Louis C.K.

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Louis C.K.
Louis CK at the 2012 Time Magazine 100 Most Important People event
C.K. at the 2012 Time 100.
Birth name Louis Székely
Born (1967-09-12) September 12, 1967 (age 47)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Medium Stand-up, television, film
Years active 1984–present
Genres Observational comedy, black comedy, blue comedy, self-deprecation, political satire, insult comedy
Influences Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin,[1] Lenny Clarke, Bill Cosby, Robert Downey Sr., Joan Rivers, Bill Hicks, Steve Martin,[2] Richard Pryor, Jerry Seinfeld
Influenced Patton Oswalt[3]
Spouse Alix Bailey
(1995–2008; divorced)
Children 2
Notable works and roles Louie
Lucky Louie
The Chris Rock Show
Pootie Tang
Late Night with Conan O'Brien
Website www.louisck.net
Emmy Awards
Outstanding Writing for a Variety or Music Program
1999 The Chris Rock Show
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
2012 Louie: "Pregnant"
2014 Louie: "So Did the Fat Lady"
Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Special
2012 Live at the Beacon Theater
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special
2013 Louis C.K.: Oh My God
Grammy Awards
Best Comedy Album
2012 Hilarious

Louis Székely[4] (born September 12, 1967),[4] known professionally as Louis C.K. (/ˌli sˈk/), is an American comedian, editor, writer, producer, director, and actor.

He is the creator, star, writer, director,[5] and (until February 2012) editor[6] of the acclaimed FX comedy series Louie.[7][8] C.K. is noteworthy for being among the first performers to offer direct-to-fan sales of tickets to his stand-up shows, as well as DRM-free video concert downloads, via his website.[9] Over the course of his career, he has been nominated for 30 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning writing awards for The Chris Rock Show, Louie and his stand-up specials Live at the Beacon Theater (2011) and Oh My God (2013).[10]

Early life[edit]

Family background[edit]

C.K. was born in Washington, D.C.,[2][4][11][12] the son of Mary Louise Székely (née Davis), a software engineer, and Luis Székely, an economist.[2]

C.K.'s parents met at Harvard University, where his mother was completing her degree in a summer-school program.[1] They were married at St. Francis Church in Traverse City, Michigan.[13] Along with C.K., his parents would also have three girls.[14]

C.K.'s father was born and raised in Mexico. C.K.'s father has degrees from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Harvard University.[13] C.K.'s paternal grandfather, Dr. Geza Székely Schweiger, was a surgeon. Székely Schweiger was a Hungarian Jew whose family emigrated to Mexico, where he met C.K.'s paternal grandmother, Rosario Sánchez Morales.[15] Sánchez Morales was a Catholic Mexican of Spanish and Indigenous Mexican ancestry.[16] C.K.'s grandfather agreed to have his children raised Catholic, but was (according to C.K.) "quietly Jewish".[17]

C.K.'s mother, an American of Irish Catholic ancestry, was originally from a farm in Michigan.[18] She graduated from Owosso High School in Owosso, Michigan. She attended University of Michigan and graduated from Ohio State University Phi Beta Kappa. C.K.'s maternal grandparents were M. Louise Davis and Alfred C. Davis.[13]

C.K.'s parents divorced and when his father remarried he converted to Orthodox Judaism, the faith of his new wife.[17]

C.K. has said that his father's whole family still lives in Mexico. C.K.'s paternal uncle Dr. Francisco Székely is an academic and an international consultant on environmental affairs who served as Mexico's Deputy Minister of Environment (2000–2003).[19]

Early years[edit]

Although C.K. was born in Washington, D.C., he lived there only until the age of one, when his family moved to Mexico City.[11] The family lived in Mexico City until C.K. was seven.[2] C.K.'s first language was Spanish; he has said that it was not until after the move to the U.S. that he began to learn English.[20] He has since mostly forgotten how to speak Spanish.[21]

