Nice to see that everyone loves Louis CK now. I've been hitting readers over the head with CK quotes/articles/recaps here for years – way before his FX show hit the air. So I decided to search through the 'ol Sandpaper Suit archives (lots of microfiche!) and bust out a COLLECTION POST of choice cuts. Most of these are about CK's standup though there's a few pieces on the FX show thrown in. Lots of good, meaty stuff in here for folks who care about the nuts and bolts of standup. It's neat how frequently and openly CK discusses his approach. OK, enjoy. (Ya can click through on the links to read the full piece. Any unattributed quote is from CK.)
Highlights from the great commentary on Louis CK's "Chewed Up" DVD
"Now I tend to just keep glomming onto something and adding more and more layers and pieces and then taking away stuff that was weak...It's like the way they make Samurai swords. They fold a piece of steel and bang it until it's thin. And then they fold it again and bang it again until it's thin until it's just compact and all the air and impurities are just leaving and it's just this pure, dense steel. So that's what I try to do."
Great Louis CK interview on XM Unmasked
"When you bomb, it's like a murder happened to you. And you've got data. You've got evidence. It's like forensics. You walk around poking things with a pencil and go, 'Well, if you hadn't said this after that, it wouldn't have gone so bad.' And you learn. You have a huge wealth of information."
Louis CK on saying the things that are gnawing at his head
"I decided I'm not gonna come up with jokes anymore. I'm not going to try to think of funny things to say. I'm going to say the things that are gnawing at my head. Any thought that I've been having a lot, I'm just gonna say it. And all of a sudden, a huge amount of lifelong fear was just gone. I just didn't care."
What makes CK so good?
He gets off on walking that line. And those provocative topics and setups get people paying attention. Tell an audience that your young daughter is an asshole, and they're really gonna want to hear what comes next. When an audience is locked in like that, it's a lot easier to get laughs.
Louis CK at Comix = most impressive standup show I've ever seen
At one point, he lost his place (maybe intentionally?) and went in reverse describing the last 6 topics he'd discussed in order to remember his point. The crowd burst out in applause. His response: "People will clap at any list." And then that smirk again. Great.
The pros to writing onstage
"An audience is a target, it's a guide. You can't really generate stand up material without an audience. They gotta tell you how to say it. And then once it's been said in front of an audience, it lives. And every time I say it, it changes, develops or gets worse."
The fascination with hecklers
"I usually respond sincerely to hecklers. It doesn't happen to me very often but when someone yells something out, I usually grind the show to a halt, focus on them, and I say very seriously 'It really makes it hard for me to do the show when you talk. will you please stop?' They usually get very very embarassed and stop talking."
Louis CK tees off on heckler
CK says, "When you talk, I hear it in my ear and it fucks up my timing and it makes my job hard. So could you not talk during my act please?" Guy decides to go back at him. Big mistake. CK rips him. Crowd boos the guy. CK: "People that don't know you hate you. That can't feel very good."
The evolution from clever to truth teller
Myq Kaplan: "louis CK did ridiculous, absurd jokes for years and years, and he was a genius at That, long before he started doing what he's doing now"
Ted Alexandro on letting jokes breathe
Ted Alexandro: "I learned a lot from working with Louis CK that being interesting, being intriguing, and engaging the listener is as important as being funny. "
"When you perfect, you go in the same direction as everybody else"
CK explains how his show is made up of first drafts. "I like this show to feel like it's right out of my gut or brain or balls," he says.
CK on writers’ rooms
"'Everybody wants to improve the material, so they will comb over it, take out abnormalities,' he says of the traditional writers’ room. 'It’s like certain kinds of food: You like them to be chunky and irregular. And they’ll just keeping puréeing and puréeing till it’s perfect, and who the fuck wants it?...They get to this place where it gets really madcap, and I just smell a roomful of writers getting off.'"
Carlin on deliberately crossing the line
Includes a great speech CK gave honoring Carlin.
Louis CK on "brushback pitch" jokes
"I like jokes that are brushback pitches. There's a mix of laughter and people going, 'Oh, Jesus!' But that turns into laughter. I like taking people to an area in their minds or their culture that they don't think they should be thinking about or laughing at, and then getting them to laugh there. That's a great thing to be able to do that. Take people to a place they're afraid of and say there's something funny here."
The advice Louis CK and Chris Rock gave to Hannibal Buress
"Louie would tell me not to curse so much," said Hannibal. "He'd say, "Take out the 'fucks,' you're six less 'fucks' away from being a millionaire."
CK: “I never write anything down"
“I never write anything down… I think comedy’s a spoken form, and if you’re writing it down you’re putting a bunch of filters on it.”
The Bill Clinton speech that Louis CK calls "one of the greatest things I ever saw"
"One of the greatest things I ever saw was [Bill Clinton] at Coretta Scott King's funeral. Jimmy Carter, George Bush Senior, Hillary — all these people making speeches, and then Bill Clinton goes on and he says, 'Let's all remember that that is a woman lying right there.' And he points at her."
Chuck Klosterman on Louie's 'brilliance"
Klosterman: "What’s so distinctly compelling about this season of Louie is how everyone seems to collectively realize that what C.K. is doing is not only cool, but also authentically artful and unnaturally profound."
Behind the scenes as Louis CK films a new TV pilot
He did some Q&A with the crowd while cameras were setting up. I asked him what the narrative of the show was and he replied, "You want me to tell you the entire story now, you motherfucker?" Oddly, that word seems almost like a term of endearment coming from him.
A highbrow justification for telling dick jokes
Adam Wilson: "If you can stomach the scatology, you’ll see that these jokes are meant to make you laugh, but more so to open a candid investigation into corporeality; into what it’s like to live in a body that disobeys, decays, and will one day cease to exist."
Tapping into shame and indefensible ideas
"I’m fucking around with a lot of big ideas, and I don’t have the authority to seriously talk about them. So when I make a joke about a baby with a tree branch growing out of its head being the same thing as a Chinese baby, I don’t expect you to believe any of this. I’m just being a dick."
Chatting with CK after one of his sets
It was striking to me because so many comics seem so obsessed with hierarchy BS that they won't even talk to comics who they think are "beneath" them. Or they'll just crack on them. Yet Louis, who's got HBO specials, didn't give a shit. He just came over and said hey and was a regular guy willing to talk, even though we're just three comics starting out.
Sandpaper Suit is NYC standup comic Matt Ruby's (now defunct) comedy blog. Keep in touch: Sign up for Matt's weekly Rubesletter. Email email@example.com.
A big collection of Louis CK quotes and articles (mostly about his standup)
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