Comedy Impact Report 2010: Tube Titans

Last summer saw the introduction of the phrase “the Louie deal” among comedians. Louis CK had launched his new partly-scripted, partly-standup half-hour “Louie” on FX, and others in the biz heard that the arrangement was such that FX wires the comic $300,000, which he can use as he sees fit, shooting and editing each episode with no oversight from the network. But the show’s writer-director-star laughs at the notion. Of course FX has the right to make creative decisions, he says. They just never do. “They stay away as long as it’s going well,” he explains, “and I earned that freedom.”

As a network trying to grow its comedy presence, FX was wise to trust in Louis CK. The show was a critical favorite, earning a second season pick-up with a respectable 2.5 million-viewer average, 1.7 million in the key demo (Live+7). His standup — material for “Louie’s” second season — continues to be a powerful draw: He recently sold 7,000 seats in Chicago without advertising and played to a full Carnegie Hall. “Nowadays, with YouTube and the Internet, you can have a specific audience,” he says.

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