The Pains Of Parenting, And Other Life Lessons From Louis C.K.
Louis C.K. has made a career in comedy by going places others won't. He can be shockingly crude and deeply insightful in the same sentence.
In his Emmy-award winning TV show called Louie, the comedian basically plays himself — a divorced standup comic in New York with two kids. Season 4 of the show kicked off last week.
Louie is "right where I started him, really," he tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "Some stuff happened, but he ended up back where he was, which sort of is the way things work. It's a zero-sum game, at times."
On writing the overweight woman's dating monologue in Season 4
You know, I thought about the basic unfairness of it, that she's supposed to just accept it. A fat woman, that's the one person that gets the most heap of crap on their face in our society. People can be really horrible to women that they deem unattractive, you know.
And also, it kind of started to me as a romantic comedy kind of thing, you know — the way they used to be. ... The premise was always, this is kind of a mess of a guy, and this woman is beautiful, and he's going to tap dance around to make himself attractive. So I liked reversing that and feeling like this woman is, like, not an automatic for me. But she's cool — if you watch the episode, she's very charming, and she's very sure of herself. To me, it was worth it: Let's try writing what does somebody like this feel like? And to me, the most effective way is to make myself the target of their anger.
On Louie's life as a dad, and the difficulty of being a parent
You're just alone in a room. There's nothing cool about it — you know, some people try to make it cool by naming their kids Dylan or something like that, or naming their kid, like, 15 or something. Because that's their way of saying ... I don't have a kid. I'm still being a poet. I'm still cool. I have a rock 'n' roll version of this.
But your kid is just somebody who you have to feed and care for and hug and burp and change their diaper — that's all it is, and so it takes you to an abyss in your life. I don't want to be needed that way right now. I want to sleep for a long time!
On having a second kid
The good news is, you're going to be OK. The good news is, this is a massive test of your ability and strength, and you're going to pass it. And that's why I was never afraid to say how hard it was to have kids. Because I didn't give up on it; I didn't run out on them — it was worth it! I found out I was capable of being alone, of being pushed to the brink, of not sleeping, of loving someone I was resenting at the same time — these are huge human capabilities that I didn't know I was aware I had. ... Your first kid's going to have a playmate, and an enemy, and all kinds of stuff that you don't have to be anymore. It's way better to be a referee than one of the boxers!
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Sometimes, just sometimes, raising kids is boring. But that's not something you really talk about - unless you're the comedian Louis C.K.
(SOUNDBITE OF STAND-UP COMEDY SHOW)
LOUIS C.K.: You got to play board games, little kids board games where you (imitation of roulette).
C.K.: You got a six, honey.
C.K.: (Speaking slowly) One. Two. Three.
C.K.: It's just here. Just go here. It's just...
C.K.: Daddy, I'm learning. I know, you're going to grow up stupid 'cause I'm bored. I can't take it, baby. I can't. I'm bored more than I love you.
C.K.: I can't - I just can't.
MARTIN: Louis C.K. has made a career in comedy by going places others will not. He can be shockingly crude and deeply insightful in the same sentence. In his Emmy award-winning TV show called "Louie," the comedian basically plays himself - a divorced stand-up comic in New York with two kids, barely getting by. When I talked to Louis C.K. recently I asked him where Louie the character is in his life when season 4 of the show begins.
C.K.: He's right where I started him, really not a lot has happened.
MARTIN: (Laughing) He didn't move?
C.K.: Yeah, some stuff happened, but he ended up back where he was, which is sort of the way things work. It's kind of a zero-sum game at times.
MARTIN: So he is still single.
MARTIN: And he's got this idea of the woman he wants to be with - the good-looking women. In season 4, he meets this waitress at the comedy club where he works.
MARTIN: She digs him.
MARTIN: And he dismisses her pretty outright, and then she lays into him with the following speech. Let's take a listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOUIE")
SARAH BAKER: (As Vanessa) Try dating in New York in the early 30s as a fat girl.
C.K.: (As himself) Well, you're not - I mean...
BAKER: (As Vanessa) Don't.
C.K.: (As himself) You're not fat.
