Whether you’re aware of it or not, comedian Bo Burnham is setting a precedent in comedy specials today by releasing his latest hour what. on YouTube and Netflix. That makes watching Bo’s special pretty much free so long as you have an Internet connection.
In years past, Louis C.K. and many that followed his model started producing and distributing their comedy specials on their own instead of going through a network or studio, then charging the nice price point of $5. Outside of C.K., that model has had varying success, depending on the level of fan base that a comedian has.
In Burnham’s case, with such a strong online presence (much of his exposure was attained through his YouTube channel), we could believe that he could have released any project online for a reasonable price and it would have done quite well. The dynamic between content and advertisers online still has to be figured out, and it would seem that having your comedy special seen by the most people probably is top priority.
Thus, Burnham has opted to make it as easy as possible to see his special for pretty much no cost to anyone, whenever they want, wherever they want. In fact, the only thing you can purchase from Burnham’s latest special is the album version of what. at Comedy Central Records, possibly another sign of the times.
Also, I should mention that Burnham is fast becoming a stand out, innovative voice in comedy and, from just the previews of what., he has hit a sweet spot of insightful toe-lining satire between silliness with abandon.