Friday, August 24, 2012
When I learned that Louis C.K. was coming to St. Louis I contacted my good friend, Nick Luchessi, who worked at the Riverfront Times. I tried to play the, "hey, can you get me in for free" angle. Forever the savvy businessman, Nick asked if I would be interested in being paid to attend the show. There must have been a moment of silence on his end because my head exploded. "So let me get this straight. Instead of me exchanging my money for goods and services, you are going to grant me the services for free while increasing the number of moneys I currently possess?" "Yes." "Excuse me, my head exploded again." Basically, Nick offered to pay me for some freelance work. That freelance work included talking to Louis C.K. on the phone then attending his show, FOR FREE. Not only just for free, but I would actually be getting PAID to attend; PAID! I agreed without so much as an afterthought. Sure, this was the opportunity of a lifetime, but I am not a professional journalist not even by the loosest of definitions. Though, I was willing to play along if that meant the opportunity to have a conversation with the man. I felt sorry for Nick. Poor, poor Nick and his blind faith in me. He had no idea the headache I would bestow on him.
The interview was to take place by phone in Nick's office. With no idea of proper protocol, I posed questions that I wanted to ask. If Nick hadn't constantly reminded me to remain professional, the first half of the interview might read like the Chris Farley show. "R-r-r-remember that one time when..." On the scheduled day of our interview Louis C.K. stood me up; then again on the second. We were finally put in touch on the third day, and boy let me tell you, he couldn't have been any less interested in talking to me. I don't hold it against him or anything. Would you be especially excited to wake up early to talk to no-name reporter guy from Topeka's "hip" weekly publication? Well, St. Louisans, I hate to shatter your inflated self image, but that's how people from bigger cities look at us. And honestly, the location or size of the city probably had little to do with it. The man has been involved in "the business" for many, many years. He probably had talked to dozens of schmucks like me that day alone. Now take those numbers and multiple them by 1000. The result is probably close to the total number of press people he's had to deal with in his career, and I guarantee about 999 of them repeated the same questions. I can imagine that after awhile it's just hard to fake it anymore. Needless to say, no pun intended, he was phoning it in. Shut up. Sorry, the only proper response to a bad pun, even if it's to myself, is just a flat, sharp "shut up." No more words are necessary. The only question that elicited a shrivel of emotion was the Sarah Palin question. He definitely came to life on the subject of hers. Every word was delivered with poignancy and intent. Before, I could barely get him to talk, and now I couldn't get him to shut up. Nick was pleased with the results, and I was pleased that he was pleased. When we hung up I couldn't help but be a little disappointed. Maybe it was because I had interviewed Daniel Tosh the day before. Since this was pre-Tosh.0, and his career hadn't fully developed yet, he still seemed excited for the attention given to him.
Now back to the "poor Nick" part. Nick was fully expecting me to produce a cohesive, grammatically correct piece that would, hopefully, require a minimal amount of editing. This was in stark contrast to what I gave him. And actually I didn't really give him anything at all! Contrary to popular belief, I really did try to write something decent, but my skills are nowhere near the level of someone who considers himself a professional; or a semi-professional; or an amateur; or just a writer. I could sense his disappointment even through email. His tone conveyed that he had sighed and shook his head no less than 32 times while reading my submission. He had already graciously transcribed the phone interviews, and made them readable (interviews being plural because he not only had to redo Louis C.K., but also Daniel Tosh). But now he would have to rewrite the 3rd grade book report I called a show review to upgrade it to "adequate." It contained such biting commentary as, "Louie wuz gud. His words make laughs happen." Nick probably thought I was being flippant so he took matters into his own hands, reluctantly adopting the role of "parent who stays up all night working on the project his child sprung on him last minute even though the child had known about the project for a few weeks." You can guess which role I took.