Upon moving from Mexico to suburban Boston, C.K. decided he wanted to become a writer and comedian, citing Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, and George Carlin as some of his influences.[1] When he was 10 years old, his parents divorced. C.K. said that his father was around but he did not see him much. C.K. and his three sisters were raised by their single mother in Newton, Massachusetts.[22] The fact that his mother had only "bad" TV shows to view upon returning home from work inspired him to work on television. In April 2005, he told The Observer: "I remember thinking in fifth grade, 'I have to get inside that box and make this shit better'. Because she deserves this. It made me mad that the shows were so bad."[22]

C.K. said he was raised Catholic, as his mother wanted them to have a religious framework and understanding, and they went to after-school Catholic class until they completed Communion.[17] An article on C.K. in Rolling Stone states:

C.K. was a depressive kid. In junior high he took to drugs, "closing myself off from feelings," he says. "Eighth and ninth grade were two solid years of dropping acid, snorting coke when somebody had it, Quaaludes, an alarming amount of pot, mescaline, drinking. By the time I got to high school, I was a recovered drug addict." C.K. ran for a time with a bad crowd, breaking into cars and snatching valuables within.[14]

The "In The Woods" pair of episodes in his TV series Louie are a loose dramatization of this period of his youth.

After graduating from Newton North High School, C.K. worked as an auto mechanic and at a public access TV cable station in Boston, while "summoning the courage to try stand-up".[2] Among other jobs he worked, C.K. "cleaned pools, fixed cars and spent a year as a Kentucky Fried Chicken cook; he brought home KFC turkey dinners two Thanksgivings in a row. After that, he clerked at a video store."[14] C.K. has said that working in public access TV gave him the tools and technical knowledge to make his short films and later his television shows. He has said: "Learning is my favorite thing".[9]



C.K.'s stage name is derived from an approximate English pronunciation of his Hungarian surname, Székely (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈsiːkej]).[17]

His first attempt at stand-up was in 1984 at an open-mic night at a comedy club in Boston, Massachusetts, during the apex of the comedy boom. He was given five minutes of time, but had only two minutes of material.[23] He was so discouraged by the experience that he did not perform again for two years.[24] He and Marc Maron later reminisced about their early careers and friendship on Maron's WTF Podcast.[25]

As Boston's comedy scene grew, C.K. gradually achieved success, performing alongside acts such as Denis Leary and Lenny Clarke, and eventually he moved up to paid gigs, opening for Jerry Seinfeld and hosting comedy clubs[2] until he moved to Manhattan in 1989.[23] He performed his act on many televised programs, including Evening at the Improv and Star Search. In 1996 HBO released his first half-hour comedy special.[23]

Louis C.K. performing in Kuwait, December 2008

C.K. has performed his stand-up frequently on shows such as Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Lopez Tonight, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. In August 2005, C.K. starred in a half-hour HBO special as part of the stand-up series One Night Stand.

Inspired by the work ethic of fellow comedian George Carlin, who had committed to dropping all of his existing material and starting over every year,[26] C.K. launched his first hour-long special, Shameless, in 2007, which aired on HBO and was later released on DVD. In March 2008, he recorded a second hour-long special, Chewed Up, which premiered on Showtime Network on October 4, 2008, and went on to be nominated for an Emmy for "Outstanding Writing in a Comedy or Variety Special". C.K. has said that "failure is the road to becoming a great comedian."[9]

On April 18, 2009, Louis recorded a concert film titled Hilarious. Unlike his previous specials—which had all been produced for television networks—Hilarious was produced independently, directed by C.K. himself, and sold to Epix and Comedy Central after it was complete. As a result, it was not released until late 2010. It was published on DVD and CD in 2011.[27] It is the first stand-up comedy film to be accepted into Sundance.[28]

In a 2010 interview, C.K. talked about how, after his divorce, he thought, "well, there goes my act." He alluded to the way that his marriage had been central to his act and his life, and he said that it took him approximately a year to realize "I'm accumulating stories here that are worth telling."[29] One element in his preparation for stand-up was training in the boxing gym, including with Lowell, Massachusetts fighter Micky Ward, trying to "learn how to ... do the grunt work and the boring, constant training so that you'll be fit enough to take the beating."[29]

