3 Powerful Content Marketing Lessons from Louis C.K.

louis ck wiki imageStandup comedians are a type of small business owner.

They are brands. They are often entrepreneurs and innovators. They’ve been doing content marketing long before it became a buzz-worthy concept.

The smartest comics saw lots of opportunities online.

They’ve used social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to connect with fans and test out material. They take advantage of video sites like YouTube and use their blogs/websites to create a loyal following while promoting what they’re up to.

Right now, Louis C.K. is one of the most successful comedians in the business. One reason why is that he has figured out how to use content marketing to his advantage.

Louis made headlines last year when he decided to forget about a distributor or an elaborate advertising campaign and sold his stand-up special Live at the Beacon Center through his website for just $5.

It took him less than two weeks to generate more than $1 million in sales.

Louis raised eyebrows again this year when he sold tickets to his comedy tour through his website alone. This has allowed fans to get affordable tickets that were not marked up by brokers or taxes and fees.

Everyone has already written about how groundbreaking it was for Louis C.K. to cut out the middle man. I agree! It’s an incredible example of how content marketing is the way to go in this post-advertising world. Keep in mind that C.K. hasn’t completely  given up on traditional forms of media and advertising. But he certainly sees the value in this new strategy.

Besides his unorthodox approach to the comedy business – there are other things in Louis C.K.’s career that content marketers should follow. Here are three that stick out to me…

1. Keep Your Content Fresh and Original

Every year – Louis C.K. writes at least an hour’s worth of new material. That’s an entirely new stand-up comedy act!

Very few comics can pull that off. Only legendary comedians like George Carlin actually did. But C.K.’s dedication to giving his fans something fresh keeps them coming back for more. Plus, it also keeps him at the top of his comedic game.

What Can We Learn?

Louis is already a living comedy legend because he goes the extra mile. He’s not telling the same old jokes over and over again. But sometimes we create the same old content over and over again.

We’re writing the same list posts as our competitors, and creating the same boring How To videos. We give obvious suggestions in order to crank out a large quantity of content instead of high quality content.

Be different. Find something new to say. Say something that people need to hear or want to hear. Don’t rehash the same stuff over and over again. Add something to the conversation.

2. Own Your Content Marketing

title from Louie on FXLouis C.K.’s show on the FX network, Louie, is loosely based on his life as a comedian and a divorced dad.

To date, the program has been nominated for five Emmy Awards and recently won in the Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series category.

Louis C.K. created, writes, produces, directs and edits the show. Of course, he’s also the star. Now obviously, Louie isn’t doing absolutely everything on his own. However, he is definitely involved in every part of the process . From pre-production, to shooting the show to post production, his fingerprints are on all of it.

What Can We Learn?

A lot of people say they just don’t have the time to do marketing because they’re too busy running a business.


Marketing is an extremely important part of running a business. If you’re making it an afterthought or leaving it completely up to others – that’s a mistake!

Now I’m not saying that small business owners need to be the ones Tweeting and blogging and starring in YouTube videos. But you should at least get involved.

Even if you outsource your marketing – be part of the strategy! As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you have more passion for what your company is all about than anyone else. You’re also most likely the person with the most valuable knowledge for your audience.

Own your content marketing to make sure it is as powerful and pertinent as possible. (Yay, alliteration)

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Push the Envelope with Your Content

In both his standup routines and on Louie, Louis C.K. tends to be a bit on the edgy side.

He’s not extremely dirty. He’s not dropping f-bombs every other word. But he never shies away from touching on taboo subjects.

For example, on one episode of Louie, he explains the uncomfortable situation of having to take his two daughters along with him into a crowded airport bathroom. It makes you squirm. It grosses you out a little bit. But you laugh because you can relate.

There’s a lot of self-loathing in Louis C.K.’s standup. He’s also never afraid to express his opinion. He’s real. He’s open. He’s honest. And a lot of people find that refreshing (as well as funny).

At the same time – he doesn’t only go for laughs. His show arouses all kinds of human emotion. Watch the episode titled “The Duckling,” in which Louie ends up accidentally taking his daughter’s classroom pet with him to Afghanistan. You’ll see what I mean. He can be hilarious and heartwarming.

What Can We Learn?

There are a gazillion blogs out there, a bazillion YouTube videos and a plenty of infographics, free eBooks and more. Our email inboxes are filled with people trying to get our attention.

If you want to gain attention and traffic through your content marketing, you can’t be afraid of a little controversy.

Now there are certainly lines that you shouldn’t cross. But your content should make people in your company a little uncomfortable – including you.

The worst thing you can do is create dry, flavorless content. Sometimes…being professional is just the nice way to say you’re being boring.

Instead you need to be real, be open and be honest with the content you create.

That means writing conversationally instead of copy full of confusing industry jargon.

That means apologizing and admitting your mistakes in a human way. Say “We’re really sorry. How can we help fix this?” Don’t say, “The Company sincerely apologizes and regrets any inconvenience this may have caused.”

It means using social media to connect with people and not just to promote yourself. Louis C.K. writes his own emails to people on his subscriber list. He even emailed people right before he went on stage to host Saturday Night Live!

Things like that make Louis C.K.’s fans truly feel like they are a part of what he does. How can you do the same with your business?

Speaking of the recent gig on SNL…check out my favorite part in the video below re-imagining Abraham Lincoln in Louie’s shoes.

Kasey Steinbrinck is a co-founder of Copyjuice specializing in copywriting and creative content marketing. Need ideas for content you can create for your small business? Contact kasey(at)copyjuice.com. He’d be happy to shoot you some free consultation!

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    1. This stuff is great! Its ironic that comedians can actually be smart and shrewd as opposed to the typically “funnyman” persona they try to portray on stage.

      • Ha ha! Good point. I think any successful comedian has to be “smart and shrewd.” Most of them really are running their own business – promoting themselves, putting together a product, testing it, creating a personal brand etc.

        Thanks for the comment and for checking us out, Tom!

    2. Kasey,
      You wrote:
      “Standup comedians are a type of small business owner.

      They are brands. They are often entrepreneurs and innovators. They’ve been doing content marketing long before it became a buzz-worthy concept.”

      First, what a unique way to look at standup comedy and not necessarily the conventional thinking. Second, this is a great reminder that it is their content and brand that entrepreneurs really need to own!

    3. Hi Kasey,
      I agree. This is a post on a topic that needs to be better understood by all entrepreneurs. Your content, expertise, and brand are what create the real value in your business. Too many entrepreneurs worry they lack the capital or assets to start their business. But many businesses without much in either of these departments have been successful anyway simply by focusing on the brand they create, and content is a huge part of that.

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