My friend Mario Joyner has a funny line. It’s not something he does in his act, but he’s a brilliantly funny guy about life. The wedding gown, the celebration, the aggrandizement of the woman in this amazing outfit at the wedding—she’s telling the world “I got one of these motherfuckers to act right.”
“Comedians are known for having long marriages,” he says. Why? “I have to apologise for the self-serving answer I’m going to give you, but: we’re smart. If you’re smart, you stay married if you can. Marriage is hard for everyone – that’s a basic fact – but it’s a better life if you can do it. Very nice. Very relaxing. Very enjoyable.”
To this day, Seinfeld still marks crosses on a calendar, keeping regular hours (albeit relaxed ones: most days, he says, he’ll meet a friend for a two-hour breakfast) and spending 20 minutes a day doing Transcendental Meditation, which is the only topic to jolt him from his default nonchalance into real enthusiasm: “I could do the whole interview about TM, to be honest, but we’d just lose everybody. I’ll describe it very simply: it’s like you have a phone, and somebody gives you a charger for it. And so now you can recover from this exhausting experience of being a human, twice a day. It’s deep rest. Now that’s something that can help people. As opposed to this idiotic calendar thing.”
With my stand-up now, I’ve realized there are two types of jokes. One type is me talking about miscellaneous topics and getting laughs. That would be how I feel my first two stand-up specials come off. The second type is, you get a laugh, but you also get the feeling that the audience is saying, “Thank you for saying that!” I find the second type way more satisfying.
The Original Kings of Comedy. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes awful. I gotta find some more Bernie Mac.
Only fans should be allowed to criticize. Because it’s for the fans. When I hear somebody go, “Country music [stinks],” I’m like, well, country music’s not for you. You’re just being elitist. Only a fan of Travis Tritt can say the record [stinks], because he’s got every one.
Also, on the need to work up your craft in private:
When you’re workshopping it, a lot of stuff is bumpy and awkward. Especially when you’re working on the edge, you’re going to offend. […] You’re mad at Ray Leonard because he’s not in shape, in the gym? That’s what the gym’s for. The sad thing, with all this taping and stuff, no one’s going to do stand-up. And every big stand-up I talk to says: “How do I work out new material? Where can you go, if I have a half an idea and then it’s on the Internet next week?” Just look at some of my material. You can’t imagine how rough it was and how unfunny and how sexist or racist it might have seemed. “Niggas vs. Black People” probably took me six months to get that thing right. You know how racist that thing was a week in? That’s not to be seen by anybody.
I missed this interview last fall. Murphy on the selectiveness that wealth affords:
I only want to do what I really want to do, otherwise I’m content to sit here and play my guitar all day. I always tell people now that I’m a semiretired gentleman of leisure, and occasionally I’ll go do some work to break the boredom up.
That stuff, with people disciplining their kids back in the day, it’s totally different. You hear about Joe Jackson, who had, what, 10 kids? You’re whipping somebody’s ass if you have 10 kids, in this little house! Ten kids, one of them is spinning all around and walking backward and shit? You’d be like, “Somebody’s getting their ass whipped” [laughs]. It’s a whole different time.
Technology has it to where they gonna play this stuff forever. But the reality is, all this shit turns into dust, everything is temporary. No matter what you do, if you’re around here long enough, you’ll wind up dribbling and shitting on yourself, and you won’t even remember the shit you did.
Well, this is awesome. (via) Here we have an edited transcript of Jonah Weiner’s interview with Louis CK that was used for the Rolling Stone profile last fall. Lots of good stuff here. Here’s Louis CK on the importance of those early failures and growing experiences:
Stand-up, I didn’t know what that was going to feel like. I guess I thought it would feel like it does in TV shows or movies: they’re going to laugh. That’s part of it, right? You tell a joke and then they laugh. It has this feel to it that I knew, and boy, when you realize how wrong you are, that’s a fucking cold slap in the face. I think that’s true of anybody’s first time. […] You need to enter stand-up with that cold slap in the face, or you’ll never really understand what you’re doing.
This next part rang really true for me. I thought for a long time that I was headed to grad school right after college, but each fall afterward I just couldn’t bring myself to do the paperwork. That’s me sending myself a message. CK on resisting college and keeping a day job while he chased his dreams (cf. Steve Reich):
An old teacher of mine got me an interview at NYU film school, and I brought all these videos I’d made, and photographs, a portfolio – I’d gotten into photography and stuff, and they said that they would accept me to go to film school. So I quit my job with that in mind, and I’d been doing stand-up, but not well or successfully, and then I never filled in – I got these forms from this guy to fill in, on the floor of my apartment somewhere, but I couldn’t get my brain to…I was supposed to go back to my high school and get my transcripts, and the idea of doing all that, just that paperwork – going to NYU film school was this dream come true for me, but I couldn’t fill out the thing, couldn’t fill it out and go to the Xerox machine and put a stamp on an envelope, all that stuff. It made me want to vomit. That sort of thing has always been the case for me, I can’t get that done. That’s why I have an assistant. Now if I just dream up shit I want to do, I have her to take care of it.
