Friday, March 13, 2009

The Boston Comedy Interview: Louis C.K.

Louis C.K.'s last one-hour special, Chewed Up, was brilliant and often brutal, bringing to life in perfect detail C.K.'s innermost thoughts on his own family, his own body, and even murderous fantasies about the deer near his home. The Newton native has a tough task ahead of him trying to follow that up, but that's what he'll be doing at the Orpheum Theatre tomorrow at 10PM. C.K. is looking to follow George Carlin's pace of turning in a new one-hour special every one and a half years or so, and he is already well on his way with his first two specials, Shameless and Chewed Up. C.K. may tape the Boston show for an album, and he's looking to tape video for the new special sometime in April. When I spoke with him this week, we had a good, sometimes rambling conversation about the specials, his new material, and his special plans for the Boston show.

I’ve heard you’re now planning not to tape in Boston?

Yeah. It’s a real drag but it didn’t work out. I’ve been trying to get this special together and it’s been taking a little longer than I thought, so I have to wait until April to shoot it.

Just to get the material down?

No, no. The material is ready. It’s the logistics of shooting a special. It’s a lot of cameras, and I had to bring the financing and everything together but it just didn’t happen fast enough for me to hire a crew to do it in Boston.

Did you learn a lot from doing most of the work last time?

Definitely. We figured it would come together a little quicker. But this is the way this kind of thing goes. The show I shot in Boston last year, by the way, was intended to be shot earlier. I was originally going to shoot it in, like, January and I had it up as ready to go in January, and then we kept moving it. We moved it like three times. This time I couldn’t move it, the Orpheum’s a lot bigger, I couldn’t really move the venue around. Originally, I was going to shoot last year’s special at the Sanders Theatre, on the Harvard campus, in January. But we couldn’t pull it together, so we had to pull out of there, and then we found the Berklee was a nice replacement. But in this case, the Orpheum is the Orpheum.

And to me, doing the show at the Orpheum, that’s a very big event for me. So I’m sort of taking that as its own thing. I sort of think, I actually think honestly the audience will have a better time. I’ll be able to do as much time as I want and just be totally unhinged. Which is how I would generally do the special, but nobody’s going to be bothered by camera people, nobody’s going to be asked to move around their seats or anything, and there’s no cameras in the way anywhere. So in a sense, it will be a better show for those people. I’m going to make up for it by doing as much time as I’m capable of.

The last thing I saw taped there was Comics Come Home, and there was a 45-minute wait while they fixed a camera, and fist fights broke out in the lobby.

Yeah. The Orpheum is going to be interesting. [laughs] We’ll see.

There’s a certain decadence to that room. People complain about seats and things, but I kind of like it a bit worn out.

Right, I know what you mean. You mean the Orpheum itself. That’s why I’m taping there, because I love it. It’s a beautiful room. It’s just so historic and it’s so Boston. I love grand buildings that were created for people. You know, regular folks. I think that’s a great thing, to get as lofty as possible about a theater, the thing I love about America – we build great, giant, beautiful things, and they were never meant for, like, royalty, you know? When you go to Versailles, you’re like, they made this all for some fat pig who they eventually cut the head off of. But when you go to Grand Central Station or a place like New York, this was made for the people, you know. This was made so that some guy with a bar hat could watch a movie with his feet up on the marble and chew peanuts and throw it on the rich people below. I just love it. And that’s the feeling you get in the Orpheum. So I just really love that place.

You know, I picked the Orpheum to do this year before I decided to shoot a special there. Looking through the venues and saying, let’s go back to Boston. To go back to the Orpheum – and it’s pretty sold out, it’s going to be full – that should be a pretty great night.

Do you think that you’ll try to go back to tape there? Where will you shoot the special now?

I’m going to start taping in April. I can’t do a big show at the Orpheum and then go back in a few weeks, you know what I mean. There ain’t that many twenty-six hundred people who are going to come and see me again in two months. So I’m probably going to tape in either Milwaukee or Cleveland.

Are you getting into a good rhythm for developing an hour a year now? Is that something that’s gotten easier?

