This month, prolific comedian Louis C.K. debuts his new show, the eponymous Louie, on FX. After the sudden cancellation of his daring previous sitcom Lucky Louie on HBO, Louis returns to television in a project that we are reluctant to call a sitcom. His new show is definitely a comedy, but it deviates from the standard sitcom structure by blending his standup with heightened vignettes of real life situations. Before you say this show seems to be about “nothing,” Louis eschews Mssrs. Seinfeld and David entirely, instead finding himself in a world where he seems to be the only target of all of its crazy. Having previously written for David Letterman, Chris Rock, Conan O’Brien and Saturday Night Live, Louis is now his own boss in this new endeavor, for which he serves as executive producer, writer, director and star. Recently we chatted with Louis on the phone about what we can expect from the esoteric funnyman’s latest laugh fest. — Martin Moakler, Hulu Content Editor
Hulu: Tell us about your new show.
Louis: It’s a single camera, live action show with little short films based on some of my life … some not. And it’s just odd sort of stories sometimes with some kinds of bleak real life stories, and sometimes you see stand-up. And we do all original music on the show and use very good film lenses and we put it together very carefully.
What prompted your decision to break from the standard sitcom form for your show?
I think that for folks that like that, there are plenty of places to get it. I didn’t need to provide that to anybody. I think that there is a lot that you put into sitcoms that you put in because you think you have to. It’s not because you like it or you think that someone else will like it. You feel like you need it. There is so much that you feel that you need. They call it laying pipe in television, and what’s more depressing than that … watching pipe. It’s one thing laying it. Watching so that you can understand some of the other moments … it’s just not fun. I decided that I’d like to try to stop doing that and they said, “OK,” so that’s why I’m doing it.
You have a lot of control over this show don’t you?
Very much so, yes.
Is that because of your experience with your previous show Lucky Louie?
No, I would have always liked to have that kind of control. I don’t think there’s any control. Anybody who directs and thinks they can control things is crazy. I’m having lots of fun. I like having all those jobs. It makes it really fun for me. I’m able to pull it off. I know a lot about making television, so to me that’s not a hard thing.
At this point, Louis’ children can be heard in the background. He apologizes and asks if I wouldn’t mind calling back a little later so that he could put them to bed. I acquiesce.
Hulu (a little later): Based on what just happened, your episodes are obviously based on real life.
Louis: Most of the stories aren’t things that actually happened. But they’re sort of more like what my life feels like … like autobiographical fiction, sort of.
Yes. Because you are a divorced father of two, the show is about a divorced father of two who also happens to be a standup.
Exactly. But I’ve never bit it with a girl who jumped in a helicopter and flew away. We sort of depart from reality after a bit.
Speaking of reality, I thought the scene in episode two with the standups trying to discuss something serious was spot on and hysterical.
I was wondering if you were planning on having a lot more of those comics, like the old school comics like Nick DiPaolo or other standups?
Nick is, I think, in one more episode. There have been two episodes that aired with him on them. I think he’s in one more. Nobody else at that poker table has been on the show again. Bobby Kelly plays my brother on the show and he’s a standup. Todd Berry has a few scenes throughout the season. Usually he has one line but it’s usually great.
You also have Ricky Gervais …
Yeah. That’s his character, that doctor.
I wanted to ask you about your participation in Parks & Recreation. When we last saw you as Officer Dave Sanderson, you were deployed to San Diego …
Can we expect to see you back in the future? Has that been discussed?
I don’t think so because I’m just working too much on my own show. I don’t have time. And then I go on a big stand-up tour this year so it’s gonna be hard for me to fit the time in. I think that we sort of arrived at that ending for my character because it was possible to come back if things worked out, but if I didn’t come back it would be fine.
So you’re still going to have time to do your stand-up along with the show then …
Oh, yeah. We’ve shot the entire season, and I’m editing now. Between September and December, I’ll be all over. I’ve got about 30 cities that I’m going to.