So I decided, “Fuck it, I’m a comedian. I’m just going to do that, I’m going to stay in Boston.” That’s when I worked at the garage. I stopped working at local-access cable. I drove a cab for a while. I started taking shitty jobs so I could do stand-up, I didn’t want an all-encompassing job. I liked that, I just liked having dead-end jobs and doing stand-up. I thought, “Fuck it, that’s what I’m going to try to do.” I had an instinct that if I just kept hammering it and hammering it, I had a head start on people, I was very young, and I was resilient, I didn’t mind living stupidly, I wasn’t anxious about making a living, just played it close to the bottom for a long time, and I knew how to do that, it didn’t bother me. I liked the freedom, I didn’t have a job-job, I’m not working for a company, I’m not going to a school, I live on my own.
And, wow, on the typical sitcom plot:
With a lot of these shows, I know what’s going on, and I think the audience does, too. Here comes the part where they’re going to walk in the door while the credits are still rolling. They’re going to trade quick barbs, “What did you do?” “I went to the store to get a coffee and they had the Michael J. Fox coffee today, so they spilled it.” “Oh, ha ha ha.” “What happened to you today?” Kind of inconsequential jokes. Joke, joke, joke, then somebody goes, “Somebody was here to ask you about this” – here comes the story, and it gets quiet, and then, “Oh, I can’t go, because I have this thing,” “He’s only in town for one day,” and now we’re laying pipe and it’s getting quiet. “What are you going to do about that?” “I don’t know,” because here’s a joke about the character that is an outside world joke or observational joke, and then the blow, the big fucking blow to get out of the scene – you have to have a blow, a big enough laugh, and it’s something really contrived: people sat there in the writer’s room, fucking eating fast food and going, “Where’s the blow for this scene, I want to go home.”
Then here comes the funny character, the guest star, who’s in town, and we find out what the lead character hates about him, and then there’s the guy, the character, that carries all the jokes. He says dumb things and keeps it going, there’s this energy, he’s like a circuit or something, just does this one thing. […] So there’s a guy on every show that does that, he has his one way, he has his variety, about eight different joke formulas, and you refill them with different stuff. He’s either the dumb guy or, like, Lisa Kudrow’s character on Friends or whatever. “I thought coffee was from Brazil.” “Ugh, no the guy’s name is Coffee. He’s from Italy.” Garbage like that. Then you start building the story, then you go away on an act break. Then you build a third act that just is the train wreck of not really much fun, but it pays everything off, it leaves everybody feeling exactly the same way they left, that they felt before the show started. That’s what shows are meant to do, is leave on par and leave a few jokes behind, to be printed in Entertainment Weekly’s sound bites.
On kids and growing up:
Having kids, you don’t escape from it, you seize onto it, it’s a big, stressful, exhilarating, real life thing. And it’s permanent, it’s something that you have to evolve for. Some people don’t, but I think you have to actually change your values system, and you have to revolutionize yourself in order to do it properly, because kids can’t raise kids, and I think you’re somewhat a kid until you have them, then you really have to grow up.
Lastly on being in control, experimenting, being wrong, being interesting:
I’m not a dictator, because I’m not in control of anything, I’m just deciding what to try. To me, it’s not that I control a bunch of people, it’s just that nobody controls me. There’s nothing above me except responsibility to the product. That’s the ultimate responsibility, is if the show sucks, then what was the fucking point of being in charge? I’m right about these things on the show, and when I’m not, it’s interesting to watch me be wrong. I don’t think you have to be perfect, you just have to be compelling in the work you do.
Louis CK: Live at the Beacon Theater. Worth 5 bucks.
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“Damn, I gotta come in early tomorrow and work on my project!” There ain’t enough time when you got a career. When you got a job, there’s too much time. You’re looking at your watch, like “Ah, shit. It’s 9:08.”
Philosophy and jokes proceed from the same impulse: to confound our sense of the way things are, to flip our worlds upside down, and to ferret out hidden, often uncomfortable, truths about life. What the philosopher calls an insight, the gagster calls a zinger.
It’s a very odd thing with Hollywood, where you do stand-up, you’re good at it, then they go, “How would you like to be a horrible actor?” Then you say, “All right, that sounds good. I’ll do that.” So I’m fucking excited about not having to pretend to know what I’m doing with acting.
I love abandoning shit, because I don’t like doing shit over and over and over. I’ve thrown so many jokes away. First of all, I’m not a good enough performer to pretend that “I just thought of this,” that kind of shit. It’s saying the same word over and over again, it loses its fucking meaning. Also, generally I don’t like traveling around saying the exact same thing. I don’t think that’s a very good thing to do with your life.
I don’t really care about success or money or shit. I could give a fuck. I hate fame. I hate being recognized, because I don’t know how to talk to people. I see Sandler, man, and I’m like fuck, goddamn, I don’t know how he does it, those people are fucking everywhere he walks. If you’re walking with him, all you hear behind is people whispering. It’s almost like being fucking stoned, or a paranoid schizophrenic or something, where you think people are talking about you, but they actually are talking about you. It’s fucking surreal.
1. If you can be yourself on stage nobody else can be you and you have the law of supply and demand covered.
What writers have is a license and also the freedom to sit—to sit, clench their fists, and make themselves be excruciatingly aware of the stuff that we’re mostly aware of only on a certain level. And if the writer does his job right, what he basically does is remind the reader of how smart the reader is. Wake the reader up to stuff that the reader’s been aware of all the time.