Louis C.K. On His Concert Film Debut, Dane Cook, and the Joys of Gay Sex

louisck11.jpgAfter six days slogging through a snowy Sundance, a special kind of exhaustion sets in — but the brilliant, taboo-busting mind of comedian Louis C.K. was the perfect prescription to shake me out of my stupor. In his first concert film, Hilarious (an ironically boastful title referring to a bit on how the language of hyperbole has lost all of its significance), Louis performs a 90-minute set covering everything from life as a newly divorced dad to our spoiled generation to a — yes, hilarious — recounting of a verbal confrontation with his 3-year-old daughter. Comedy Central paid the $200,000 it cost to make the film for the broadcast rights, but hopefully you’ll have an opportunity to enjoy it uncut and with an audience. I honestly can’t remember the last time I experienced such a long run of sustained, belly-clutching laughter.
Movieline had the honor of being the first to talk to Louis after the screening, still on a high from the raucous response. We covered everything from his grueling training regimen to his favorite comedy topic (gay sex) to his new show, Louie, on FX later this year. And oh yeah — we got him to open up about Dane Cook and that whole plagiarism brouhaha from a few years back.
So how did that feel?
That was something I’ve never done before, is to watch an audience watch my show. And after 25 years of doing shows and it being second nature, that was fucking weird. [Laughs] Really strange.
Were you nervous waiting to see if the bits would hit again?
It’s surreal on a lot of levels, because that show is a year old for me now, and when I don’t do material for a while I lose identification with the material, and it goes to a weird place. Also I’m not on the road right now, I’m doing my [new FX] series. So as a stand-up I’m not in good shape right now. I’ll get back.
It’s like fighting.
It is, exactly. I do actually use a boxing trainer when I train for stand-up.
You do? How does that translate?
You get an enormous amount of stamina and agility and lucidness, and an ability to make decisions under pressure. It’s a giant benefit.
So all that material in the film about you being in terrible shape wasn’t true?
I was in pretty good shape that day. Mickey Ward, who’s a great Irish boxer, was with me that day. He traveled with me on the road. I really take it seriously. So [it’s nice] to see myself in fighting shape, doing a show I think I did a pretty good job on. I couldn’t do a 90-minute show right now — I don’t have the material, and I don’t have the stamina.
I grew exhausted just from watching you. There was a moment at the 40-minute mark where I felt like I was going to keel over from laughing so hard.
That’s great! There’s a few places where’s there’s breaks in there. The biggest challenge to me in cutting the movie was to consider it as a viewing experience, and how the whole thing feels. There’s places where I’m chatting, and there’s places where I’m putting the screws on you.
Were there any parts that left you thinking, hm, maybe I’d leave that out if I did this again?
Sure. Let’s see. I was surprised by one bit, because it was a bit I took out and put back in: the whole crazy run of seeing the couple on the street, the Chinese lady, fucked a dead kid, ching-chong-chang, black people steal, I’ll suck his dick, gay people have parades, all that stuff is in one bit. I almost took that out, but it played way better than I expected it to. But there was something I thought could come out. I can’t remember it right now.
Are the subjects you keep going back to the same things you find yourself obsessing about in your day-to-day life?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, they’re things that are very ripe. You go to an orchard, and you know there’s going to be apples there, so you keep going back, and it always regrows. There are always those places for me, places where I know I’ll have a lot to talk about. I definitely do something about gay sex in everything I do. This is the smallest amount I’ve ever done about gay sex. It’s bizarre to me that it’s offensive to people or that they get angry about it, but also it’s alien to me.
Sex is essential to a person’s life, so the fact that there’s a kind of sex that’s the opposite of what I do, that I can’t fathom, is so fucking fascinating to me. So I’ll always go back to that. If you talk about gay sex, liberals get upset because they assume you’re going to be offensive, and conservatives get upset because they don’t like to hear about it. The people that usually enjoy it the most are usually gay people, because everybody likes their lives to be joked about. Everybody does.
You mentioned in the Q&A that once you’ve moved on from your material, you don’t mind if other people use it.
I’m being a little funny. It does bother me but I don’t think about it too much. I don’t give a shit.

How pissed off were you about the whole Dane Cook thing?
I never really cared that much. When I first heard it, it pissed me off for a very unfair reason, which is I just didn’t like the dude. He just bummed me out aesthetically. He had bumped me at a lot of clubs.
Bumped you out of your slot?
Like Laugh Factory in L.A., that’s his club. So they’d invite me to do a show, and then he’d come in and say, “I want to go on before Louie,” and then he’d go on before me, and do 45 minutes to an hour. It’s a basic rude thing that some comedians do.
And he takes your material.
Well, I didn’t know he was doing that at the time. And then I saw he did these three bits that were a lot like mine, and I said something about it on a website, and people got so fascinated by it that they’ve been talking about it now for fucking five years, and I never thought it was worth all that. And also, whenever you accuse somebody of a crime, when the big heat lamp of the world goes on it and you see them start to suffer from the accusation, it makes you take a hard look at the accusation and go, “Am I sure of this?” And I’m not sure he stole it. I don’t know that.
Did he ever talk to you about it?
Yeah, we exchanged emails about it. And we’re on whatever, non-terms, but we’re friendly whenever we see each other. He has two arguments — he’s had to defend himself crazily about it. One is, there’s only a few premises out there, so nobody could be accused of stealing. And I know he doesn’t believe that, because he’s accused people of stealing a lot himself. He’s really aggressive about that. And the other thing he says though is defendable, which is he has released hours of material, and he’s accused of stealing three bits. How does that make any sense? So we’re saying he’s an original writer for everything but three bits? That’s a hard position to take about a person. I think it’s possible he might have seen these bits and absorbed them, and not known that he took them from me. I worry about that myself sometimes. It’s hard to know where your thoughts come from, especially when you have a thirst for material because you need it professionally. He has an enormous need for material because he gets a lot of opportunities. That tends to happen. Nobody’s perfect. Hopefully I don’t do it.
What can we expect from your new show on FX?
It’s a half-hour show shot with even better lenses [than we used in Hilarious]. I wanted to shoot it like a movie, and make them like short films. They’re all autobiographical to some degree, but some feel like sketches. Every show is different — some have two stories, some just one.
Are they loosely scripted and improvised?
All scripted and carefully shot like a movie. It’s not like Curb Your Enthusiasm. And I use stand-up to patch the bits together a little bit. It’s funny. That’s the goal.


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