Louis C.K.

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Louis C.K.
Louis C.K Peabody Awards wider crop slight retouching.jpg
C.K. at the 72nd Annual Peabody Awards, 2013
Birth name Louis Székely
Born (1967-09-12) September 12, 1967 (age 48)
Washington, D.C., United States
Medium
Years active 1985–present
Genres
Subject(s)
Influences
Influenced
Spouse Alix Bailey (m. 1995; div. 2008)
Children 2
Website www.louisck.net

Louis Székely[4] (born September 12, 1967),[4][5] known professionally as Louis C.K., is an American comedian, actor, writer, producer, director, and editor.[6] He is the creator, star, writer, director, executive producer, and primary editor of the acclaimed FX comedy-drama series Louie. He is a respected comedian and his musings on masturbation have drawn acclaim.[7][8][9] C.K. is known for his use of observational, self-deprecating, dark and vulgar humor in his stand-up career.

Born in Washington, D.C., at age one C.K. and his family moved to Mexico City, where Spanish became his first language, until he moved back to the U.S and learned English. He began his career writing for several comedy shows in the 1990s and early 2000s for comedians like David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, and Chris Rock. Also in this period, he was directing surreal short films and went on to direct two features—Tomorrow Night and Pootie Tang—before he starred in the short-lived HBO television sitcom Lucky Louie. Four years later, he starred in the first season of Louie, which brought him critical acclaim. He has had supporting acting roles in such feature films as The Invention of Lying (2009), American Hustle, and Blue Jasmine (both 2013).

He released his debut comedy album, Live in Houston, in 2001 directly through his website and became 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.[10] C.K. has released 9 comedy albums in his career and often directs and edits their comedy specials.

C.K. has won a 2012 Peabody Award[11] and six Emmy awards,[12] as well as numerous awards for The Chris Rock Show and Louie, as well as his stand-up specials Live at the Beacon Theater (2011) and Oh My God (2013).[13] Rolling Stone ranked C.K.'s stand-up special Shameless number three on their "Divine Comedy: 25 Best Stand-Up Specials and Movies of All Time."[14]

C.K.'s stage name is an approximate English pronunciation of his Hungarian surname, Székely (pronounced [ˈseːkɛj]).

Early life[edit]

Family background[edit]

C.K. was born in Washington, D.C.,[2][4][15][16] 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.[17] C.K. has three sisters.[18]

When C.K. was a year-old, his family moved to his father's home country of Mexico,[19] and from where his father had earned a degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico prior to graduating from Harvard.[17] C.K.'s paternal grandfather, Dr. Geza Székely Schweiger, was a surgeon. Székely Schweiger was a Hungarian Jew whose family immigrated to Mexico, where he met C.K.'s paternal grandmother, Rosario Sánchez Morales.[20] Sánchez Morales was a Catholic Mexican.[21] C.K.'s grandfather agreed to have his children raised Catholic, but was (according to C.K.) "quietly Jewish".[22]

C.K.'s mother grew up on a farm in Michigan.[23] 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.[17]

At age seven, C.K. left Mexico with his family to move back to the United States and settle in Boston.[19]

C.K.'s parents divorced and when he remarried, C.K.'s father converted to Orthodox Judaism, the faith of his new wife.[22]

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).[24]

Early years[edit]

Born in Washington, D.C., C.K. lived there only until age 1, when his family moved to Mexico City,[15] where he lived until he was 7.[2] C.K.'s first language was Spanish; it was not until after the move to the U.S. that he began to learn English.[25] He has since mostly forgotten his Spanish.[21]

On moving from Mexico to suburban Boston, C.K. wanted to become a writer and comedian, citing Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, and George Carlin as some of his influences.[1] When he was 10, 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.[26] The fact that his mother had only "bad" TV shows to view upon returning home from work inspired him to work on television.[26]

C.K.'s mother raised her children as Catholic, wanting them to have a religious framework and understanding, and they attended after-school Catholic class until they completed communion.[22]

After graduating from Newton North High School, C.K. worked as an auto mechanic and at a public access TV cable station in Boston.[2] According to C.K., working in public access TV gave him the tools and technical knowledge to make his short films and later his television shows. "Learning is my favorite thing," he said.[10] He also worked for a time as a cook and in a video store.[18]

Career[edit]

Stand-up[edit]

His first attempt at stand-up was in 1985 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.[27] He was so discouraged by the experience that he did not perform again for two years.[28] He and Marc Maron later reminisced about their early careers and friendship on Maron's WTF Podcast.[29]

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.[27] He performed his act on many televised programs, including Evening at the Improv and Star Search. In 1993, he unsuccessfully auditioned for Saturday Night Live, and most of the comedy clubs in New York City closed.[6] In 1996 HBO released his first half-hour comedy special.[27]

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,[30] 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."[10]

On April 18, 2009, C.K. 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.[31] It is the first stand-up comedy film to be accepted into Sundance.[32]

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."[33] 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."[33]

On December 10, 2011, 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.[34] 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.[35]

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.[36] 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.[35]

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.[37] It is also sold and distributed using the same model as C.K. used for Live at the Beacon Theater.