On December 10, 2011, Louis C.K. released his fourth full-length special, Live at the Beacon Theater. Like Hilarious, it was produced independently and directed by C.K. However, unlike his earlier work, it was distributed digitally on the comedian's website, foregoing both physical and broadcast media. C.K. released the special for $5.00 and without DRM, hoping that these factors and the direct relationship between the artist and consumer would effectively deter piracy.[30] At the end of the special, the release of a new album, recorded at Carnegie Hall the previous year, is mentioned. As of December 21, 2011, the sales of the special from C.K.'s website have earned him over $1 million.[31]

The success of the special prompted other comedians, including Jim Gaffigan, Joe Rogan, and Aziz Ansari, to release their own specials with a similar business model.[32] On May 11, 2012, C.K. additionally made two audio-only downloads available for $5.00 each: WORD – Live at Carnegie Hall (and the audio version of his first HBO stand-up special, Shameless), as well as an audio-only version of Live at the Beacon Theater.[31]

C.K.'s fifth one-hour special, Oh My God, was recorded at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona, and premiered on HBO April 13, 2013.[33] It is also sold and distributed using the same model as C.K. used for Live at the Beacon Theater.

Louis C.K. released his sixth one hour special Live at The Comedy Store recorded, unlike his past few specials, at a club, The Comedy Store in West Hollywood. C.K. mentioned the material was intended to be an exercise in creating an act which harkened back to his early days of working in comedy clubs.[34] The special will premiere exclusively on FX in the Spring of 2015.


C.K.'s credits as a writer include the Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Dana Carvey Show, and The Chris Rock Show. He has been quoted as describing his approach to writing as a "deconstruction" that is both painful and frightening.[14] His work for The Chris Rock Show was nominated for an Emmy Award for writing three times, winning "Best Writing in a Variety or Comedy Series" in 1999. He was also nominated for an Emmy Award for his work writing for Late Night with Conan O'Brien[7] C.K. wrote and directed the feature film Pootie Tang, which was adapted from a sketch that was featured on The Chris Rock Show. The film received largely negative reviews from critics, but has become a cult classic.[35][36] Though C.K. is credited as the director, he was fired at the end of filming with the film being re-edited by the studio.[37]

He also wrote and directed the independent black-and-white film Tomorrow Night (1998), which premiered at Sundance, and several shorter films, including six short films for the sketch comedy show Sunny Skies (1995) on the Showtime cable network.[23] C.K. self-released Tomorrow Night in 2014.[38] He was nominated for an Emmy Award for writing on his 2008 special, Chewed Up.

He won two Emmys in 2011 for the Louie episode "Pregnant"[39] and for his special Live at the Beacon Theater.[40]

C.K. has co-written two screenplays with Chris Rock: Down to Earth (2001) and I Think I Love My Wife (2007).

Acting, writing, and directing[edit]

Louis C.K. speaking in Montreal, July 29, 2011

In June 2006, C.K. starred in Lucky Louie, a sitcom he created. The series premiered on HBO and was videotaped in front of a studio audience; it was HBO's first series in that format. Lucky Louie is described as a bluntly realistic portrayal of family life. HBO canceled the series after its first season.[41]

Other roles C.K. has played include a security guard in Role Models and a potential love interest for Amy Poehler's character in a multi-episode story arc on NBC's Parks and Recreation.[42] C.K. has also appeared in the films Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, Diminished Capacity, and The Invention of Lying. In 2013, C.K. had supporting roles in the critically acclaimed films Blue Jasmine and American Hustle.[43][44]

In August 2009, FX picked up his new series, Louie, which C.K. stars in, writes, directs, and edits.[45] The show features his stand-up routines blended with segments which are based to some extent on his offstage experiences.[46] The show premiered on June 29, 2010. Each season of Louie contains 13 episodes.[47] The show addresses life as a divorced, aging father.[29]

