Rest assured, Louis C.K. fans: Contrary to widespread reports, the popular stand-up comedian and TV auteur is not, as some have written, “broke” as a result of overextending himself on Horace and Pete, the drama series he financed with $4.5 million of his own money and released through his website LouisCK.net. And, also contrary to widespread reports, the groundbreaking show has not been canceled as a result.
In fact, C.K. revealed during an episode of The Hollywood Reporter‘s awards podcast that was released Saturday that he was never even close to being in personal financial jeopardy because of Horace and Pete, which is doing just fine, and which he would love to continue.
The first misunderstanding, about C.K.’s personal finances emanated from an interview that he gave to Howard Stern on April 11. “I said on Howard Stern that I took on debt,” he explains. “I mean, Howard’s a comedy guy, so I wanted to make it sound funny, and I knew he would laugh if I said I’m in debt … I told him, ‘Yeah, I’m millions of dollars in debt,’ which I was, technically — I took a line of credit to finish the show. But there’s no other way to make a TV show! Every TV show that you ever see is running a deficit … I took on debt so I could get through production, but I knew that I would make the money back — I knew it. I almost have. I mean, in a couple of months, this show will be paid for.
“The tax rebate we’re getting from New York State [where the show was shot] and the amount of sales we have so far have put the show in the black,” he says proudly. “The show’s paid for — with no advertising. There isn’t a TV show with this kind of cast that has that kind of success.”
It has even further room for growth, C.K. says. An app is being designed, and is expected out in July, that will allow people to watch the show on their mobile devices. Additionally, he says, “We’ll sell the show to other services,” adding, “We’ve got a few offers and we’re kind of not paying attention to them right now … I’d like to spend the rest of the year seeing how it does in the wild, and then when it’s time sell it, I can split these checks with my cast, who all own big pieces of the show.”
The second misunderstanding, about Horace and Pete being “canceled,” is the fault of “a specific website, Time.com,” C.K. vents. On April 16, two weeks after the April 2 release of the show’s tenth episode, he emailed fans and said, among other things, “So. That was it.” and described it as “a very very sad thing to be done doing it.” But what he meant, he says, is that season one was over, not the whole series. “Here’s what happened,” he explains. “I was writing an email every week to my fans with every new episode. But the tenth episode was the last one, and I didn’t want to say, ‘Here’s the last episode,’ because I had a very dramatic ending to the season. I wanted that ending to have its full impact, and the way I sought to take advantage of the fact that we were working in the dark and folks were watching in the dark was for them not to know that the tenth episode would be the last episode.”
C.K. continues, “I saw huge dramatic value in watching an episode and the ending being so dramatic, not even having known that you were watching the last episode. … The impact that that would have would be heightened by the tenth episode going out with just, ‘Hey, folks, here’s another episode,’ and I wrote some smarmy thing like, ‘Here it is, enjoy!’ But because I had been communicating with the fans through these emails, I wanted to say goodbye to them on the season, so I [subsequently] said, ‘Okay, well, obviously that was it,’ to people who had watched it. ‘That was it. We did it. Thanks for watching. This was a great experience. I miss doing the show. I’m sad not to be doing it. Now it’s finished — now it’s complete — and now I’m gonna go tell the world about it.'”
Time.com, however, interpreted that to mean the show was permanently over, perhaps intuiting that C.K. was permanently abandoning the show because of the recent (incorrect) reports about how it had impacted his finances. “They wrote ‘cancels the show,'” C.K. laments. “That is a big leap to take. And then they say, in big letters, ‘Now it’s finished.’ They not only took it out of context, they created a context for it. … So Time prints that, and everybody else prints it as a fact. … Why would I cancel my own TV show? I mean, I’m paying for it myself!”
So what’s the real story? “I don’t know if I’ll do it again,” C.K. admits, “but that’s up to me.” He continues, “I could do a second season of Horace and Pete, of course I could — and I’m considering it. I’m not sure what I’m gonna do. I know I will do this kind of show again.” And, he adds, “We put the bar in storage — I can’t let go of it. I love that bar and I love those characters and I certainly love that cast, and they all loved doing it and they want to keep going, so we may do it again. It depends on what I write.”