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 hearkened back to his early days of working in comedy clubs.[38] The special premiered exclusively on FX on May 28, 2015.

C.K. is the first comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden three times in a single tour.[6]

Acting, writing, and directing[edit]

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

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.[18] 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 and featured Chris Rock in a supporting role. The film received largely negative reviews from critics, but has become a cult classic.[39][40] 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.[41] C.K. has co-written two screenplays with Rock: Down to Earth (2001) and I Think I Love My Wife (2007).

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.[27] C.K. self-released Tomorrow Night in 2014.[42] He co-starred in the independent comedy Tuna alongside Nick Offerman.[43]

In June 2006, C.K. starred in and wrote 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.[44]

He appeared in three films in 2008: Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, Diminished Capacity, and Role Models.[45][46] He was nominated for an Emmy Award for writing on his 2008 special, Chewed Up.

From 2009 to 2012, C.K. played Dave Anderson, a police officer and ex-boyfriend of Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) in the sitcom Parks and Recreation.[47] He also co-starred in the romantic comedy fantasy film The Invention of Lying, directed by and starring Ricky Gervais, in 2009.[48]

In August 2009, FX picked up his new series, Louie, which C.K. stars in, writes, directs, and edits.[49] The show features his stand-up routines blended with segments which are based to some extent on his offstage experiences.[50] The show premiered on June 29, 2010.[51] The show addresses life as a divorced, aging father.[33]

C.K. at the 2012 Time 100 gala

In season three, episodes dealt respectively with a date with an unstable bookshop clerk (played by Parker Posey);[52] 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.[53] These episodes were ranked in critic Matt Zoller Seitz's favorite 25 comedy episodes of 2012.[54] Seitz called the episode "New Year's Eve" "truly audacious".[53][54] C.K. has been nominated five times for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015) for his work in Louie and won two Emmys in 2011 for the Louie episode "Pregnant"[55] and for his special Live at the Beacon Theater.[56]

The show was renewed for a fourth season;[57] with a 19-month hiatus after season 3[22] to accommodate C.K.'s roles in David O. Russell's American Hustle and Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine.[58][59]

C.K.'s production company, Pig Newton, where he works with partner / producer Blair Breard, has a contract to develop and executive produce pilots for FX Networks.[60] In January 2014, it was announced that C.K. would be producing and co-writing a Zach Galifianakis-created comedy pilot for FX Networks.[61] The 10-episode single-camera comedy, titled Baskets, premiered on January 21, 2016.[62] It features Galifianakis as the main character, a struggling clown named Chip Baskets in a pilot episode written by Galifianakis, Louis C.K. and Jonathan Krisel.[63]

C.K. is also developing with FX the series Better Things, to star Pamela Adlon. C.K. will co-write and co-produce.[6] The show is about a single working actress mother and her struggles to raise three daughters.[64]

During the 2014 Television Critics Association presentations, FX Networks' John Landgraf reported that Louie would return in spring 2015 for a shortened fifth season of seven episodes—compared to the 13 episodes of prior seasons.[65] The fifth season premiered in April 2015 and the possibility of a sixth season remains unknown, as it was announced that the series would be taking an "extended hiatus" in August 2015;[66] C.K. stated in January 2016 that he "just doesn't know" whether it will return or not.[67]

In May 2015, it was announced that C.K. would be writing, directing and starring in a film titled I'm A Cop that will be produced by Scott Rudin, Dave Becky, and long-time associate, Blair Breard, with a budget of $8 million.[68] In November 2015, C.K co-starred in the biographical drama film Trumbo.[69]

He will next star in the animated comedy film The Secret Life of Pets as Max, a terrier. The film is co-directed by Chris Renaud of the Despicable Me series and is scheduled to be released on July 8, 2016.[70]

It was announced in January 2016 that C.K. and actor/comedian Albert Brooks would be co-creating, co-writing, executive producing, and providing the voices for the two main characters in an upcoming animated series pilot for FX.[71] On January 30, 2016, he released the first episode of the dramatic comedy series Horace and Pete to his website, without any prior warning. C.K. directs, writes, and stars in the series as bar owner Horace, alongside Steve Buscemi, who portrays co-owner Pete.[72]

Other work[edit]

As a voice actor, C.K. portrayed Brendon Small's estranged father, Andrew Small, in Home Movies, appeared several times on Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, and voiced The Horrifyingly Sweaty One-Armed Monstrosity in an episode of Gravity Falls.[73]

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's Raw 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, C.K. 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 gig in Kansas City.

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".[74] Rumsfeld declined to comment. The video has since gone viral.[74]

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][75] He returned to host the show for a second time on March 29, 2014 and a third time on May 16, 2015; he was once again nominated in the Emmys for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for both episodes.

