Comedian Louis C.K. earned a reported $US4.5 million in less than two days by selling his streaming special straight to fans in 2012.
In 2015, he offered access to his newest special for only $US5.
“It costs a shitload of money to make these specials, and I do it myself,” he wrote on his site. “I love offering it to you directly for so cheap and so easily. I would like that to continue to be a good idea.”
C.K. wasn’t always in the position to bankroll his performances so generously. In an interview with the The Hollywood Reporter, he reflected on how he struggled to earn money earlier in his career:
The year that SNL passed on me  was the same year almost every comedy club in New York closed, and it was the one time where I really thought, ‘I’m probably going to have to quit.’ The early 1990s, they were ugly. The Cellar and the Strip were really the only clubs that survived that time, and they were empty. For almost five years of my life, I was starving. I’d do a club, and the owner wouldn’t pay me. I’d say, “Where’s the money?” and he’d say, “I’m just not paying you.” That’s how little leverage comedians had then. It was really, really hard.
And when things started looking up, he recalls, he wasn’t able to let go of that feeling of scarcity (bolding ours for emphasis):
It’s funny, when you start having success as a stand-up, you’re like, “Oh my god, they’re paying me $US2,500 for seven shows in a week. I’m so excited.” Then you start doing theatres, and you find out what kind of money there really is out there.
I mean, I could make 12 movies next year, and I wouldn’t make half of what I make on the road. When I first started making tons of money, it freaked me out. I would always get 10 grand in cash every show because I needed to touch the money. I needed to feel like it wasn’t just going to pay my bills. I’m a bit like boxers in that way. Boxers go and buy, like, a gold car because they just want to feel like they understand what they have. I’ll be a little dumb like that.
Millions of dollars later, he says he’s stopped keeping cash on hand.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.