Born Louis Szekely, the comedian adopted the moniker "C.K" in grade school in an effort to help people pronounce his name correctly.
Born Louis Szekely, the comedian adopted the moniker "C.K" in grade school in an effort to help people pronounce his name correctly. FX
This interview was originally broadcast on July 7, 2010. A new season of Louie premiered on June 23 at 10:30 PM on FX.
In the FX TV series Louie, comedian Louis C.K. plays a divorced father of two struggling to balance his comedy career with being a single dad. It's a follow-up of sorts to his previous series, Lucky Louie, in which C.K. played a married father of two — which he was, at the time.
"When I got divorced, I thought 'Well, there goes my act," C.K. tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I've been talking about being married for so long — and I also thought being a dad was part of being married. And then I got divorced and everything changed, and I became a father in a whole new way and found a whole new set of difficulties."
C.K. explains how he was able to find material in those difficulties, including what it's like to date after being married for so long and how he deals with self-conscious moments. And he explains how raising his kids by himself has changed his parenting style.
"When you're a father in a marriage, you sort of become the mother's assistant. And you sort of get a list from her every day and you run down the list and it feels very much like a chore," he explains. "And a lot of fathers live very much in avoidance, and they sit on the toilet. Or they say 'Oh honey, it took me 40 minutes to go to the post office.' And they just sort of sit in the driveway and heave a big sigh — 'Oh, I have to go back in.' But then once you take it out on your own ... you have to take it all on. And you sort of activate male skills that you didn't know you could apply to fatherhood."
C.K. has written for David Letterman, Conan O'Brian and Chris Rock. He also wrote, directed and produced the movie Pootie Tang.
On how raising kids is an antidote for depression
"The day they go to their mom tends to be a pretty bad day for me. I tend to go straight to the deli and get a thing of Haagen Dazs and indulge in about 50 ways of badness. And then I kind of climb out of it because I have to go to work. When I was doing stand-up, I would usually drop the kids off with a limousine at their school so I could go straight to the airport and do a show, and then go back home, pick up the kids and go back to being a dad. But with the series [Louie], I had to form the production schedule around my custody. So there'd be a lot of times we'd be shooting this big expensive scene, and I'd say 'I have to pick up my daughter at school. Cut.' And I'd run off the set and get my kids."
On dating post-divorce
"You sort of feel like you just got out of prison. And they give you the suit you were convicted in. And they give you a paper bag with a watch and a wallet in it. And they give you eight bucks and a bus ticket and the cars are going way too fast and you can't cross the street — and you're considering going into a motel and hanging yourself after carving your initials. And you know ... there's not a lot of women my age who're single. If they're single it's because something happened — or didn't happen — so I started immediately dating women who were younger than me. That's a very strange dynamic. And from their point of view, it's like they're dating a dead person. It's like a corpse. That's how I see myself through their eyes."
On being self-conscious
"I definitely look at my body and I go: Yuck. Look at the lumps and the irregularities and the mismatched — the bottom doesn't march the top. But I don't care. It doesn't bother me. I definitely see it and I — objectively looking at my body, I'm not impressed. But if I'm with a woman and she wants to be with me, she must like me. I definitely have sex with my T-shirt on, always. I haven't had sex without a shirt on since I was about 23."
On a conversation he had with an openly gay comic about using a slur in his stand-up act (see a scene from Louie about the conversation. Not Safe For Work.)
"I had a conversation with [openly gay comedian Rick Crom] about [the slur.] I asked him about it. ... He didn't lecture me or say you shouldn't say it. He just said 'If you're interested, it's totally devastating.' And he gave me that information. And I never forgot it. I was about 22. I have said [the slur] a number of times since then. But I know what I'm saying. I know what it means now."
"I've done material about gay and heterosexual differences since I started stand-up, because it's one of the most unsettled and most — it's one of the most divisive things in American culture right now, that line between gay and heterosex[uality.] To me, I love being on that line and talking about it. And I think when you do that, you have to use all of the words and go to every extreme. I think that's what comedy is about. Comedy isn't polite and it isn't correct and it isn't accurate, even. It's just a mess. So that's the way that I approach it."