Jim Gaffigan announced early Wednesday that he will release his next stand-up special, "Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe," exclusively as a download on his website, inspired by fellow comic Louis C.K., who released his last special the same way to much acclaim. Gaffigan also will donate $1 from each sale to the Bob Woodruff Foundation to aid military veterans and their families.
The comedian made the announcement that "sometime in April," he will release the special on JimGaffigan.com. "I will self-produce a high quality special with all new material that will be incredibly easy to download and then you will own it," he wrote. "Forever. For $5. Roughly the price of five packs of Ramen Noodles. And believe me my special is going to be much better than five packs of disgusting Ramen Noodles. Gross."
Gaffigan will record the special on Feb. 25 at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C.
Last December, Louis C.K. made a splash by releasing "Live at the Beacon Theatre" directly from his website for the same price, $5. Gaffigan told The Huffington Post that C.K.'s special paved the way for his own announcement, but that other factors were at play as well.
"Louis' courage and success surrounding [his special] definitely inspired it, but I was thinking about some kind of alternative platform for my special since I'd done my last one," Gaffigan said, indicating that the traditional model of broadcasting, underwritten by advertising, can lend itself to tampering with a performer's craft. He recalled performing at Comedy Central's "Night of Too Many Stars," and being told that a chunk of his material about McDonald's had to be cut from the broadcast due to advertising conflicts.
"What will make this work -- if it will work -- is the naked pursuit of being honest," Gaffigan said. "If you're adding another element that's corporate, it would stink it up a little bit."
It was while Gaffigan was exploring other non-traditional platforms of releasing his special, even receiving at least one "very generous offer" from an online comedy channel, that Louis C.K. released his special through his own website. Gaffigan took note of the advantages he saw in C.K.'s release. "He definitely paved the road for this move and made it an appealing option."
But the disadvantages of releasing a special digitally are not hard to envision in an age when piracy is as accessible as legitimate online markets, if not more so. To that end, Gaffigan hopes that the charitable benefit of the special will dissuade pirates from stealing it. "I have this theory that if a dollar of this money is going to help a wounded veteran, and people still want to steal it, you're just taking money away from a wounded veteran, or some military family that has a father or a brother in Afghanistan," he explained.
Gaffigan's association with the Woodruff Foundation came about last November when he performed at their "Stand Up For Heroes" benefit alongside Jon Stewart, Ricky Gervais and Bruce Springsteen. The day before performing at the event, he had a conversation on a subway with a veteran who will not receive a college diploma because he cannot concentrate on school after returning from Iraq. "We really don't take care of our veterans," Gaffigan said.
Like Gaffigan, C.K. donated many of the proceeds from his special to various charities. However, his contribution came after he saw a profit from the special.
To release this special in such a manner could constitute quite a risk, especially for a comedian who is married and has four kids. But Gaffigan feels that his decision to take that risk is one that he had to make. "It was the same kind of gut feeling that I had when I was a guy who worked in advertising, when I just had a gut feeling that I had to do stand-up comedy," he said. "Not to make this grandiose statement, but it was similar."
Below, check out TechCrunch's video interview with Gaffigan about his special.