Louis C.K. Comes Clean

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Even onscreen?
No, I never wear makeup on the show, never, not a stitch of it. Once you get started on that, "OK, I'm going to get makeup and hair?" That means I have to be manufactured to look like that every time. And it means you can't really age. But I always look just, like, bleh, so that's easy to achieve.

You've made a number of jokes about child murder. Do you try to exorcise dark thoughts and fears in your work?
Laughing at things that are scary is a positive thing. What most people do with these events that happen, the violence in our country, is really disgusting, which is to pore over it. Everyone congratulates each other about how upset they are. There's a lot of ghoulish behavior.

You mean something like Newtown?
Every time there's a tragedy in America, there's all this gawky fascination and a lot of fucking exploitation. There's a lot of fucking Nancy Grace, gleefully making fun of a murderer, someone's kid is dead, or someone's dad is dead, and they have Nancy Grace going [zany voice], "This isn't adding up!" What a nightmare. But whatever, that's what she does. I don't think any of us are doing healthy discourse. The way we chew up what's going on in the world, when there's a new video of a terrible thing that happened, and it has a Snapple ad in front of it - it's weird. It used to be, you watched the news and then there's a commercial break, but now it's like, "This beheading is brought to you by Snapple." Fucking crazy. I used to read Huffington Post, and I can't anymore, because it's all "Britney Spears' ass stuck out of her pants." It's just mean. There's so much meanness slung on people, people that are victims. Everybody gets made fun of, the way they look, and we all just fucking yap and speculate with quote-unquote outrage, tragic sadness. I don't think anybody's doing a great job with this stuff.

You enjoy some cultural products that people would consider lowbrow, like "Family Guy" and Andrew Dice Clay. You weren't afraid to get a laugh by saying "faggot," and at the same time, you make one of the smartest and artsiest shows on television, and you were making short films influenced by French New Wave. In your mind, how do you reconcile those two sides, highbrow and lowbrow, dumb laughs and smart laughs?
What does reconcile mean?

Balance them out….
What for? What a sad thing, to go, "Oh, well, I can't enjoy this because it's not artsy." If Andrew Dice Clay has some really unique timing skills and things inside of his act that are lovable, I'm going to enjoy them without thinking about what label he's supposed to have. By the way, Godard is just as full of shit as Andrew Dice Clay.

What do you mean by that?
Of course he is, he's a fucking artsy, French, crazy filmmaker who doesn't give a shit what anybody understands about the story, which is very exciting to me, but there's a little bit of "full of shit" to that. It's so much more interesting to look at art of any kind and say, "Why did they do this this way, what's their tradition, where did they come from, what were they influenced by and why are you doing this?" If you just go, "Oh, yeah, that stuff sucks," too bad for you, you're just leaving a whole bunch of stuff out that you could be seeing.

You've said that you're currently in debt. Why, given the success you've had? Psychologically, does that work better for you, to still have to work it of rather than being free and clear?
No, I don't need to manufacture angst. I'm 45, and I've been successful for four years! So I have 41 years to draw from. Life stays hard for everybody; everybody's life stays hard. I'm not a millionaire. But my experience has always been that I've always lived a little better than I should, and I do find that motivating. I'll be living in a place that's comfortable for how much I'm making, and then I'll go get a place that I shouldn't be getting. What always follows is that I catch up to the place with work and earn it. It's happened every time so far, and the way I figure it is there will be a time where I overextend and I'll have to take it down, and I'm ready for that to happen, but so far, it's worked out OK. It is motivating. I've had jobs since I was 14 years old. Going out and working to earn is a model that I was raised with, and I think it's a really good one.

You've said that unlike the Louie on the show, you're pretty happy. Is that true, and when did you realize you were happy?
The Louie on the show is pretty happy, and I'm about as happy as he is. I don't mind feeling sad. Sadness is a lucky thing to feel. I have the same amount of happy and sad as anybody else. I just don't mind the sad part as much; it's amazing to have those feelings. I've always felt that way. I think that looking at how random and punishing life can be, it's a privilege. There's so much to look at, there's so much to observe, and there's a lot of humor in it. I've had sad times, I've had some hard times, and I have a lot of things to be sad about, but I'm pretty happy right now.

You do have that way of making life seem simultaneously beautiful and amazing and really ugly and horrible. Is that how you see the world?
Yeah, I try to observe and report, and the more purely and without editorial I can do that, the better, especially on the show. Then what comes out, if you just show everything, all sides, is that everything is sad and happy and hilarious and depressing.

Do you fear death?
I don't care about it. It's got nothing to do with me. Somebody asked me once, "What happens after you die?" and I said, "Other people keep you alive. It's not about you anymore, you just become nothing, so what? I'm not interested." I don't have any fear of it, none. Maybe some will come, I don't know. It could happen any second.

Do you care about your legacy, how people look at your work after you're gone?
[Softly] I hope my kids are OK after I'm gone. That's all.

This story is from the April 25th, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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