TCA: Louis C.K. on his FX Comedy: “I Don’t Need this S---"

Showrunners Louis C.K. Headshot

The comedian opens up about his success, his freedom as a storyteller and his disgust for award shows and the celebrity humor they traffic in.

If Louis C.K. were running FX, he jokes he wouldn’t have allowed himself the freedom that the network has given him.

“It was irresponsible,” quips the star of Louie during his stop on the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour Sunday. That freedom has entailed Louis C.K. serving as creator, writer, director, editor and star of his comedy, for which he delivers his FX bosses finished copies on an enviably low budget.

But to hear Louis C.K. tell it, he wouldn’t have agreed to do the show any other way. He recalls those initial conversations he had with FX brass, during which he outllined precisely how he wanted to do the series -- or more specifically, how he didn’t want to do the series. 

“You have to be willing not to do the show,” he says of his desire for control trumping his desire to get his series greenlit, adding: “If you’re concerned with success too much, you make all kinds of decisions and compromises than you hurt the story that you’re doing.”

Working in Louis C.K.’s favor: he was not only willing but also able not to do the show. “I don’t need this s---, I really don’t,” he deadpans, referencing a hugely lucrative side-career as a touring stand-up comic. “This is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. But I don’t need it.”

That reality became that much more apparent late last year, when the comedian's self-distributed stand-up album earned more than $1 million in a matter of days. He acknowledges that his rising profile –along with his technical aptitude and his relationship with his fans-- played a significant part in making the DIY experiment a success.

Going forward, what you won’t see Louis C.K. try is to host an award show, unless, he jokes, the show is for movies from the 1970's. “I’d have to go see everything and pretend to give a s---, and I don’t,” cracks the comedian, who says he prefers to spend what little free time he has with his children. What's more, he’s not particularly interested in the more current, rip-on-celebrities style of comedy, a format he has hated since his days working as a late night comedy writer for Conan O’Brien, Chris Rock and David Letterman

For those who worry that all of Louis C.K.'s success will alter his comedic tone, he will assure you that that won’t happen. In fact, he argues that the first 20 of his 27 years in the stand-up business, which were marked by “suffering,” “poverty” and “ego destruction,” will always outweigh the five good and two great years he’s just had. (For those keeping track, he insists a decline is coming. He jokes, “I’ve got five to eight years where it’ll be great, and then it will start to degenerate, like uranium.")

Still, he’s the first to acknowledge he’s in an incredible place. “I’d be a real a--hole if I didn’t realize what a great life I lead,” he says of his current positioning at the top of the comedy food chain, before adding that even with that success he’s not lacking for fodder: “It’s a weird time to be American and to be a human, so there’s a lot of things to keep me depressed.”

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