Well, it’s not easier, but I know how to do it. You know what I mean? The difference is, is something easier, meaning something that you are good at and know how to do. It’s a lot of work and actually this one is harder than the other ones I’ve done, because the other ones inspired me to try doing things that are hard. [laughs] But it’s a lot of fucking work. This one’s a lot more energy, and it’s longer, too. I’m doing, like, ninety minute, two hour shows. There’s a lot more energy in them.

What are the harder things that you’re attempting?

I’m more animated, I’m louder and there’s more going on in some of these bits. And it’s a longer show, and it’s just more intense, I think, than some of the other ones that I’ve done. So yeah, that’s a lot. And it’s definitely really hard but it’s also important enough to me now that it’s all that I really do, these shows, these hours. It’s something I dedicate all of my time to.

Will you edit it yourself again?

Oh yeah. This one I’m going to do it all myself again. I just really like to have control over that stuff.

Was that a rewarding process last time?

Oh, I love it. You know, I was a filmmaker and I really got a lot out of cutting it together. Yeah, that was really fun. I think I did a good job. I’m happy with the way it came out. If it was shit I would have hired somebody better than me.

I thought the last special was great. We spoke about this just before it came out – the non overblown look to it, I’m a comedian riding in on a Harley with dancing girls and fireworks.

Right. By the way, I am going to record the Orpheum show professionally, audio-wise. I’ve already decided. I’m going to record it and use it possibly as an album or something. I’m not sure yet, but I want it. I just know it’s going to be a great show, and it’s probably going to be close to two hours. It’s going to be late, it’s fucking ten o’clock. We were originally going to sell a second show before it, an eight o’clock show, if we decided to shoot for the special we were going to do two shows. So it’s a ten PM show, which is pretty late for comedy, but I’m going to do a shitload of time and record it, because I have a feeling that’s going to be a very unique show. And I’m going to want it.

Would you release an album that’s different from the video of the special?

That’s something I’ve thought about doing, because I think with the last special, it was kind of, there was a little bit of a drag with the recording. I read a review of the CD of Chewed Up that I thought had an accurate criticism, which is that the whole first part of the CD is just quiet with the crowd mumbling, and then I come out and they’re cheering – they left that on the CD. That’s retarded. [laughs] Who wants to listen to that? There wasn’t any care taken into putting it – and that’s my fault because I shepherded that whole thing and if I had made it stink, I could have edited the CD too. But I just got tired. I just had to move on to other shit. That’s my fault. But to me, the idea is that I would release the same material but a different performance of it as a CD. I think that would be more value. No two shows were alike. They’re similar and use the same material.

I’m sort of talking out of my ass right now. I don’t know that I’ll do that, what I’m saying. I don’t that I’ll use it. But I’d like to try.

I think comedy geeks like myself would wind up comparing the bits from one to the other, seeing how it changed.

Yeah. I think so. And it’s funny, because Carlin is, to me, is still the pace car of… prolificness. Proliferteriouslesness?

That’s going to be hard to spell.

What’s the noun that is related to the word prolific?

I think it’s prolificness, but I’d have to go back and take a look.

Prolifpolery or something like that?

You could say “productive.”

[Mumbles looking through online dictionary]

I’ve got my trusty real world dictionary here…

Prolificalness. Here’s the one I thought it was. Prolificity. Prolificness works. Prolificalness, and then prolificity is what I would like to use. I’m going to go with prolificity, and George Carlin being the pace car of prolificity, had a lot of specials that were collections of shit that had been on albums. He did a bunch of albums, and his first great specials just caught up with his albums. They were the same material. I don’t think you can do that now. I think it’s different now, because everybody sees everything. You know. Things, oh boy, here we go, proliferate through the market more. So it’s hard to do that. You might be able to, maybe. Anyways, having a special and an album that reflect each other has become very common now – I didn’t mean to say any of this, what I said before.

Louis C.K. on Conan:



Have you kept the Conan bit in the act? I know in a Vanity Fair interview you said you were worried it would become over-exposed.

No, it’s still in because it’s a good forty minutes of the set. It’s a much bigger bit. That was literally ten percent of it, was on Conan. So I think it’s fine. In the past, my whole thing of redoing the act every and having every special be fresh, I’ve always done some of the material on the talk shows to promote it. It makes sense to use the strong stuff on a talk show, when you’re trying to use the talk show to promote it.

For this special, do you think you’re doing more topical or news-related material than you’ve done in the past?

