Now that the FX comedy Louie is back for a second season, its leading actor wants to make something clear: Any similarities between the real Louis C.K. and the one we see on TV are entirely coincidental. Sort of.
“The show isn’t really autobiographical,” insists the multihyphenate star, who spoke with us by phone last month. “It’s me as a person, the way I sound and talk. But I don’t live my life the way that guy does.”
Can you blame him for wanting to put some distance between himself and his onscreen alter ego? The Louie of Louie, whose new season starts streaming Saturday 23, is a sometimes-pitiable figure—gluttonous, defeatist, very bad with women. What redeems him is the same thing that leads one to draw parallels between character and actor: his role as a patient, committed father of two. “Being a father is my point of view. It’s my number-one concern,” Louis says. “So, yeah, everything ends up being seen through that lens.”
Season two picks up where season one left off, with Louie still balancing working-class-dad concerns (like finding a decent apartment in NYC) and the embellished “parade of weirdos” with whom his stand-up gigs sometimes put him into contact. More of a show about nothing than Seinfeld ever was, Louie is unique among contemporary sitcoms in both its complete disregard for continuity—Louie and his daughters are the only narrative constant—and its willingness to play situations for sardonic pathos rather than easy laughs.
“To me, jokes are comedy stoppers,” Louis says. “When you’re enjoying the funny feeling about something, a funny mood or character, a joke kills it.” That willingness to totally eschew punch lines is epitomized by season one highlight “God,” a deadly serious flashback episode that chronicles preadolescent Louie’s struggle with the burden of Catholicism.
“That’s the one I was the most worried about,” says Louis, of the laugh-free installment. “When I turned it in, I didn’t hear anything from them at all, which scared the shit out of me. They wouldn’t answer my calls.” A couple of days later, FX did call—to announce it had renewed the series for a second season. “I was like, ‘But wait, what about the God episode?’ And they said ‘Oh, we love it. No notes.’ ”
Getting that call must have been a relief, especially after what happened with his first TV venture, 2006’s Lucky Louie. “I was desperate to get that show,” Louis admits about the short-lived HBO sitcom, which was canceled after just one season. “I was not desperate to get this show. If they had said no to my demands, I would have been fine.” The comedian’s “demands” basically came down to complete creative control of the series, in exchange for an obscenely low production budget. The arrangement makes Louie an artist-controlled property in a medium that favors the power of network executives.
Though Louis calls his freedom “tentative,” it’s easy to see why the former screenwriter and Pootie Tang creator isn’t itching to get back into the movie biz. “I don’t want to go through the process,” he says. “This show is too much fun right now. And the only pitch that I give studios is, ‘Give me $8 million and then I’ll give you a movie in two months. And I’m not telling you what it’s about, you can’t read the script and you’re not invited to the set.’ So far, no takers.”
The first episode of Louie season two begins streaming at fxnetworks.com Saturday 23.