In season three, episodes dealt with a date with an unstable bookshop clerk (played by Parker Posey),[48] a doomed attempt to replace a retiring David Letterman, an aborted visit to C.K.'s father, and a dream-reality New Year's Eve episode in which C.K. ends up in China.[49] All of these made critic Matt Zoller Seitz's list of his favourite 25 comedy episodes of 2012.[50] According to Seitz, the episode "New Year's Eve" was "truly audacious".[49][50] C.K. has been nominated three times for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (2011, 2012, and 2013) for his work in Louie.

The show was renewed for a fourth season;[51] however, C.K. took a 19-month hiatus before season 4,[17] during which time he had roles in David O. Russell's American Hustle and Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine.[52][53]

C.K. has an overall deal with FX Productions which while not related to C.K.'s FX series Louie, will be under his production company, Pig Newton, working with partner / producer Blair Breard. They will develop and executive produce pilots for FX Networks with "the option to write or direct any of these projects."[54] In January 2014, it was announced that C.K. is producing and co-writing a Zach Galifianakis-created comedy pilot for FX Networks.[55] The 10-episode single-camera comedy was ordered to series, will debut in 2016, and is called Baskets.[56] It will feature Galifianakis as the main character, a struggling clown named Chip Baskets in a pilot episode written by Galifianakis, Louis C.K. and Jonathan Krisel.[57]

During the 2014 Television Critics Association presentations, FX Networks' John Landgraf reported that Louie will return in spring 2015 for a shorted fifth season of seven episodes—compared to the 13 episodes of prior seasons.[58]

Other work[edit]

As a voice actor, C.K. portrayed Brendon Small's estranged father, Andrew Small, in Home Movies, and appeared several times on Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.

C.K. was a frequent guest on The Opie & Anthony Show, which also features his Lucky Louie co-star Jim Norton. C.K. was also a part of Opie and Anthony's Traveling Virus Comedy Tour with other comedians in 2007. He has appeared on on Sirius XM'sRaw Dog Comedy show, and in 2007 hosted a three-hour phone-in show on the service at the request of Opie & Anthony, during which he advised callers on their relationship troubles. As of May 2011, Louis has hosted over 107 hours of radio with Opie & Anthony. In the Louie episode "Barney / Never", Opie, Anthony, and Norton (along with comedian Amy Schumer) play the on-air talent of a stereotypical wacky morning radio program into which C.K.'s character is calling to promote a nearby gig.

During an interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on The Opie & Anthony Show, C.K. repeatedly asked Rumsfeld whether he is in fact a reptilian space alien who "eats Mexican babies".[59] Rumsfeld declined to comment. The video has since gone viral.[59]

C.K. has been an occasional guest on The Bob & Tom Show, a showcase for comedians. He also worked with Robert Smigel on TV Funhouse shorts exclusively for Saturday Night Live, with topics ranging from politics to surrealism. C.K. hosted Saturday Night Live on November 3, 2012 and was subsequently Emmy nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.[7][60] He returned to host the show for a second time on March 29, 2014, for which he was once again nominated in the Emmys for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.

Commercial innovation[edit]

C.K. was an early adopter/innovator in distributing both his work and others' via his website in a direct-to-consumer, DRM-free format. He has sold reasonably priced tickets for tours of his stand-up show via his website, circumventing the big ticket companies, creatively playing venues that aren't part of their system.[40] Because C.K. feels companies have created barriers to consumers obtaining products, he states his website is easy to use and has "closed the gap between how easy it was to steal it [versus] how easy it was to buy it."[9]

Personal life[edit]

C.K. and artist/painter Alix Bailey married in 1995. They divorced in 2008.[61][62] Together, they had two daughters,[63] with C.K. and Bailey having joint custody.[29]