I’ve noticed that a lot of your standup lately has been about aging. Why is that?
I think because I got divorced. With marriage, you just sort of keep riding along with the train, or if you’re not married. But when you have a big change in your life, where you sort of step outside of what you expected the rest of your life to be like, you notice your age … Especially in comparison to other single people. Not a lot of single people my age. But in the last year or so, I don’t really lament it and I’m used to it. It’s just fascinating me to talk about being closer to death than I used to be.
Since you’ve always had such an interesting voice from your generation of comics, do you think your generation is approaching age differently that the Baby Boomers who seemed to be embracing life at 50, 60 …
Yeah, it’s possible. To me it doesn’t matter. I’m always happy to get older because I lose certain anxieties and certain needs. You get really upset if you don’t get what you want when you’re younger. When you’re older and you don’t get what you want, you go, “Yeah, well, what else is new?” It makes you realize that you don’t really need any more stuff.
You did something recently that I found kind of surprising: you cancelled your Facebook and Myspace accounts.
In this era when [contemporary stand-ups] Marc Maron and Greg Fitzimmons are finding second careers online (granted, you have a TV show), why did you decide to cancel those social media outlets?
I don’t think that they’re a good way to relate to the world. I feel like that a lot of it feels like maintenance … like a data entry job, and it’s not pleasant. And the way people talk to each other on the internet is strange. There’s a lot of anonymous writing back and forth that takes you to a strange plane where you’re not responsible for what you say. There’s so much about it that I don’t like. I felt like if I was going to do it at all, I had to go look through the shit that was being written to me and respond and it was a lot of work, and it didn’t feel like human interaction to me. I just decided that if I get rid of this, it’s something I don’t have to deal with, and let me go find out that I can’t keep a career afloat because I don’t have Facebook. Let me go find out that that was the worst thing I ever did. And so far I’ve been OK with that.
At the same time one of your videos from when you were on Conan goes viral and exposes a brand new world to your comedy, or an element of your comedy, I suppose …
That’s true, and that went viral on Facebook. And I had nothing to do with it, you know, so I don’t think I need to be on there to benefit from it, career-wise. And I might downslide. I’m always aware that I could have a bad six months and I will go and happily open a Facebook page and I beg people to come and friend me so that I can spread the word that I’m at the Bananas in Poughkeepsie next week.
I wanted to ask you about another one of your videos [NSFW] you did with Bobby Cannavale. I find it interesting that you are so in control of so many aspects of your show and you do this video about how out of control you feel … that you want to resort to doing a sex tape to get your career started back up.
Yeah, that’s pretty much the way that I feel a lot about life, that none of it is in your control. Most of the stories on my show are like that. I just sort of crash through life, and like I said, directing doesn’t mean any kind of control. It just means that as things happen that you can’t control you just sort of spin them in the right direction. It’s like when they talk about if there were ever an asteroid headed towards earth. One idea is that they launch a missile at it and, at least, deflect its orbit. That’s about as good as you can do with this kind of stuff. Just sort of deflect the orbit and hope it doesn’t destroy life.
Your show seems to be so unapologetically honest and it’s one of the things that I found hysterical about it … that you were in this world where you were the only one made aware of the crazy. Everyone else is just oblivious to it. Is that how you feel in your day-to-day life?
I do. I do feel that way a lot of the time, but I also do think it’s a funny way to be as a character in a show. But life does feel that way a lot. Although I do have friends I share with, and you know, maybe if I get a second season on the show, I’ll make a friend or two. We’ll see. It’s interesting to me. I think it’s an entertaining thing to watch a person live life that way.
We love the show here at Hulu and we’re really excited to see what’s going to happen in future episodes!
Thanks, man! Sounds great, thank you!
Louie can be seen on FX Tuesday nights at 11. Episodes are posted on Hulu eight days after air. For more on Louis C.K., check out his website.