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Published on July 30th, 2011 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Just for Laughs: In Conversation with Louis C.K.

Rarely has a lineup actually snaked – around corners, no less – for a Just For Laughs daytime event. But if anyone can make industry types form a single line in an orderly fashion (well, semi-orderly), it’s Louis C.K.

Richard Crouse, Film Critic for CTV’s Canada AM, interviewed Louis infront of a standing room only audience inside the Hyatt’s massive Grand Salon ballroom about his show, his standup, and the perils of expressing his thoughts.

On playing himself on Louie:

“I still have to pretend that some lady said something that no woman has ever said, like 8 times in a row, so it’s still acting.”

“It’s technically acting, but I don’t deserve an Emmy Award. It’s just fucking stupid.”

“The things I write for myself to do are usually dumber than I’m willing to be in real life…. I’m a pretty bright person in real life. I do okay. So on the show I’m more of an idiot.”

Burning through material on the show:

“I didn’t originally plan to use the standup, because I wanted to make films.”

“Even if the show sucks, I know I’m a decent standup, and maybe that’ll get the pilot sold.”

“The standup takes the pressure off me being funny in the rest of the show…. It takes the pressure off the story from ending on a joke.”

On writing a new 90 mins every year, while also doing tv:

“It’s really good pressure. I like pressure. It’s enabling.”

“Ever year I’m an open micer again…. I’m in that place right now. Last night I did two shows, and I’m not proud of them.”

“I usually go to bad clubs to write in. Zanies in Nashville, it’s a fucking bar and it’s in Nashville, and it’s not the grunge rock people. It’s people from Tennessee. And they’re good people and they laugh fuckin’ hard, but they’re not going to go for nuanced bullshit.”

“Then I have a bad 90 minutes, and I take it on a concert tour. And the pressure of that tour is the polishing period.”

“I never write anything down… I think comedy’s a spoken form, and if you’re writing it down you’re putting a bunch of filters on it…. If you write standup, you’re generating it on paper, and then you’re reading it, and then using your memory, and then…”

On bad gigs:

“You start out in comedy in the worst situations, so it’s immediately an awful thing. But it’s good, it’s good training”

“You get hired by a college to do a show and you go to their little café. And they give you no microphone and there’s no light difference, and you’re like ‘hey guys, this is a show now’”.

“I did one show and the turnstile to get trays was right behind me. Ka-ching, ka-ching…”

How he’d describe his style:

“I know how I sort of do it now. Where I generate material from is whatever thoughts are burning in my brain, I write about it…. I used to ignore that.”

“I used to get scared to do this joke about September 11, where you know how bad a person you are based on how long you waited after September 11 to masturbate, and for me it was between the two buildings.”

“Can I say that on stage? It’s a really fucked up thing to say. And I’d do it, and 6 out of 10 audiences would go ‘oh, Jesus, that’s just bad’”.

He recounted a story about his then-wife coming across a phone sex bill, which resulted in a terrible fight. She phoned him at hotel room another time, crying, and he thought it she found another bill until she told him to turn on the tv. September 11 was happening, and his first thought was “thank god it wasn’t another phone sex bill”. He told this story on stage, and a guy angrily walked out of the Comedy Cellar for it.

At the time, he ranted to Marc Maron about it. “When people get offended, they’re narcissists, because they pick THEIR thing. I said 50 wrong things that night…”

Maron told him he was wrong: “What could be more narcissistic than you being relieved that you didn’t get caught with the phone sex bill on 9/11?”

On the Palin/Twitter debacle:

“Yeah, I said some things about Sarah Palin. Twitter’s a very dangerous thing.”

“I have half a million twitter followers… they’re in their lives somewhere, and they’re like ‘what’s this… Sarah Palin has Chinese people living in her cunt? This guy’s a piece of shit.’”

“I didn’t do those things to be political. I was just being a dick.”

“I don’t like her, so I didn’t mind unfairly shitting on her.”

On calling out Palin for capitalizing on her special needs child:

“I’ve been on [Opie & Anthony] so many times I said awful, awful things, and nobody cared because I didn’t have a tv show.”

“When I was a kid I went to a summer camp, it was a special needs camp, and my parents sent me there without knowing it was a special needs camp. I went there for two summers, and I liked it. I was around all these kids who had Down syndrome. I didn’t know that’s what it was called, these were my friends.”

“When I saw her just holding one up, it made me sick.”

He reiterated the story he recently told to GQ, about the letter from a guy telling him the realities of having a kid with Down syndrome.

“I felt so terrible, because I was wrong”

“I didn’t apologize to him, because what I was doing was just foul-mouthed comedy….I’m doing this to be funny and explore a lot of bad ideas.”

On career trajectory:

“I don’t want to get any more famous than this. I really don’t.”

“You don’t sell tickets forever. I know it’ll go down from where it is now.”

On the kids who play his daughters on the show:

He wanted to avoid kids who weren’t child actors, because he’d seen how kids on a lot of shows are drilled to the point of a nervous breakdown.

“We don’t push those kids. We let them live their lives. We lost one, because she had a life to live, so we replaced her.”

“It’s just a tv show. It’s not worth ruining a child’s life. If there’s was a decent puppet, I’d use it.”

On whether he wants to continue:

“If they give me a third season, for sure.”

“I don’t want to keep it going just to have the job. So we’ll see after three seasons.”

Why he’ll always do standup:

“I can always go back to Nashville.”

“I love it. It’s a really fun craft to ply. I dunno the words for it. I love taking a really fucked up far-fetched idea and getting it to a place where anyone will laugh at it. [Describing blue-haired old ladies in Michigan laughing at a dog-fucking joke]… it’s so satisfying.”

First time he realized he was funny:

“First time I got a laugh I was in class at school, and they were talking about the parts of the skull. And they asked the class to name them, and I said ‘noggin’. And all my friends fuckin’ laughed.”

On Lucky Louie:

“The show did well. The ratings climbed every week. And then when we went away, they told us we were coming back, and we wrote eight new episodes. Then we found out there were people at HBO who hated it. Thought it wasn’t classy enough for HBO….It wasn’t a brand show.”

On what his real kids think about the tv version of him:

“I’m a really patient dad and I don’t get upset easily. So when they see me giving the finger to the back of this shitty kid’s head, they think it’s hilarious.”

“I did Letterman a few nights ago and brought them with me. They stood right behind where I was, four feet away from me. So they felt what it was like to do what I do.”

His daughter said afterwards, “I felt like you were falling and falling and every joke was like a plane that took you and brought you back up.”

“And now that’s a memory she has…. That meant a lot.”

On working hard:

“When I was on Conan, we had to do an hour of comedy a night and it was fuckin’ brutal. For Chris Rock, we did a half hour every week and it was just as difficult.”

“The way to improve is to reject everything you’re doing. You have to create a void by destroying everything. You have to kill it. Otherwise you’ll just say the same jokes every night for years and years. And I did that.”

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About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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