No. That whole bit on the economy is certainly informed by what’s going on, but no. I just don’t do that. It has a shelf life, and… I don’t care about current events. They’re hit so hard by comedians. That whole thing of, “Hey, what the hell…” you know, “And the eight babies lady…” You know, Jesus. And fucking enough. It’s the most boring part of our national conversation, is the five headlines. You can’t tell the news from Entertainment Tonight anymore. It’s just a bummer. And I think it’s one of the most boring aspects of stand-up, and it’s just me being really harsh, is just the feeding on that shit. And taking the, “Here’s my take on it.” Oh, okay, that’s about three degrees different from what Conan said, and Leno said, and Letterman said, and Jon Stewart, and Dennis Miller, and Spike Feresten, and Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon. And the columnist, and the Onion. And a bunch of bloggers. And the legions of comedians around the country. Your take on the Octomom, you somehow found a little territory in there that was just yours. And I really wish you had thought about something about yourself instead.

The only thing that you can bring to the world that’s unique is yourself. That’s the only thing you have. I’m being an asshole, because there are people who observe culture and are really great at it… Bill Maher, there’s another one. So many people hitting everything. They all do it well. I have one bit in this set that right now that’s about Captain Sully because it relates to the airplane stuff, and to the whole everybody’s miserable thing. But it’s a tangent of that.

I think when I did the first half-hour I did for HBO, I opened with stuff about the Mel Gibson Jesus movie, and it’s my biggest regret, ever. Because who the fuck cares about that now? I watch that now and I was shocked when I saw it. It’s like, really? I opened with that? That’s crazy. Nobody gives a shit about that now. And I just saw “the Jesus movie.” What Jesus movie? The Greatest Story Ever Told? Which one?

You’ve done a lot of intensely personal stuff, do you talk about the divorce in the act? And if that’s too personal to ask—

I don’t talk about what happened in my divorce or what happened in my marriage, I talk about what it’s like to be divorced as a general thing. That’s something new to me, and it hasn’t happened to everybody. And the way that people react to divorce and stuff like that.

Louis C.K. on deer:



This is probably a bad segue, but I wanted to talk about the deer joke from Chewed Up. I think that’s one of the most awful images that I’ve ever laughed at out loud – laughing at “bleedy dicks” and AIDS-ridden deer. How do you craft something like that to lift it from being just gratuitous or outrageous into something that’s truly funny?

I think it’s the spirit in which you say something. If I just said, “Hey, what if there was a bleedy dick AIDS guy fucking a deer? How about that folks? Come on, what are you all… Don’t get all… Fuck you.” That would be one thing. But the anger I have toward that deer is the engine I have for all of this stuff.

Chris Rock said something interesting in his last special about, once you’re angry at somebody, all bets are off. Call them what you want. Calling somebody something in anger is different from just saying, that’s what I think those people are. You know what I mean? Like, saying all gay people are faggots or all black people are niggers is just coldhearted racism. Like murder one, two, and three. If you murder somebody in anger, you actually get less time, which is bizarre. It’s the same sort of thing if you say, “Look at that nigger walking down the street.” That’s not okay. But Chris describes the whole thing where a black guy takes your wallet and does all this shit to you and pisses on you or whatever, and then you go, “Fucking nigger.”

He tells the story about being in traffic listening to like, I forget who it was, Wham or some gay music. He just happens to like certain music that’s very gay. And he says if he’s in a red light and it turns green and he won’t move and he’s just listening to his music really loud, the guy behind him has the right to yell, “Hey faggot, get out of the way.”

So I think, given the context, this poor deer who never hurt anybody.. Definitely the point of that bit is, to me, the complete out-of-proportion anger that I’m launching toward the deer. And it was the hardest bit to do on that special. Because when I started doing that bit I was spending a lot of time upstate and I really was infested with deer and I hated them. But by the time I got it to the Berklee, I was fakin’ it. I just wasn’t feeling that anger. It was hard to do, and I actually took big breaks from doing the bit leading up to that show. Because I needed to really keep it fresh, and I needed to not really hate it. So that was a little tough to pull that off. I just had to just tell myself, there was a time you were really this angry at deer, remember that.

1 comment:

Chris said...

One of your best, Lord Zaino! I thoroughly enjoyed this one.