He executive produced the pilot for the Amazon Video black comedy series One Mississippi, starring actress and comedian Tig Notaro in November 2015. It is awaiting a full season order by Amazon.[76]

Ticketing innovation[edit]

C.K. innovated direct-to-consumer distribution of his and others' work, selling tickets via his website in DRM-free format. In this way C.K. sold tickets for his stand-up tour, circumventing large ticket outlets (e.g., Ticketmaster), creatively bypassing their overhead and the venues they control.[56] C.K. has said the ticket outlets create barriers to consumers, whereas direct distribution is easy — and has effectively "closed the gap between how easy it was to steal it [versus] how easy it was to buy it."[10]

Personal life[edit]

C.K. and artist/painter Alix Bailey married in 1995. Together, they had two daughters.[77] They divorced in 2008,[78][79] with C.K. and Bailey sharing joint custody of their children.[33]

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."[80]

Although he infrequently discusses his political views, C.K. has defended same-sex marriage in his stand-up[33] and has spoken negatively about capitalism.[81] 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."[82]

Discography[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Credit Notes
1993–1994 Late Night with Conan O'Brien Nicknames for Conan Guy / Various Writer 291 episodes
1993 Ice Cream Flower Vendor Director, writer, editor Short film
1995 Hello There Man on Street / Voice on Tape Director, writer Short film
1996 The Dana Carvey Show Various Head writer 8 episodes
HBO Comedy Half-Hour Himself Writer Stand-up special
1996–2002 Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Louis (voice) 4 episodes
1997 Oddville, MTV David Cross 1 episode
1997–1999 The Chris Rock Show Various Also writer 28 episodes; 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 Director, producer, screenwriter Nominated – Florida Film Festival Award for Best Narrative
Nominated – Hamptons International Film Festival Award for Best American Independent Film
1999 Louis C.K.'s Filthy Stupid Talent Show Himself Writer
2000 Tuna Clint
ShortCuts Host
2001 Comedy Central Presents Himself Writer Stand-up special
2002 Home Movies Andrew Small (voice) 5 episodes
2005 London Therapist
One Night Stand Himself Writer Stand-up special
2006 Lucky Louie Louie Creator, writer, executive producer 13 episodes
Searching for Nixon Man in Richard Nixon Mask Director, writer, editor Short film
2007 Shameless Himself Writer, executive producer Stand-up special
Louis C.K. Learns About the Catholic Church Himself Director, writer, editor Video short
2008 Diminished Capacity Stan
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins Marty
Role Models Security guard
Chewed Up Himself Writer, executive producer, director, editor Stand-up special
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 Creator, writer, executive producer, director, editor See List of awards and nominations received by Louie
2011 Hilarious Himself Writer, executive producer, director, editor Stand-up special
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 Writer, executive producer, director, editor Stand-up special
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
2012–2015 Saturday Night Live Host 3 episodes
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (2013–15)
2013 Oh My God Himself Writer, executive producer, director, editor Stand-up special
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[84] 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
2014 The Angriest Man in Brooklyn Dr. Fielding Uncredited
2015 Live at the Comedy Store Himself Writer, executive producer, director, editor
Gravity Falls The Horrifyingly Sweaty One-Armed Monstrosity (voice) Episode: "Weirdmageddon Part I"
Trumbo Arlen Hird Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture (Shared with Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, Michael Stuhlbarg, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning and John Goodman)
2016 Portlandia Unknown Guest appearance
Horace and Pete Horace Creator, writer, executive producer, director Web series
The Secret Life of Pets Max (voice) Post-production
TBA I'm A Cop Unknown Writer and director

Non-performance credits[edit]

Year Title Notes
1990 Caesar's Salad Director, writer, producer
1995 Brunch Director, writer, producer
The Letter V Director, writer, producer
The Legend of Willie Brown Director, writer, producer
Highjacker Director, writer
Late Show with David Letterman 11 episodes; writer
1999 Persona Ne'll Aqua Director, writer
2000 Ugly Revenge Director, writer
2001 Down to Earth Screenwriter
Pootie Tang Director, screenwriter, co-producer
2002–2003 Cedric the Entertainer Presents 16 episodes; writer, co-executive producer
2007 I Think I Love My Wife Screenwriter
2014 Todd Barry: The Crowd Work Tour Executive producer
2015 One Mississippi Executive producer
2016 Baskets Co-creator, executive producer, writer
TBA Better Things Co-creator, writer, director

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Preceded by
Bruno Mars
Saturday Night Live host
November 3, 2012
Succeeded by
Anne Hathaway
Preceded by
Lena Dunham
Saturday Night Live host
March 29, 2014
Succeeded by
Anna Kendrick
Preceded by
Reese Witherspoon
Saturday Night Live host
May 16, 2015
Succeeded by
Miley Cyrus