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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Louis CK & Finesse Mitchell (and not Dame Edna)

I spoke with Louis CK and Finesse Mitchell recently. Both are playing in town on Friday. CK is headlining at the Vogue while Mitchell is hosting the annual Just For Laughs comedy tour over at the Centre.

CK is probably the most respected comedian working these days. He’s uncompromising, challenging, and he is always writing. Each year he writes a completely new one-hour set. He not only will talk about just about anything on stage, but he’s also a great interview who gives generous answers.

I did a feature on Louis CK for the Georgia Straight, which you can read on Thursday. But there was so much left on the cutting room floor, so to speak, so I thought I’d give you some bonus coverage. The fully transcribed interview will eventually go up on Comedy Couch but I can’t tell you when that’ll be.

I was interested in his take on the internet since he has so many clips on-line and since so many artists are so protective of their art.

Here’s his take on sharing:

I used to put stuff on as I developed it. I used to just do sets and tape them and then throw it on. ... And then I stopped doing that (laughs) because once my focus became doing these hours, I don't put undeveloped bad versions of that material out until I've put it out as a special in its best form. And then I don't care who chops it up and puts it out. 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.

GM: I know a lot of artists are more controlling about what goes up.
LCK: I dunno. I mean, I make my money on ticket sales. I'm not a person that makes money on royalties. If I did, I might feel differently. I don't know. The last album that Radiohead put out, they put the whole album on the internet for free. A free download for a finite amount of time. And then they took it down and put it on sale and it fucking killed, made a shitload of money. It's like radio. The internet is the radio. People don't know their history. It's ridiculous. This goes all the way back to rag music. You know why they call it a rag?

GM: No, I don't.
LCK: It refers to the sheet of music it's written on. It used to be, the only way you could ever hear music was to go see somebody play it. Around the late 1800s, if you wanted to hear a Scott Joplin song, or whoever the fuck, you had to go watch him play. And before there were records or anything, there were rags, which were the sheet music and lyrics of a song. And some musicians got the idea to publish their songs as a thing you could go buy at a dimestore and take it home and play it on your home piano. A lot of musicians said, "What are you, crazy? Because who's going to come watch you play it if they know how to play it themselves?" But obviously it made songs a huge hit and the person who wrote the rag would play it live and packed every theatre. And when they came out with the phonograph, everybody was like, "Shit! Of course, if they hear it at home on their radio, they'll never come out." Of course record sales promote live... And vice versa. Hey, guess what? You're getting paid for the record and the people made a shitload of money on those rags, too. I mean, it's just stupid. And the radio is free. Nobody gets paid at all for radio.

GM: Somebody does, don't they?
LCK: I don't think... I don't know. Do radio stations pay like a small fee to [the artists]? I don't think they make a shitload of money. But everybody goes and buys their records. It's proved over and over again that the more exposure the artist gets, the more people are going to seek it out.

GM: What about with your CD's? Are you okay, then, with people copying it or lending it?
LCK: I guess I am. I guess I don't care. Also, personally, I'm a pretty savvy person, computer-wise. I know how to use computers really well and I don't know how to get a bit torrent. I don't get any of that. I don't have time to teach myself how to download a torrent, you know what I mean? My new special is available that way, copiously. And after all these years of that stuff being available, I don't know how to do it. I don't have a real P-to-P thing, since Napster went down all those years ago. And I don't want to pay some subscription version of Napster when I can just buy it on iTunes for 99 cents. I have to believe that most people are like me or even more not going to go through this shit. But the people that do are fanatics. They love the material and they don't have the money to pay for it or they don't want to pay for it for whatever reason. But the people like that are good advertisers, good word of mouth. (laughs) I mean, you gotta understand. It's not like my comedy's my own private business. Like, I got into this shit to have people hear these ideas. And if people are poor and they wanna steal, I dunno. Like, I know it's not right to think this way but I kind of give them a pass (laughs).

GM: And they'll probably be the first to line up to come see you.
LCK: That's a fact. People come up to me after shows a lot and they say, "Hey, man, I downloaded your stuff for free. I stole it. I'm sorry." And I'm like, "Hey, you're here. You paid 30 dollars to see me so I don't care."

And there's lots more where that came from. I'll let you know when the full interview goes up.

Finesse Mitchell says he hates interviews, although he was very charming with me over the phone. “Sometimes I'm funny and sometimes I'm just informational,” he told me. I wrote a piece on him for the Province newspaper, which will be out in a couple days. There wasn’t as much left over, but I’ll throw you a few bones anyway.

The former SNL’er wrote a relationship book called “Your Girlfriends Only Know So Much”. He said he’s now considered a relationship guru. Interesting response when I asked if he was like standup Greg Behrendt, who wrote the best-selling “He’s Just Not That Into You”. He said, “Except I'm funny. He's not funny... I stopped liking him when he started wearing glasses.” And I have no idea if he was joking. I honestly couldn’t tell.

The former strong safety and cornerback for the University of Miami said that his college days were the time of his life. “I'm a frat guy so we were always throwing parties,” he said. “My college experience was probably the best time of my life. And SNL was second.” Mitchell was teammates in his freshman year with Dwayne Johnson, who went on to become a fake wrestler named The Rock, and then a fake actor. Mitchell recalls, “The guy I see on TV was not the guy I knew our freshman year. He was a little quiet.”

That’s it, folks. That damn Dame Edna wouldn’t speak to me because her shows are sold out. I’m sure she would have, but I couldn’t convince her people to allow it. But if there’s one person I’d love to interview, it’s Dame Edna. I’ve seen her live twice and loved both shows. I’ll see her again on Saturday at the River Rock. Looking forward to it.


darren frost said...

louis ck is the best standup going for my dollar

wish i could see him in toronto but i am working ..will have to download it


Brian Nation said...

You know why they call it a rag?

GM: No, I don't.

LCK: It refers to the sheet of music it's written on.

Well, it's on the internet so it must be true.


Guy MacPherson said...

What is the derivation of 'rag', