It's turned upside-down for me now because there are things that get laughs right away and then I just feel, after doing them a little bit, that they're not genuine. They don't feel real to me so I drop 'em. And then there's other things that aren't getting any laughs and I just know there's something in there if I just stick with it until it does. I won't do it with the intention of not getting a laugh – which I just think is stupid. I'll try it until it works. And those [bits] usually wind up getting far more laughs and are more gratifying to the audience than the stuff that works easily.
The new special I have, there's like ten different people who have posted it on YouTube in different pieces. That's fine, that's great, I don't care. And sometimes people, when I was developing that set, they'd come to one of my shows with a camera phone, videotape it, and put it on YouTube. When that's happened, I've written the person and said... I don't tell them they have to take it down; I believe in sharing on the internet. But I just tell them, "I personally rather you wait until after it's come out in the special." And a hundred percent of the time they've taken it down.
If I was a newspaper and I had to vet my act for truthfulness, I'd be a pretty shitty comedian. But there are pieces of truth in all of it. I did a bit about how much I hate deer. That was in the last special. And I get passionately angry about the deer that I hated in that special. When I started doing it, I was living in the country and encountering them a lot. By the time I finally did it in the special, I just didn't hate deer at all. And it was really hard to get myself that whipped up into deer hatred. It just was excruciating. I hated that bit by the time the special was done and I was so glad to get rid of it. So that's somewhere where I was a little bit dishonest, but there was a day when I hated deer that much.
But it's a few years down the line now. I said my daughter's an asshole when I had one kid and she was, like, 2 or 3. I have two kids now: a 3- and a 6-year-old. And I'm 41 and I feel differently about my kids. It's still just as hard as it was, but I can identify with the guy who said that, which was me. But I'm calmer. I take stress better because of them. Because of being trained by them. And my older daughter's a better person than I am, so I'm trying to catch up that way.
GM: Are you getting a divorce?
LCK: We're separated and we're divorcing right now, yeah. So my time with my kids is just me and them. That's changed the nature of my time with them.
GM: I've read that you're talking about it on stage.
LCK: I talk about what it's like to be divorced but I don't talk about her anymore. That's her private life. She doesn't share her private life with me anymore.
GM: You're just back from London.
LCK: Yeah, I was there for quite a while.
GM: You've spent a lot of time over there, even when you were a younger comedian, right?
LCK: I did used to go there a lot.
GM: They have ruthless hecklers there, I hear.
LCK: Yeah, I never got one. I never got one. One guy yelled at me, "You're a cunt" once when I was on stage and I let the moment pass and then I kept talking and nothing else happened. You know, actually I kind of got commented on from the audience this last trip. About two minutes into my act I realized I had said the word "shit" a number of times. And I said something like, "Wow, I've only been on stage for five minutes and I've already said 'shit' five times." And this guy said, [assuming a pompous British accent] "Actually, it's eight." And I just fucking eviscerated him. I don't think I've ever been that mean to anybody. The audience loved it. Because he was so pompous. It had nothing to do with him being British; he was just an ass. I don't even remember what I said, but I spent about ten minutes pissing right in his face to the huge delight of the audience. It was really fun.
GM: It helps, though, that he's British and sounds even more pompous, though, I'm sure.
LCK: Oh, totally! Look, you gotta be honest, there's no way you can say that all British people are pompous assholes but when one is, you're like, "Look at that fuckin' guy." You know, there's a trillion different kind of Jews – well, there's not even that many Jews (laughs), but there has to be at least as many kinds of Jews as there are Jews – but when a Jew is cheap, it's hilarious (laughs).
GM: I liked your quote about how great comics like Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin have made three good movies between them in 25 years. And yet it seems like so many great comics feel that's the route they have to go. Is it just the money, do you think?
LCK: No, it's exciting. Some people are more into being sort of stars and they're climbing a star ladder. I'm more into the work that I'm doing. I know I can do a great standup show so that's what I'm sort of concentrating on. I can get myself through writing a movie so I'll sometimes go try to get that job.
GM: You're in a couple now.
