Last night Louis C.K. took home the Grammy for Best Comedy Album amongst a field of strong contenders including Jay Mohr, Lisa Lampanelli, Wyatt Cenac, and Craig Ferguson. It’s Louis’ second Grammy win, the first being for Best Comedy Album for Hilarious in 2012.
Let me be clear before I go any further. I like Louis C.K.. He is wildly intelligent, has managed to take control of his career and uses that power to make comedy accessible. His self-produced albums are available on his website for about five dollars a piece, removing the middle man and building a relationship of trust with his audience. Creatively, he knocked the ball out of the park with Louie and when he felt his interest in it waning, he just told us all he needed a break. We believed him, related to him and knew Louie wouldn’t let us down. Not only did he not let us down, he blasted us in the face unexpectedly with Horace and Pete ( and let’s not forget Baskets which Louis EPs). Louis C.K. independently produced an hour long show, and offered the first episode for $5. THEN, instead of pulling the ol’ “first one is on me, second one will cost you” business model that runs rampant, he LOWERED the price of subsequent episodes. I admire Louie C.K. on so many levels, as a matter of fact, I think even he would agree that we need to talk about his Grammy win.
His Grammy win is for his latest album, Live at Madison Square Garden. It sounds like it had a hell of a three night run and I’m sure each night was an experience in itself, but does that make it a Grammy winner? I did some research about who gets to vote on the Grammy’s and found an image on their website. Not much information there, other than noting that engineering is the most scrutinized aspect of the process, and that categories like comedy/spoken word/rap, are the least scrutinized, and I guess engineering isn’t a factor in spoken word/comedy performances. Which is weird because most comedy albums are live recordings and engineering live rooms is no easy task.
Here is the thing, on his own website, Louis himself says re: Live at Madison Square Garden:
“Price: so I didn’t know what to charge for this because a lot of the material was on my Comedy Store special and it was hard to get good sound because comedy is intimate and MSG is large, so there’s a lot of sound slapping around everywhere though the sound engineer and the mixer did their level best.
So we have the price set to 5 dollars but you can lower it to 1 dollar or raise it to 85. that’s the maximum, because beyond that, I don’t want your crazy money. Not for this show.”
The guy who won the Grammy for Best Comedy Album literally says it isn’t worth all that much.
Then I dug a little deeper. Wyatt Cenac’s Special Brooklyn got great reviews. It was touted as “intimate and handcrafted” which is comedy at it’s best, in my opinion. Jay Mohr stood out by not only being happy and funny, but also by being a comedian who was confident enough to give his wife writing credit. As a comedian with a partner, I can tell you that the other halves rarely get enough credit for their input. Lampanelli broke new ground by turning her bitchiness inward and making herself the target for once and Craig Ferguson showed once again he is better suited standing up, than behind a desk.
Perhaps the fact that several of the albums were also comedy specials weighed against them, but should it?
So the 2016 Comedy Grammy went to a recording that had poor audio quality and reused material, albeit from a well respected and beloved performer. I can see how Louis’s sheer stand-up brilliance could carry him to a victory despite technical difficulties, and much like some well known Academy Award wins, sometimes you just give it to the guy who you think is amazing, rather than specifically for the actual recording that was nominated. Is this a great opportunity for Louis to do what he does best and call an industry out on it’s bullshit? I hope so.