Louis CK is wrapping up what has likely been the best year of his career and it’s unlikely you’ll find any comedian that isn’t impressed with his stand up act.
However, if you’re looking to Louis as a role model, the most valuable lessons you can learn from his success actually have nothing to do with what he does on stage. Rather, you’ll be best served by paying attention to how Louis has handled the business side of his career, because it’s those things that can (and should) influence what you do in your career.
Here’s a few reasons why I believe Louis has found so much success…
He Is Quick To Embrace New Technology
YouTube was launched in 2005. Louis CK launched his own YouTube channel in 2006. Five years later, the majority of comedians still haven’t even launched their own YouTube channels but Louis embraced the “new” video sharing site when it was in its infancy.
He’s uploaded 61 videos over the years and received almost 17 million views for them. That’s 17 million views that his contemporaries back in 2006 didn’t receive and if you don’t think that being on YouTube hasn’t played a role in growing his audience over the last five years, you’re crazy.
Every comedian on the planet is rushing to create their own podcast these days after seeing how much success guys like Marc Maron have had with theirs. Meanwhile, Louis CK was podcasting back in 2006. He may not have had a master plan, and he ultimately abandoned it after a few episodes, but the point is that he experimented with it. He embraced a new technology early on, and tried to see if there was a way to incorporate it into what he did – that’s the lesson. Always be experimenting.
In case you’re wondering, here’s an example of how Louis was “podcasting” back before it became big.
He Plays His Own Game
Is there any comedian out there that has built a career in the same way Louis has? Just about everything he does, every project he takes on, is completely unique to him. He clearly doesn’t care about how the system is “supposed” to work, instead focusing on creating his own paths to success, as is most recently evident in his latest direct-to-fan distribution plan.
It’s important for you to understand there are no rules when it comes to growing your career. You don’t have to do it the way everybody else does, and most likely you’ll have better luck if you find your own way. Louis certainly has.
Did you know that Louis CK first did stand up in 1984? It’s taken him 27 years of hard work, determination, and more than a few failures to get to the point he’s at in his career.
Comedy careers are not built overnight and if you hope to succeed on anywhere near the level of Louis, you have to be prepared to put in the time and to persevere. Just because you’ve been doing comedy for 10 years, that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to anything. A decade doesn’t even put you halfway to what it’s taken Louis to get to where he is, so why should you expect any different?
No matter what ups and downs you may have at the moment, remember that comedy success is a long-term goal. There are no shortcuts.
He Understands The Business Of Hollywood
Comedians rave about how great Louis’ current television series is, but rarely do they talk about the reasons he’s able to make the show he makes. The biggest reason Louis is able to make his show his way is because he was willing to give up money in exchange for control.
Louis recognized that sometimes in Hollywood you’re better off taking less money for a project in exchange for getting more control of the project’s creative direction. Additionally, keeping production costs down lowers the bar for what it takes to be profitable and therefore increases the chances that your show can stay on the air. This is very similar to filmmaker Kevin Smith’s strategy when it comes to making movies – if all your movies are profitable then you get to keep making them, even if they’re not $100 million hits.
This lesson isn’t just applicable to Hollywood, but it’s also applicable to anything you do and get paid for as a comedian. Getting more money isn’t always better than getting less – the most important thing is having a successful project that will lead to continued opportunities to do more.
He’s Much More Than Just A Stand Up Comedian
I’ve ranted plenty of times before about why you need to stop thinking of yourself as just a stand up comedian, and Louis CK’s career speaks to that as well. He may be one of the best stand up comedians alive today, but what’s really catapulted his career is that he also has the ability to write, act, direct, and produce.
It’s those talents that have separated him from many of his stand up peers and enabled him to ultimately draw more people to become fans of his stand up comedy. These days, you can’t just be a stand up – no matter how good you are. You need to be multi-dimensional.
He Engages With His Fans
Louis CK’s fanbase loves him. Sure, they love his talent and think he’s hilarious, but it seems like the connection there is stronger than with the average comedian.
I believe there’s two main reasons for this. First, Louis clearly appreciates them and genuinely seems to have their best interests at heart. He’s not trying to get every last dollar he can out of them, but rather trying to provide them with fun products and experiences at a fair price. His latest release of a concert film available as a $5 download from his own website is a great example of this. And while the traditional entertainment companies try to fight piracy with lawsuits, Louis instead offered a simple plea to his fans.
The other reason Louis CK’s fans love him is because he engages with them. If you look at his Twitter account you’ll see a lot more than just a stream of jokes and references to upcoming tour dates. You’ll see him actually talking to his fans, answering their questions, and engaging with them. And recently, he spent a day answering questions on Reddit, which is another example of how he’s made himself approachable and been willing to interact with his fans in creative ways.
Are these the only reasons Louis CK has been successful? Of course not. He’s an incredibly talented comedian and without that skill, none of this would matter. However, I’d also argue that without all of the things I’ve outlined above, his tremendous skill also wouldn’t have mattered.
He would have been just another talented comic wondering why he hasn’t gotten the career he deserves. Luckily for all of us, that isn’t what happened.