Interview with Louis CK

Catching up with Louis CK... we don’t think he was hungry at the time.

Photograph by AP Photo/Carlo Allegri

Photograph by AP Photo/Carlo Allegri

Relatively few people know that Louis CK is from Boston, a fact the comic attributes to relatively few people knowing who Louis CK is. But if you didn’t catch the first season of his FX show, Louie, you missed out. CK writes, directs, produces, and stars in the critically acclaimed sitcom, which is loosely based on his life as a recently divorced dad.

Comedians are famously neurotic. Anything we should know about you?
I have food issues. I’m stuck by the camera all day, so I’ll go crazy sometimes because I can’t get food. If it’s taking a long time, I’ll tell the crew, “Listen, I don’t do heroin and I don’t screw hookers in my trailer during the breaks. I just need a sandwich now and again.” It should be an easy-to-manage addiction.

So at the end of the season, can you look at the parts of the show that weren’t as good and say, “I was hungry on that shot?”
Oh, totally. Also sleep deprivation. There’s times when I haven’t slept, and I look at the film and I’m like, “Oh, my God, I look like a piece of shit.” And we shoot stuff way out of order. We shoot a piece from this episode and a piece from that episode. I was really sick with a sore throat for about a week, so some episodes I’m sick the whole episode with a hoarse throat, and some episodes I have a sore throat for, like, four seconds.

Not to suggest that you actually look like a piece of shit in the show, but isn’t that part of its aesthetic?
It does make life a lot easier that it doesn’t matter how I look. I don’t ever get makeup. I’m a different version of vain. I’m not vain like, “Hey, I need to look good.” I’m vain like, “Hey, I don’t need to look good, and I think that’s so cool.” It actually causes logistical problems for my very hard-working crew. It’s really not fair.

When did you stop wearing makeup?
I never wore it. I grew up on movies like The French Connection, and those guys looked like shit and they lived in the real world and they ate corn dogs and they beat the shit out of people.

Speaking of eating corn dogs and beating people up, do we see much Boston influence in this show?
Everybody from Boston is a little out of place everywhere. I lived in New York for most of my adult life, so it’s definitely home to me, but Boston is where I’m from. I still love it there. I still love my Boston sports teams. But that fucking city closes at 1 o’clock in the morning. I can’t take that.

Is that why you left?
Yeah, because I know everything about that fucking city. I know every single street, I know what’s going on. I know there’s a couple of chicks with big hair talking with some dumb guy at the IHOP on Soldiers Field Road at 2 a.m. I have trouble sleeping, so I was always up late in this place that goes to sleep early. I just couldn’t take it. Also, I’m not as cool in Boston as I am here. Boston has some pretty tough guys, and in New York there are more gay people — there’s a better mix. I come off better here somehow. Somehow in Boston I always feel like a goofball.

When you were starting out as a comic here, did you have immediate success or did you struggle for a while?
I started out and I didn’t do so hot. And I didn’t try again for a few months. I became pretty strong my second try, but after about a year of that, I just sucked. I couldn’t get a laugh. I went two straight years in Boston where I couldn’t get a laugh. It was torture.

If you’re struggling for two years and not getting a laugh, you have to be sort of insane to keep trying, right?
Well, the struggle was still worth it. I was driven by the work and driven by the art. I just enjoyed it, and I had goals. If you’re not willing to suffer for your goals, then what good are they?