BAKER: (As Vanessa) Louie, do you know what the meanest thing is you can say to a fat girl? You're not fat. You know what's funny? I flirt with guys all the time. And I mean, the great-looking ones, like the really high-caliber studs, they flirt right back no problem because they know their status will never be questions. But guys like you never flirt with me because you get scared that maybe you should be with a girl like me. And why not?
MARTIN: Why did you want to write that monologue?
C.K.: You know, I thought about the basic unfairness of it, that she's supposed to just accept it, you know? A fat woman - that's the one person that gets the most heap of crap on their face in our society. It kind of started to me as like a romantic comedy kind of thing. Like Tom Hanks, even in his early movies, the premise was always this is kind of a mess of a guy and this woman is beautiful and he's going to tap dance around to make himself attractive, you know. So I liked reversing that to make myself the target.
MARTIN: A big part of Louie's story is his life as a dad. The funniest stuff, I think, is when you say the things that just aren't said - when you talk about how hard parenting is, the banal stuff, how much your kids bug you. That's a real part of the experience.
C.K.: Oh, it's - that's the challenge of being a parent. You know, you're just alone in a room, there's nothing cool about it. Some people try to make it call by naming their kids, you know, Dylan or something like that.
C.K.: Or, you know, Fifteen or something. That's their way of saying, like, I don't have a kid, I'm still being a poet, you know, I'm still cool. I have a rock 'n roll version of this. But your kid is just somebody you have to feed and care for and hug and burp and change their diaper. That's all it is.
It takes you to an abyss in your life. I don't want to be needed that way right now. I want to sleep for a long time. And so to me it was way more fun to talk about it than to pretend it wasn't happening.
MARTIN: And it can be really scary - there's a moment in the new season - something terrifying happens to your younger daughter out in the wilds of New York City. She gets in some trouble and you freak out at her.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOUIE")
C.K.: (As himself) People get hurt, it's a dangerous world. Kids get stolen and they disappear forever, Jane. Just...
HADLEY DELANY: (As Lilly) Dad. Dad, it's enough.
C.K.: (As himself) No.
DELANY: (As Lilly) It's enough.
C.K.: (As himself) Go ahead and cry. That's right.
DELANY: (As Lilly) No.
C.K.: (As himself) That's what you should be doing, you should be scared and crying. Never do something like that again. Never. Why did you do that?
MARTIN: Not a lot funny happening there. It's just life. Why was that something that you wanted to write?
C.K.: You need to show your kids your fear face sometimes. This is what a person looks like when you push them. This is the face of a person who you totally maligned and neglectfully pushed to the brink. So when you have your first college roommate and you treat them like crap, this is what they're going to talk to you like too, do you know what I mean?
C.K.: Better that happens with you than with people that are going to have no sympathy for them.
MARTIN: You must have been optimistic about the parenthood thing because you had two, right? I mean, I'm selfishly asking this because I am pregnant with my second child.
C.K.: Oh, that's so great.
C.K.: How old is your first?
MARTIN: He will be two when this baby comes so he's 22 months now.
C.K.: I think it's totally worth doing again.
MARTIN: Tell me it's all going to be fine, right.
C.K.: Well, it's not going to be fine. No, I'm not going to say that to you. I mean, that's - look, it's going to be hard because your first one does not prepare you for a second one. The good news is you're going to be OK.
C.K.: This is a massive test of your ability and strength and you're going to pass it. And that's why I was never afraid to say how hard it was to have kids because I didn't give up on it.
C.K.: I didn't run out on them, it was worth it. I found out I was capable of being alone, of being pushed to a brink of not sleeping, of loving someone I was resenting at the same time. These are huge human capabilities that I didn't know, I was aware, that I had.
MARTIN: This is a very good pep talk. Can I call you when I'm like hysterical in the middle of the night?
C.K.: No. No, I'm not interested.
MARTIN: No, no.
C.K.: It's your problem.
C.K.: Call your mom or your dad - I don't know who you're going to call. No, you'll be fun. You'll be fine.
MARTIN: Louis C.K. is the director, writer and star of "Louie" on FX. The new fourth season is airing Monday nights at 10. He talked to us from our studios in New York. Louis, thanks so much.
C.K.: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.