Zach Galifianakis, Louis C.K. Talk FX Comedy ‘Baskets,’ Future of ‘Louie’

Louis C.K. Zach Galifianakis Split - H 2014
Scott Kirkland/Invision for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences/AP Images; Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP

Louis C.K. Zach Galifianakis Split - H 2014

The bar is high for Zach Galifianakis.

With his new FX comedy, which he co-created with Louis C.K. and Jonathan Krisel, the Hangover star is looking to another FX series — Louie — for inspiration.

The new show, set to premiere Jan. 21, follows Chip Baskets (Galifianakis) as he pursues his dream, against all odds, to be a respected clown. But after an unsuccessful stint at a prestigious clown school in Paris, the only job he can find is with a local rodeo in Bakersfield, Calif.

Galifianakis acknowledged on stage at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour that he feels a pressure to live up to the “genius” of Louie, given that its star and creator is an executive producer on Baskets. But C.K. pointed out that the shows have their own unique voice.  “They operate on different frequencies, and I think that Zach’s show succeeds in a way my show doesn’t. I just look unhappy and … jazz music plays when grey things happen,” said the stand-up vet.

“Zach just f—king falls down and it’s stupid — it’s ridiculous,” he continued. “He’s the most Jerry Lewis-like funny guy. Nobody make me laugh like him. And he’s much more generous of a performer than I am. I’m not willing to do anything of the things Zach does, so  in a lot of ways I prefer Zach’s show as far as just the comedy of it.”

In terms of the future of his own FX series, from which he’s taking a second hiatus, C.K. echoed FX chief John Landgraf’s remarks earlier in the morning. “I just don’t know,” said C.K. “I think about it sometimes, and don’t know yet.”

When Galifianakis pressed him on exactly how often he thinks about it, C.K. joked to laughs from the audience, “Every 48 days … [and] I just reset the clock at zero.” He added, “It’s such an autobiographical thing that I could do a version of Louie when he’s 60, if anybody still gives a shit. By the time I want to, I might call, ‘Hey guys, I’m ready,’ and they’re like, ‘Who is this?’ Or maybe next year. I have no idea.”

Galifianakis acknowledged that Baskets is a project that came together organically. “It felt like a family situation,” he said. “I’ve known Louie for 20 years.” When asked whether he’s interested in doing more dramatic work, the comedian responded that he doesn’t think about it too much. “I think drama is easier than comedy for sure … maybe I have a chip on my shoulder about that,” he said, adding, “But in comedy, you can maybe run out of tricks a little bit.”

In comparing his experiences on Funny or Die’s Between Two Ferns and Baskets, Galifianakis said that it’s “more of the same.” He added, “You go with your gut. I’m not one to overthink things, and I think comedy works best in a freeform [manner]. The way I like to do comedy is more of a democracy. I don’t need to have control over it so much … you just try to do the thing that entertains you and your friends.”

For his part, Krisel, who co-created IFC’s Portlandia, said that he’s doing something very different on the series, which has both comedic and dramatic elements. “We have a guy in drag, we’re doing slapstick — we’re doing all the big comedy things in the most toned-down drama universe,” he said. “We’re playing with this stuff in a weird way.”

Baskets premieres Thursday, Jan. 21, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.