The star of HBO's first sitcom takes a raw look at family life
With one Emmy and four nominations under his belt for comedy writing (Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Chris Rock Show), a strong and steady stand up career, plus the completion of the first season of his new sitcom on HBO, comedian Louis C.K. is feeling kinda "lucky."
With both Lucky Louie and his stand up act, Louis C.K. brings us a raw look at family life, marriage and relationships in a way that is real, sometimes ugly, and always laugh-out-loud funny. I recently spoke with this writer, producer, stand-up comedian and actor about his road to success, his future plans, and his need for a little free time.
Dave Peña: Congratulations on the first season of Lucky Louie on HBO. What has the show done for your career?
Louis C.K.: Well, it's definitely noticeable in the clubs. When I go out to do stand-up I pretty much sell out every show, and people recognize me in the street and stuff, so it's fun. If it stays on TV it'll be even better.
DP: Are you planning to produce more episodes?
LCK: We're hoping so. They hired us to write eight more scripts, but they haven't pulled the trigger on them yet. We are waiting to hear ... If they kill it I'll have to start looking for work.
DP: Was Lucky Louie inspired by The Honeymooners?
LCK: Sure. Definitely. Sitcoms today are long story tapestries with lots of sets and shots of outside, and there's a lot of crazy characters and twisty stories and stuff. And they don't really make me laugh out loud. The subject matter that this show was about, just marriage and the basics of family ... I've never really seen it done better than The Honeymooners. They just have this one room with a table a chairs and two people have to tackle a different marriage issue every week. And that was the idea [for Lucky Louie] and we built the set the same way, and decided to strip it way down.
DP: Your cast is so fantastic. Who are the cast members and where do they come from?
LCK: Well there's Pamela Adlon who plays my wife on the show ... she's a voice actress a lot of the time. She's Bobby Hill's voice on King of The Hill. She won an Emmy for that actually. Mike Hagerty is a very funny comic actor. He's been in a million movies and TV shows, but no one has ever cast him as a best friend in a show before. Rick (Shapiro) is crazy and there's nobody like him, but he's a very reliable performer; he always turns in a good day's work. The best thing we were able to do was hire the funniest and the realest available people.
DP: How much of Lucky Louie is you? How much is made up?
LCK: I'm definitely the guy in the show, and a lot of the stories are based on things that have happened to me.
DP: What city is the show supposed to take place in?
LCK: None. It could be Dayton, Ohio or it could be Poughkeepsie, New York.
DP: How did you break into comedy as a profession?
LCK: I've been doing stand up for 22 years. You first break in to stand up as a reliable club act. I worked all over the country for years. At some point you gotta move to either New York or Los Angeles and pursue a career in show business. For me it was making some short films and proving that I had a production savvy and sense. I was able to get laughs on a screen as well as the stage. Then an opportunity comes up, or it doesn't. For me it was Conan [O'Brien]. Conan needed a whole writing staff all at once. And I was around. I was a well known stand up. Well enough known that I was considered for the job.
DP: What's the process to break in as a writer?
LCK: Well, its really about funny. There's not many funny people out there. It's very difficult to write funny, so you submit writing samples. So do thousands of people, but because I had already proven I could be funny onstage ... there was reason enough to take a look at my material.
The moment Mike Epps realized his comedy tour would bring him to hurricane-battered Atlantic City, he promptly decided to donate a portion of his ticket sales to the storm relief effort. Then he did the next logical thing: He began working on some Sandy-esque material.
During the spring of 2006, three months before Lucky Louie premiered on HBO, it was obvious that Louis C.K. was on his way to becoming the hardest working man in show business.
"Yeah, we all get along super well and whatever, but there are no stories like ‘Oh, and then Nick Offerman slashed everyone’s tires.’ Ya know? Like, this is not a thing. It’s just not like everyone’s pulling pranks and doing goofy stuff all the time."
'My routine’s pretty straightforward. It’s just me, my sensibility, my attitude. I’m not reinventing the wheel. I do have a visual part to it where I’ll show some pictures and clips that’ll make it a little bit different from your basic stand-there-for-90-minutes and tell jokes. It’ll be jokes, stories, pictures, anecdotes — things you’ve seen before, only done by me.'
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