By the time he was finished he had transformed my coloring book for the blind into a New York Times Bestseller. I felt embarrassed. I mean, we're good friends so it wasn't like this was something that came between us, but I definitely felt like he had put his faith in me and I let him down. After he cleaned up my mess I joked with him that I guess he wouldn't be asking me to do any more freelance work. He didn't even bother to patronize me with polite reassurance. His silent, stone faced reply spoke volumes. When I received the checks I offered him a generous cut which he accepted unblinkingly. It was understood that he definitely earned it, and probably more. We were well beyond the traditional nice, yet firm refusal of compensation, and rightfully so. Rereading the interview, I think Nick took a few liberties in his clean up because I definitely remember my questions being waaaay less succinct, and I definitely remember Louis C.K. calling Sarah Palin a cunt.
These are taken directly from the RFT site. ENJOY!
Louis C.K.'s stand-up act makes its St. Louis debut on Friday night. From Indianapolis, C.K. spoke Thursday about America rejecting Sarah Palin, rooming with David Cross and a few failed TV pilots. C.K.'s new comedy special, Chewed Up, premiered October 4 on Showtime.
You've never played St. Louis, right?
I've never played St. Louis, I've been doing comedy 23 years.
You worked on the Dana Carvey Show with [St. Louisan] Bill Chott.
And also Cedric the Entertainer, another St. Louisan.
And also Cedric the Entertainer, another St. Louisan.
I've driven through it many times, I've been in St. Louis traffic a number of times. I've said, "Fuck St. Louis!" to myself a few times. I see it coming and I can't get out of it. But I never stopped, pulled over the road once.
Many years ago, I did a show in Belleville, Illinois. It was some barn that did comedy, literally a fucking barn. The night before the gig, I went downtown and did the Funny Bone in St. Louis. I did five minutes.
What's the reaction been to "Chewed Up?"
I go to some places that people aren't used to, not to upset them, but to laugh at them.
Which would you rather do -- stand-up, acting or directing? You've done all three.
Stand-up is the most reliable. I've gotten a few breaks acting and directing but stand-up is what I am. If I do a TV show, I'm not an actor, I'm a comedian doing an acting job.
Video of your act from '87 is online. What's the difference?
I didn't know what to talk about. I was nineteen or twenty years old. I wasn't a person, I just desperately wanted to be a comedian.
You've produced a lot of new material lately.
I think I've been lazy for a lot of my career, but when you think about it, writing an hour a year. The last few years I've taken it seriously.
I think also growing up and having children, it focuses your life but it's a lot of pressure.
When you were a child, were your parents supportive of your comedy?
When I was junior high school, I was on drugs all the time, so when I had any ambition, my mother was thrilled that I was doing anything in life.
Who's your favorite current comic?
Favorite? It's hard to say, I love comedy. Maybe Nick DiPaolo, my old roommate -- still makes me laugh harder than most anybody.
You used to be roommates with David Cross, right?
I think we talk about once a year. We don't cross paths much, but once in a while I call him up. When we lived together, we were both starting out as struggling comics. I got gig emceeing at a club, so I got to quit my day job. He was working as a messenger and had to ride a little scooter around town in Boston in the middle of winter. He had a terrible job. He would come home from work barren and exhausted and I would still be in bed. He would look at me with this hatred. I think he was really jealous.
You've made a number of short films.
I like on film when things are a little bit uncomfortable and strange. I lived in New York City from when I was about twenty, and there was Kim's Video, where they have their films organized by director. I didn't go to college, that's where I got my education. My education was renting movies.
I had a short film that I directed that went to Sundance, and on the way there it went to another small festival and there was a panel discussion about short films and this guy said short films are a waste of time and the only point would be a calling card for features. I was like, "You're an idiot, it's like saying short stories are a waste of time. It's just shorter."
I think in America we're very career-oriented. Movies are based on box-office returns more than anything.
What can you tell us about the Lucky Louie pilot for CBS?
We're in the development process, and there's no telling where that goes. It will be different because it's a different situation. It's still a married couple with kids and brutally honest. We can't say "fuck," but I think that got that out of my system.
In relation to saying "fuck," you've done a lot of work with networks. Does that inhibit creativity?
They are just words. You can always rephrase something. In FCC land, you can put it another way. If you can't do that, get the hell out of the business. It's fun with HBO, because I don't want to pull punches.
St. Louie was your first try at a show on CBS. What's it like the second time around?
