When I’ve referred to Louis C.K. as the “Beyoncé of TV” in the past, it’s usually been in reference to his statuesque and womanly figure, or his three-octave vocal range. But he’s now joined her as a pioneer of the surprise digital release strategy, a masterstroke of buzz-stoking that eschews all pre-release anticipation, bowling audiences over with the sudden materialization of a new major work. Just as Beyoncé released her recent groundbreakers Beyoncé and Lemonade with no prior warning, C.K. managed to write, direct, and shoot a ten-episode kinda-TV-show, kinda-filmed-play called Horace and Pete in complete secrecy. It is very good.
How C.K. was able to wrangle an all-star cast including Alan Alda, Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco, and Jessica Lange was beyond the public’s understanding, but an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon gave the program’s creator a chance to explain himself. Fallon posed the million-dollar question to C.K. during a visit last night and asked how he could possibly have assembled so many prominent performers without word getting out. After a long, rambling series of jokes about the fictitious actress who originated the female lead in King Kong, C.K. admits that he had some trouble getting in contact with the talent he had his eye on. He couldn’t call a major Hollywood casting agency and tell the 24-year-old manning the phone that he was working on a top-secret new drama, it’d cause a town-wide stir.
So for Jessica Lange and Edie Falco, C.K. just took an opportunity when it was presented to him. No scheduling, no meetings, no agents, he simply approached the actresses during the Emmys ceremony and asked them point blank if they’d be interested in reading a script he’d written for them. C.K. mentioned that he and Lange had both been seated at the FX table during the ceremony, so it was as simple as gauging her interest across the tablecloth. C.K. then joked that when Lange saw him approach Falco shortly afterward and make her the same offer, she’d get the impression that he was just running around handing out TV shows. Which, if you’re Louis C.K., is seriously a thing you can do.