LCK: Yeah, I'm in a few movies. If somebody came to me and said, "Paramount wants to do a movie where you play this asshole and you walk around smirking at everybody and say wise-ass things," I'd be like, "Sure, man. Sounds like fun." (laughs) I don't know. I would definitely give it a shot. It's fun to act. It's funny. It's silly. I was in a movie where I played Martin Lawrence's partner. I was supposed to be, like, an agent with a blue-tooth earpiece and sunglasses and this whole get-up. I'm so not that guy. I mean, they shouldn't have hired me. I was terrible. But for me, I was like, "Sure! I'll be in a movie with Martin Lawrence. Fuck it." (laughs) It's just fun to do. But what I won't do is pursue a movie career. It's just a lot of work to audition for stuff. I've done like three movies and I didn't audition for any of them. I just got 'em on rep. So I don't have to be in movies. If they keep coming that way, I'll take 'em.
GM: You've written and produced and directed movies. Would you continue that?
LCK: Yeah, that's different. Because also the pursuit of that is not as tedious. You don't have to audition 50 to 1. I've gone out and pitched something like ten movies, at the most, and I would say 80 percent of those I've gotten at least paid to write them. So that's a pretty decent pursuit but it's having an idea and actually sitting down and writing, which is very hard to do. To write a movie is very fucking hard. And I don't honestly think I'm very good at it. (laughs)
GM: Well, they have people to rewrite it for you.
LCK: It's stay-at-home pay and it's hard to beat that, you know? So when I come up with something that's a marketable idea I will go pitch it and try to get paid to write it.
GM: You're developing a CBS sitcom now?
LCK: Yeah, to me TV is different because being on a TV show, that's like performing, that's like standup. Especially because the TV shows that I do are generally autobiographical and are built around me. So that's just sort of an extension of the standup. And I really love the idea of having a sitcom and having it actually stay on the air and work. That's definitely a dream. That's something I would love to do. I would rather that than the movie roles because I know TV. I know that business better. So yeah, I'm trying that now. Pamela [Adlon], from Lucky Louie, and I have written a pilot together for Paramount television and it's in the middle of the whole development process, which takes forever.
GM: Is it--
LCK: It's a sitcom. Man and wife.
GM: -- Lucky Louie without the swearing?
LCK: No, because it's definitely different. You know, every couple of years I've done one of these. Before Lucky Louie I did a pilot for CBS called St. Louie. And that didn't go to series and then Lucky Louie did go to series. They were very different from each other, too. This couple has more kids. I can't talk about it a lot because it's in the middle of this shit but it's very different totally but it's still, at its core, a very honest show about family life.
GM: Modeled after any particular favourites of yours?
LCK: This is what I said when I pitched it: If Lucky Louie was The Honeymooners, which it was (laughs), then this show would be All In The Family. The Honeymooners and Lucky Louie were very similar, although there was a kid. But really, The Honeymooners was a young couple. People don't look at it that way. But they were like a young couple trying to figure each other out and really fighting it out and trying to find each other. They had no money and it was shot on an extremely bare, theatrical set and based solely on performance and comedic skills, really. That was Lucky Louie also. So this would be modeled more after All In The Family. There's probably a little more of the house but still simple. And more about the long scenes. Like, Lucky Louie ended up being more story oriented than I expected. We ended up doing a lot of writing on that show to where we went to a bunch of different scenes. This show would be more... I don't know. It's different. There's a different relationship. Once you get past trying to figure each other out, you reach a new level with marriage. So that's what this is about.
GM: I read where you said that you lost the ability to offend.
LCK: I stopped thinking it was an issue. Once I sort of realized that it was better, it was actually more generous to an audience to take them to places and subjects that they just find exciting or cringe-worthy, to take people to those places, it's just more worth it to go there for laughs. Nobody's been there before – or usually. And it's a bigger payoff because they're laughing at shit they're afraid of. So why the fuck not? Why would you ever not want to do a joke about any subject unless there's nothing funny there. Or nothing real there. There are some comedians I've seen... I was watching a guy on YouTube who's like a tough-guy comic, like a real dark dude. And he's like, "So then I fuckin' gave her an abortion." (laughs) You know. Or like, "Yeah, I like going to abortion clinics for the buffet." I'm making that joke up. Nobody pulled that joke. But that kind of thing where he's like, "I'm gonna do five minutes on abortion just to fuck with these people." To me that's just boring. It's also cheap. It's a cheap trick. It's like sleight of hand, pretending that you're doing something courageous where you're actually doing something very predictable and you know there's always going to be a group of people who applaud you just for being in that area, material-wise.