With St. Louie I've been writing pilots for myself for some years now. Before St. Louie I wrote a pilot for Fox and that one got as far as the president of Fox read it and said he didn't want to do it.
There was the big debate [Wednesday] night. Who are you supporting this election?
I'm not usually very partisan; I think everybody is wrong generally. But I think Barack is really above, I think he's smarter than all these people and he's shown it over and over again.
I've always liked John McCain, and I probably would have voted for him over John Kerry, who I thought was nothing, a rip of an asshole. But [McCain] is a much better person than he's being right now and [Sarah Palin] is toxic, horrible.
In every stage of my life, I've run into people like her, and it just makes me cringe. I really wish he hadn't done that. It's the dumbest thing he's ever done, picking this fucking 2 percent retard. What made him want to turn the key on her?
What a transparent, selfish. Anybody that -- Joe Biden is a guy who people say he's full of himself -- says they're ready to be president without hesitation....
When she gets asked, she goes "Yep, I"m ready." Who? What? That means you're not. When they ask her what she would do as VP, her answer is, "I'm going to try to grab for more power." Like the only thing that anybody could hope for is that she's only going to be VP. What a fuckin' nut. (<-------yeah, I think that was "cunt")
I'll say this -- I'm really proud, it sounds corny but I'm proud of America right now, because she's being roundly rejected. The country as a whole is clearly spitting her out their asshole. It makes me happy for the future of the country. I didn't expect people to vote for Gore or Kerry. I usually lean Democrat, but those people were just shitheads.
After your first attempt at stand-up, you bombed and didn't try again for two years. What made you give it another shot?
The fact that I was so terrible made me want to go back and fix it.
If you weren't doing stand-up, what do you think you'd be doing?
I had no other options. I'm not good at anything else.
10-17-08 @ The Pageant
Louis C.K. emerged from the side of the stage looking like he had just rolled out of bed, and asked the audience, “Where is everybody?”
The patches of empty seats Saturday at the Pageant may have been a slight disappointment to the comic, but it wasn't apparent to the audience during the hour-plus show, which was an expletive-filled journey through C.K.'s mind.
Friday marked the first time in his more than 20-year career that C.K. has played St. Louis, and it was definitely worth the wait. His act, peppered with expletives, made up for leaving St. Louis off his tour itinerary for so long.
Covering topics from masturbation to white people to comparing his three-year old daughter’s bowel movement to that of a bear's, C.K. delivered his act more like a man just sharing what’s on his mind -- a very twisted, vulgar mind -- than a comedian performing rehearsed stand-up.
"I'm sick of ______" seemed to be a common theme throughout C.K.’s hour-long set, his main target of attack being fat, white, lazy Americans. C.K. tells us how he is sick of complacency. On people complaining about minor annoyances at the airport: "You are sitting in a chair thousands of feet above the ground! You are doing what Roman emperors have only dreamed of!"
C.K. worked the audience with ease, taking some exhausted subject matter and making it seem fresh again: the difference between men and women, single life and having children. He told stories with such disgusting detail that it made some cringe. He described to the audience a story that began with him sitting on the toilet with the door open so that he could keep an eye on his kids. Suddenly his three-year-old daughter appeared naked and waving her butt in his direction -- something "she just likes to do" he told the audience.
He then described, in detail, the horror of watching his daughter go to the bathroom on the floor then slip and fall in it. A subject not a lot of people could convey with such hilarity, but C.K. does naturally with ease.
In what could be considered the "title track" of his comedy show, Hilarious, C.K. addressed how much he loathed that white people used such "top shelf" words like "hilarious" and "genius" when describing things that are neither hilarious nor genius. Impersonating a mundane exchange between two people, "Hey, I brought an extra cup." YOU’RE A GENIUS!"
C.K. left the audience in uproarious laughter and exited the stage, but not before being summoned back for an encore. Admitting that he had no more new material and that he got rid of most of his old jokes because they were mostly about his wife (he is now divorced) he performed a couple of jokes off his recent Showtime special, "Chewed Up" to satisfy the audience’s hunger for more. Louis C.K. may joke about how old and out-of-touch he is, but he showed no signs of it Friday night.