When FX and Louis CK announced that they'd be collaborating on a sitcom that consisted of stand-up routines followed by vignettes based on his stand-up routines, it'd be fair of you to think that Louis CK was doing his version of Seinfeld. But this is not a show about nothing. This is a show about something. Actually, Louie, which debuts June 29, is more than something. Louie is the most original, honest comedy on TV in a generation. Think of everything you've liked about All in the Family and Curb Your Enthusiasm, then remove the live studio audience and the cringe factor, and then you're prepared to have your thoughts provoked.
After debuting the first two episodes at a red-carpet premiere at Carolines on Monday night, Louis CK talked to me about the series Tuesday on his way to the airport to California for his Leno and Lopez appearances.
But first, here's a short scene from the pilot, in which Louis CK jokes about volunteering for his daughters at their NYC public school, followed by comedian William Stephenson as an aloof bus driver hired to take the field trip to the Bronx Botanical Gardens:
In the third episode, we see Louis CK get into a fight with Nick DiPaolo at the Comedy Cellar after both had performed downstairs -- a fake fight that some people were duped into thinking was real.
"I was really pleased with the reaction. I wanted it to feel like a real fight. It's filmed like a real scene. The camera pushes in and then when we start, the camera has to look up to find us...I didn't want to fool people...but that's what i wanted it to be...and then when this guy put it on YouTube and Howard Stern talked about it. Nick is really that good of an actor. Nick is a fucking good actor. I was fucking pissed that this extra put this clip up on YouTube. It's one thing if a fan walking by...that's obnoxious, but it's a fan, it's hard for you to stop...but an extra, a professional actor who works for you, that's absurd. We had to get a lawyer."
Louis CK also gets naked in two of the first three episodes, showing his ass. Is that symbolic of the naked honesty you were aiming for in the series? Or do you just like getting naked on camera? "That was necessary for a proper level of humiliation. I don't do it for nothing. I do think that nudity should have a reason story-wise. I remember when I was on Lucky Louie and I was naked once, and so was Rick Shapiro. I was on a radio show in Cleveland. It was one of my worst experiences ever...One of them goes, 'Why are you naked on your show? I don't want to see that! Why isn't the chick naked? Why can't I see her titties?'...The premium people put on that shit..."
The tone of Louie -- short films done without an audience, as opposed to a multi-camera sitcom filmed in front of a live studio audience -- is the polar opposite of Lucky Louie. Was that intentional? "It wasn't a reaction at all in any way to Lucky Louie. This was its own idea. I've been making short films for years. Features. I love directing. And shooting on location in New York. I've kind of been able to do everything I want with this show."
For fans who have seen your earlier shorts, is that the same helicopter in the pilot that you used for your short stealing the ice cream from the kid? "It sure is. It's the same guy. We have this friend who has this cheap helicopter. He's been really good to us. I don't want to say his name because he's been so good to us....When we shot this HBO stuff a couple of years ago, when I did that helicopter thing, we did other helicopter shots..He said, 'I can't go anywhere near a building or a bridge.' I said OK, we'll get a long lens. And then he was hovering two feet above me. It was so good. I was very proud of Chelsea (Peretti), she got in there and he took off. She was fine with it."
At the premiere, FX's John Landgraf said: "When you say original programming, and you attribute it to Louis, you get really original programming." How important was it to you to do something completely original? I know some people early on wanted to compare Louie to Seinfeld.
Several weeks after the record-setting 50-hour stand-up comedy show at the Comic Strip Live in New York City, readers and comedians still have questions for me about it. So why not address that now. Especially since I just saw William Stephenson over the weekend hosting for Greg Proops at Comix, and Stephenson put forth a herculean effort himself by hosting the world record show (even if he did take two naps while comics were onstage). So. Yes. Answers. First off, yes, I was there for the entire 50 hours and stayed awake for at least 49 hours and 55 minutes (there were two moments during the second night-turns-to-morning when my eyelids closed, and I shook myself awake, then had to get up and walk around). Stephenson took two naps of 20-minutes each on a mattress in the club's basement but otherwise was there for the duration. A few other club staffers hung around for the duration. If you really want to know, I didn't change my clothes, but did have toothpaste, a toothbrush and deodorant to keep my vital parts from going bad. I also didn't leave my blogging perch for the first seven hours and 15 minutes of the marathon before getting up for the bathroom or anything really, because I wanted to at least equal whatever silly record Dane Cook or Dave Chappelle had for staying onstage at one time. Red Bull was a sponsor of the event, and according to my notes, I drank seven in the first 24 hours of the marathon, spaced out fairly well (I think?), but things took a turn during that point around hour 36 when my eyes were failing me, at which point I began running around and chugging two, maybe three Red Bulls in a row. Not a good idea. After I calmed down and my body remembered how to function properly, it was mostly willpower and adrenaline to the finale.
Which also reminds me...after the jump, I've got a video I hadn't posted before showing me and Stephenson on the sidewalk minutes after the big finale. Also, for the curious, since I did stay for the entire show and document it and all, I've got a complete timeline of comedians who took part in the record-setting show. Enjoy!
You didn't think I sat through more than 50 hours of stand-up comedy last week and forgot to get some video of it, did you? So here's a scattered selection of footage from the world record comedy show last week at Comic Strip Live. But first, let's reflect on what happened, and consult an expert on world records and champions who also happened to close the show, 30 Rock's Judah Friedlander!
After the jump, four other videos showing what a comedy club looks like on the inside at 7:30 a.m., the silliness of comedians Rory Albanese and Mike Birbiglia as they attempt to redo a funny riff, my own self-analysis after 27 hours of comedy (and 38 hours awake!), and the official recognition from the Guinness World Records people on Thursday night...
Eddie Brill just handed the reins of the show back to host William Stephenson for the final "regularly scheduled" two-hour show to get us to 50 hours, and Stephenson's voice is breaking up a bit as he gets this final audience ready and rarin' to laugh. "We've already done something that has never been done," he says. First up to finish it out...Christian Finnegan.
We've reached the Final Four hours and some odd sights and fun sounds to report. Kerri Louise brought her youngest son to the club with her in a stroller, and when the boy cried out as Louise was onstage, she chose to treat him as if he were merely the most annoying heckler. All in good fun.
Host William Stephenson is still with us. He has napped only a couple of times for about 20 minutes each, so he's operating on a level almost as loopy as mine, since my eyes have closed only involuntarily for a few minutes in this morning's 8 o'clock hour. If you're playing along with the home game, you'll know that means I've been awake now for 15 hours Tuesday, 24 hours Wednesday and now 19 hours Thursday which totals...58 hours. That doesn't look or sound healthy at all. I will sleep very well tonight. That much I can assure you. For his part, Stephenson continues to keep the show rolling on time and introducing all of the comedians along with a quip or two. As Cory Kahaney takes the stage just before 7 p.m., she says: "I'm not going to ask you to clap for William...he's really just doing this for the stage time!"