The Best Stand-Up Comedy Specials Available Online

1. Louis C.K. – Live at the Beacon Theater

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“There’s no opening act. F—k it, let’s just start.” So begins Louis C.K.’s Live at the Beacon Theater, an hour-long special full of the sort of blunt, no-nonsense comedy people have come to expect from C.K. While he spent many years honing his craft as a more absurdist comic with a sensibility like that on display in his writing for The Dana Carvey Show and Pootie Tang, his transformation into a comic known for the more personal material of his most recent stand-up and his TV series Louie is what has made him a household name.

Live at the Beacon Theater represented a major shift in the distribution of comedy. Just like Radiohead made waves by distributing In Rainbows online independently well before anyone thought that was a good idea for one of the world’s biggest bands to do, C.K. did the same thing with Live at the Beacon Theater, relying on his own website for distribution and making the video free of DRM, which in turn made it very easy for the less scrupulous to distribute via BitTorrent.

The gamble paid off, and C.K. made over $200,000 in profit that he didn’t have to share with Comedy Central or HBO or Netflix. He trusted that his fans would pay for his comedy if he made it easy for them to do, and he was right. It helps, of course, that it is an extremely funny hour of comedy that is well worth the $5 he charged for it. Netflix users no longer have to pay that $5, though, as it is now available via streaming on that site as well.

Where to find it: Netflix or Louisck.net.