a la Wayne’s World.
RCYou’re not worthy!
RCOK, so you’ve had your Road To Damascus experience. Now what?
JCHNot a clue (laughs). But I think I’m finally ready to do something.
RCI used to fall for that. Every year I’d offer to help. But now? I hear you say that and I think of you like some alcoholic, “This is the year I finally quit drinkin’!” Yeah, right.
JCHTouché. But c’mon! Maybe this is my ‘Scrooge’ moment?
JCHYou know… Scrooge has to be hit by not one, not two, but THREE ghosts before he finally gets the true meaning of Christmas. Maybe Horace And Pete is my ‘Ghost Of Christmas To Come’ moment.
RCWell, to bring up another quote from Wayne’s World, “Sure. And maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt.”
JCHI hear a tinge of skepticism. We’ll start with a Spring Tour List next week. Maybe then you’ll see. This year? Top o’ the world, Ma! (laughs).
RCRight. But what about the show?
RCHorace And Pete! Did you ever get to actually watch it?
JCHOh… yeah. There are all these screen grabs on Youtube. They look awful, but you get the idea.
JCHAnd, to my mind, it’s even less funny than a lot of his recent TV series. It’s almost like MASH at the end–you know, no obvious ‘jokes’. It’s more like watching a play. I definitely wouldn’t have paid $5 to watch more than one episode. I probably wouldn’t’ve asked for a refund, but that’s only because I woulda rationalized it that he had brought me so much joy with his other work.
RCWell then maybe there’s another lesson here, that we never got to.
RCEven if you’re Louis CK.
JCHYou’re not kidding? OK, I’ll try, coach. Boy, you’re sure a bundle of warmth this new year.
RCIf you’re going to gas on about some ‘life lesson’, I just want to make sure we get the entire lesson. And yes, the point isn’t just that the marketing wasn’t great, it’s that, according to you, the item isn’t what people usually expect, either. He didn’t just make it inconvenient to buy, he didn’t sell the concept.
JCHAh… So…. More to think about than I first realized, grand master.