While C.K. was raised Catholic, he pokes fun at religion in his comedy and says he has "zero idea how everything got here". C.K. has also been quoted as saying, "if I were to make a list of possibilities, God would be pretty far down. But if I were to make a list of people that know what the fuck they are talking about, I would be really far down."[64]

Although he infrequently discusses his political views, C.K. has defended same-sex marriage in his stand-up[29] and has spoken negatively about capitalism.[65] As for political partisanship, C.K. states, "Some things I think are very conservative, or very liberal. I think when someone falls into one category for everything, I'm very suspicious. It doesn't make sense to me that you'd have the same solution to every issue."[66]



Year Title Role Notes
1993–1994 Late Night with Conan O'Brien Nicknames for Conan Guy / Various 291 episodes; Also Writer
1993 Ice Cream Flower Vendor Short film
1995 Hello There Man on Street / Voice on Tape TV movie
1996 The Dana Carvey Show Various 8 Episodes; Also Head Writer
HBO Comedy Half-Hour Himself Stand-Up Special
1996–2002 Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Louis (voice) 4 Episodes
1997–1999 The Chris Rock Show Various 28 episodes; Also Writer
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program (1999)
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety or Music Program (1998)
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety or Music Program (2000)
1998 Tomorrow Night Man squirting people with hose Screenwriter / Director / Producer
Nominated – Florida Film Festival Award for Best Narrative
Nominated – Hamptons International Film Festival Award for Best American Independent Film
2001 Comedy Central Presents Himself Stand-up Special
2002 Home Movies Andrew Small (voice) 5 Episodes
2005 London Therapist
One Night Stand Himself Stand-up Special
2006 Lucky Louie Louie 13 episodes; Also Creator / Writer / Executive producer
Searching for Nixon Man in Richard Nixon Mask Short film
2007 Shameless Himself Stand-up Special / Writer / Executive producer
2008 Diminished Capacity Stan
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins Marty
Role Models Security guard
Chewed Up Himself Stand-up Special / Writer / Executive producer / Director / Editor
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music Or Comedy Special
2009 The Invention of Lying Greg
2009–2012 Parks and Recreation Dave Sanderson 6 Episodes
2010–present Louie Louie Also Creator / Executive producer / Writer / Director / Editor
See List of awards and nominations received by Louie
2011 Hilarious Himself Stand-up Special / Writer / Executive producer / Director / Editor
Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album
The Comedy Award for Stand-up Special
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music Or Comedy Special
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Picture Editing for a Special (Single Or Multi-Camera)
Live at the Beacon Theater Himself Stand-up Special / Writer / Producer / Director / Editor
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special
Nominated – The Comedy Award for Stand-up Special
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class Program
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Picture Editing for Short-Form Segments and Variety Specials
2012 Saturday Night Live Host Episode: "Louis C.K./Fun"
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
2013 Oh My God Himself Stand-up Special / Writer / Executive producer / Director / Editor
American Comedy Award for Comedy Special of the Year
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special
Nominated – Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Picture Editing for Short-Form Segments and Variety Specials
Blue Jasmine[68] Al Nominated – Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Ensemble
American Hustle Stoddard Thorsen Alliance of Women Film Journalists Award for Best Ensemble Cast
American Comedy Award for Best Comedy Supporting Actor – Film
Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Acting Ensemble
Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Ensemble
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Ensemble Cast
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Performance by an Ensemble
Nominated – Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble
Tuna Clint Short film
2014 Saturday Night Live Host Episode: "Louis C.K./Sam Smith"
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
The Angriest Man in Brooklyn Dr. Fielding
2015 Live at the Comedy Store Himself Stand-up Special / Writer / Executive producer / Director / Editor
Trumbo Arlen Hird Post-production
2016 The Secret Life of Pets Max (voice) Filming
Baskets TBA Co-creator / Executive producer / Writer

Non-performance credits[edit]

Year Title Notes
1995 Late Show with David Letterman 11 episodes; Writer
2001 Down to Earth Screenwriter
Pootie Tang Screenwriter / Director
2007 I Think I Love My Wife Screenwriter


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