GM: And there will be others who will automatically get offended.
LCK: And then other people are going to go, "Fuck you, PC faggots! This guy is the best! He's a fuckin' genius!" That kind of thing. But to me it's not worth going there. If you can get a bunch of people that really have never heard the words you're using or subjects you're talking about, even, brought up in public, I take them to that place and I see them getting upset if I go in that direction. And they kind of sink in their chairs, like, "I don't wanna go here. Please don't take us to this area." Then I go there and they're laughing uncontrollably at what I find there. That's a great victory to me. So why wouldn't you do it?
GM: Can you pinpoint the time? Was there an "aha!" moment when you realized you could go down those paths?
LCK: I don't know. There wasn't a moment but one thing I can point at as a control group, as a control of the experiment, the bit I did on Chewed Up about about how soon after September 11th you masturbated as a measure of how bad a person you are. When I first started doing that bit I was afraid to do it in certain places. I would think, is this a night for that bit or not? How's this audience going to take that bit? Then I found later in the year, "Oh yeah, I don't think about that anymore! I stopped checking on that."
GM: No one had probably ever thought of that take on the situation before yet we can all relate. And it's a philosophical question, too.
LCK: It is a philosophical question. It's not saying "Ha, ha, dead people! You guys suck!" It's saying that at the extreme of our recent memory is very valuable information about who we are. It's really talking about just me jacking off too much.
GM: On the surface.
LCK: Yeah. But I mean, you have to take responsibility for what you say. There are people that just won't see it that way. There are people that just go, "That's horrible that you would use that." That's the way that they would think of it. Well, anybody that thinks that, maybe they have a closer connection to the thing. But they heard another hour of material that night that was closer to somebody else that's not them and they weren't offended by it. So I think in some ways people singling themselves out as offended is very narcissistic. I mean, it's a comedy show. You don't go there to listen to a lecture about good ideas and what's nice to think. That's not what a comedy show is.
GM: But do you ever think, though, that when you're performing in New York you may have relatives of 9/11 victims in the audience?
LCK: I'll tell you what. Right after 9/11 people were in comedy clubs and it's all they wanted the comedians to talk about. Comedians on stage in New York City right after 9/11 just talked about "How fucking scary was that shit, huh?" and told stories of what was happening around them and how the city was processing it. Free speech and humour and unfettered speech and unfiltered impolite ideas are a very healthy way to cope with everything negative. And I think 9/11 proved that. I was on the road a lot then. I'd be like in Ohio or someplace and if I mentioned 9/11 people would either get tense or applaud patriotically (laughs), which is just weird. But right in New York City, where everybody knows somebody who was hurt, killed or [had a] changed life forever, those people were starving for therapy to talk about it.
GM: Do you ever do political material. I know you've got the big election next week.
LCK: No. This has been the most fascinating election. This has been the one to talk about if ever there was one, and I haven't touched it. Nobody needs me to do that. There are so many sources for political humour. And mainly because I'm building these sets. I have a very specific goal. There are comedians who are, "Oh, I've got to talk about this! This is going to help me get through tonight." And they do some version of a political joke. But I'm looking ahead to the beginning of next year when I'm going to shoot this next special. So I'm not going to do Sarah Palin jokes on my next HBO special.
GM: So the next special will be the tour we're going to see here in Vancouver?
LCK: Yeah. The tour I'm doing in Vancouver is ripe for shooting. It's probably going to be shot in January or somewhere in the first quarter of next year. Shameless is out. It's been out for a while. And Lucky Louie's episodes. And also this last special, Chewed Up, that's on Showtime this month, that'll be out on DVD in early December. December 16th it'll hit the streets. In Canada you can probably get it on Amazon up there.