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Onstage, Louis C.K. is uproariously funny. In his TV show, he mixes comedy with the morose realities of midlife city living. When talking to reporters, he gets wonky.
The writer, showrunner and star of Louie, which launches its third season on FX on Thursday, took questions from reporters eager to learn about the method to his unique, Emmy-nominated madness. And with 13 new episodes to discuss, he had plenty to offer. Here are five things we learned from the conference call.
1. Jerry Seinfeld makes a guest appearance during the connected last three episodes of the season. Unlike much of Louie, the three will involve one long storyline, and C.K. said that Seinfeld’s acting was both phenomenal and something that fans wouldn’t normally expect.
2. The new season introduces C.K.’s ex-wife, who is played by a different actress than the one who initially made bit appearances during earlier episodes. And, despite having white, blond children, the ex-wife is African-American.
“The show needs to keep going, and so I’m introducing new elements each year,” he said. “I try to do something that’s new to the show, and the stories that I wrote really led me to her. The show is really broken off into fiction much more in last year and this year, and so it’s really not drawn from my life anymore. Like, this ex-wife character is completely not anything like my real ex-wife.
“When I was drawing from my own life, I didn’t want to have the story be about an ex-husband and an ex-wife; that relationship wasn’t what I wanted to write about. So when I arrived at a version of it for this character that I thought was really good, this woman who is well-put together and kind of an added pressure to his life. And the actress is so good. A lot of the stuff we’re going to do on the show, I’m not sure I’m going to do it until we see who’s playing it.
“To me, the racial thing is like — when people probably first see her, their brains do a little bit of DNA map and go. ‘I’m not sure I get how that would happen.’ And then I think, with my show, most people go, ‘Oh, all right, just go ahead.’ And then they watch the scene. The thing that’s important is what’s getting said.”
3. Louis likes to do the unexpected.
“I think it’s a great thing to be able to do if you can, to take people down a road that they’re really unsure of and have something down that road happen that they like what they saw,” he said. “There is definitely well-worn paths to laughter, and everybody knows where they are. One way to do it is to just walk down those paths cheerfully and everybody laughs, but it’s really fun to go into territory where they’re not sure how to act. It’s something I enjoy. It’s just what I like. I like when I’m watching something and I kind of feel like I’m in a wilderness and I don’t know where it’s headed, and then I get somewhere and I’m like: ‘Wow! That’s what he was doing.’ “
4. His newly announced tour, to which he’s selling tickets on his own website for $45, has taken in $4.1 million on 92,000 seats sold.
“It was really hard but really fun,” C.K. said. “I’m a very curious person, and so whenever I get into a new facet of what I do, I like to learn about it. And then when I learn about it, I start asking questions like, ‘Why does it have to be this way?’ So as I’ve toured the last couple of years in the big theaters and found out how it works, I get angry emails from fans of how much it’s paying that’s not even part of the ticket price. I start to understand the economics of promotion and ticket sales and all that stuff. I get really curious about, ‘Could we do what I did with Live From the Beacon on the road?’
“So my agent Mike Burkowitz and I started going around the country, and it was a lot of work. But something I learned from Louie is that whenever we’re going to do something in the show that’s much more difficult, we do it much later in the season, and we spend deliberate, careful time preparing it. So in this case, with the theaters, we had to go to every city and any city that we couldn’t play the usual venue because of how the ticket company has it set up. They sort of have these places locked down or they own a lot of them; we had to find places that were willing to do it our way. And it was kind of a risk, I felt it was a bigger risk than Live at the Beacon; it was just going to be this file sitting there that nobody wanted. But in this case, these are shows in 25 or so cities that would have been empty. Anyway, it worked.”
5. He’s best friends with his daughters, who are nothing like the little girls in the show.
“My daughters have seen parts of the show. The first episode of the pilot, the events are on a school bus came from a jumping-off point from a real thing that happened with my daughter, so she enjoyed watching that. This isn’t on HBO, so there are some things my kids can watch. But the kids on my show are vastly different than my kids in real life. They’re really not even close as characters. So it’s really like a different life; there isn’t so much of a parallel anymore.”
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