Comics often mine material from their lives. When Louis C.K. was accused of sexual misconduct in 2017, I had a flashback to an interview with the controversial comic.
Prior to crafting a feature for Playboy on C.K. and his then-forthcoming HBO vehicle “Lucky Louie” in 2006, I watched his “One Night Stand,” which also aired on HBO.
During the 23-minute set, C.K. joked about excessive self-pleasure. I asked him if that was true. “Nowadays, I mostly do that at work,” C.K. said over lunch at a Manhattan cafe. “At least I have an office now.”
C.K.’s humor has often been thinly veiled and frequently crosses a line. While interviewing him for Maxim in 2009, I asked C.K. if his wife left him since his material about her and their young daughters was often vicious. “No comment,” C.K. said.
During the classic “Seinfeld” episode “The Limo,” the character Kramer offers his opinion about comics. “Jerry (Seinfeld), he’s too normal to be a comedian. These comedians, they’re sick, neurotic people.” Yes, it’s just a line from a sitcom, but comics are typically not the most well-adjusted individuals. Many air out their issues.
If you examine his material, it’s not shocking that sex preoccupies C.K.’s inventive mind. Many of his bits throughout his storied career have been libido-driven. Regardless, C.K. has come back and has sold out most dates on his current tour, which stops Sunday at a nearly sold-out First Interstate Center for the Arts. C.K. has a loyal base, more money than he’ll ever need, and he’s funny.
But C.K.’s career and legacy have taken a huge hit. To put it in perspective, Rolling Stone once placed C.K. as the fourth-greatest comic of all time behind Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Richard Pryor for a 2017 feature just months before his career was derailed.
That’s the equivalent of being on the Mount Rushmore of comedy. To be regarded in such a manner, according to Rolling Stone, ahead of iconic comics such as Woody Allen, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock is a heck of a compliment. So, it was a heck of a fall after being knocked from that pedestal.
Comic Janeane Garofalo has stated that C.K. and his family have paid heavily. The future is uncertain for C.K., but what he accomplished before the allegations hit will not change.
HBO canceled “Lucky Louie,” C.K.’s initial vehicle akin to a baseball slugger. The show alternated between hitting long, creative homers and striking out.
“It would have been an all-time great,” comic-actor and “Lucky Louie” cast member Jim Norton said while calling from New York. “We had the viewers. We had more viewers than (HBO’s) ‘Flight of the Conchords,’ but they ended it.”
His FX show, the critically acclaimed “Louie,” debuted in 2009 and ran for five seasons. I look back at our five interviews and recall all the pent-up energy inside C.K. as he enthusiastically answered an array of questions with total candor, particularly when it came to relationships.
“Marriage is hard,” C.K. said. “It’s two different people getting together. What are the odds that those two people are going to get together like yin and yang? It just doesn’t happen that way.”
I followed by asking C.K. about Paul and Linda McCartney, who said they were together every day and never had a problem. “I don’t believe they were together every day of their lives,” C.K. said. “I don’t buy it. It’s (marriage) is very hard. All I know is that it’s hard for most people. We’re all human.
“… They (man and woman) can get along, but they can’t be happy and nice together all the time, like they are on so many sitcoms. Getting along to me means fighting and trying to understand one-and-a-half percent more after the fight ends. Marriage is two steps forward and 48 (steps) back.”
C.K. talked about making mistakes, albeit professional missteps. His close friend Chris Rock offered him the head writer’s gig for HBO’s “The Chris Rock Show.” “He told me he was going to have a show and I could run it,” C.K. said. “I turned him down, I told him, ‘I’m going to be on a show on ABC. I’ll be making real money. I’ll be working with Dana Carvey.’ I told him, ‘You’re just Chris Rock.’
“I turned him down and told him I’m off to better things. Anyway, the network didn’t like us, and we lasted about seven weeks. My reputation wasn’t very good since ‘The Dana Carvey Show’ was such a debacle.”
Well, C.K.’s reputation is much worse now, but it’ll be fascinating to see where C.K. goes from here since all he’s ever known or cared about is comedy.
“I feel a responsibility to make people laugh,” C.K. said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter
Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.