NEW YORK, N.Y. – When Louis C.K. released his comedy special “Live at the Beacon Theater” by himself on his website for $5, it was little more than a cautiously optimistic experiment.
Less than two weeks later, it had reaped more than $1 million. Already among the most respected stand-ups in the country, Louis C.K. was suddenly a new media trailblazer, too.
On Tuesday, the Webby Awards announced Louis C.K. is their “person of the year” for setting “a new precedent for distribution.” Comedians Aziz Ansari and Jim Gaffigan have since similarly released albums online.
The Webbys, which celebrate Internet achievement, announced the winners of its 16th annual awards on Tuesday. They’re presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a group of about 1,000 Web experts and Internet professionals.
The awards spanned the breath of the Internet, from mobile apps like Instagram and Pinterest that have disrupted social media, to entertainers charting new digital ground, like Louis C.K. and Bjork.
Bjork was named artist of the year. Last year, the Icelandic musician released the album “Biophilia” as a multimedia presentation of music and apps.
She was among the special recognitions named by the Webbys, which also cited the photo app Instagram as breakout of the year. It was recently acquired by Facebook for $1 billion.
“It’s been a huge year of change,” said David-Michel Davies, executive director of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences.
Among the Canadian winners was Graydon Sheppard, who shared an award with Juliette Lewis for the viral video “S— Girls Say.” The video, which parodies common expressions, has been watched more than 16.2 million times on YouTube and spawned countless similar videos. Sheppard, a male comic, appears in drag in the video.
The National Film Board of Canada also picked up two awards for its involvement with Vincent Morisset’s digital film project “BLA BLA,” and the photo website “God’s Lake Narrows.”
In more than 130 regular categories, the Webbys give two winners: an official Webby award and a “people’s voice” pick chosen from online votes.
Ferrell, who co-founded the comedy website Funny Or Die, won best individual performance for a video in which he reprised his impression of President George W. Bush, reacting to Osama Bin Laden’s death.
Another Funny or Die video, “Drunk History Christmas,” won best long-form comedy video. It stars Ryan Gosling, Jim Carrey and Eva Mendas in a slurred telling of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
The Onion won for best humourwebsite and its video arm, the Onion Network, earned best writing in an online video for its satirical morning TV show video: “How to Get a Guy to Notice You While You’re Having Sex With Him.”
The pinboard-style website Pinterest won for best social media app, as well as a people’s voice award for best functioning visual design. Best music app went to the streaming service Spotify, which Davies said typified “the intersection we’re seeing between social and entertainment.”
HBO Connect won for best TV website. The New Yorker’s website won for best editorial writing. Keifer Sutherland’s Hulu series “The Confession” won for best drama.
One new category, people’s special achievement for social change, went to Facebook. The award, which was voted for online, honours “important Internet work that played an integral role in advancing and organizing the masses.”
The awards will be handed out in a May 21 event at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. Patton Oswalt will host the awards, whose winners are famously restricted to five-word acceptance speeches.