On my first day of journalism school, my professor, the late Jerry Gladman, said something like, “If you want to see someone conduct a great interview, watch that Charlie Rose.” Charlie is insightful, probing, charming, comical, a South Carolinian…I could go on. Watching Charlie Rose every day at 5pm is like having a great friend, who himself is friends with all the best people. I once endured a particularly heinous mushroom trip, was debating the old trip to the emergency room, when Charlie Rose came on with the cast of Woody Allen’s When in Rome, and that healed me, somehow.
Every savvy person dreams of sitting at the table across from Charlie, with nothing but a black background and some robot cameras to record the proceedings. Excluding maybe Bret Easton Ellis, who seemed typically disdainful and callous during his appearance to promote Imperial Bedrooms. And I suppose there have been dictators and war criminals who were less than thrilled to be there.
As the interview begins, despite all his success, Louis has a small grin that conveys the type of quiet wonder that can be perceived in his “Everything is amazing/nobody is happy” bit. Louis looks like he’s thinking, “Boy, here I am. This is pretty great.”
1. Louis deals admirably well with being compared to Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan and a philosopher king all in one sentence. We’re assuming Charlie doesn’t mean the 1990s Canadian pop band.
Louis responds to this by shaking his head and saying, “Jesus.” The same “Jesus” you hear about 15 times on the recent ‘fat girl’ episode of Louie.
2. Failure is the key to success.
While this has no doubt been conveyed in all sorts of bile-invoking Upworthy memes, Louis, like DFW, has a way of charging the current of truth beneath clichés. Louis toiled in relative obscurity for decades. You can watch the old clips on YouTube. That Louis is a shell of the current one, but the struggle has obviously been worth it. He says that if you back down from things that come difficult you’ll never improve. You listening, Dane Cook?
3. He really is a pretty good dad.
And no, his kids aren’t horrified when they hear him riffing on their childhoods. Louis likes to share his stand-up with his kids. The bits about his oldest daughter, like the hide and seek routine, amuse her because they now apply to his youngest daughter. When Louis says he sees himself as a father first and everything else second, it doesn’t seem contrived. He says of his daughter-focused routines, “At home I’m not like that. I mean I get upset, but not unreasonably so.” He wants his girls to remember him picking them up from school, and that when they’re 18 or 19 they’ll Google his work and realize, “Wow, that guy did a bunch of stuff while he was doing that.”
4. Unlike many comics, Louis doesn’t have a pathological need to be funny all the time.
Robin Williams is the most extreme example here. But while watching lower energy comics like Jerry Seinfeld being interviewed it’s apparent they’re always working. This often comes as a disappointment since they can’t ad-lib to the same standard as their practiced material. Louis plays it serious for the entire interview. The closest he comes to a joke is the occasional rueful head shake.
5. Louis CK is a time lord.
Louis CK’s secret to comedy is that he “controls time.” He knows where the act is going, but the audience doesn’t. The more secure he becomes in his success, the more willing he is to push the audience away, knowing that upcoming material will eventually bring them back.
6. Louis CK is a pretty darn genuine and decent human being.
Compared to him I’m an inhuman monster.
Article by Mike Sauve. Follow him on Twitter @mpsauve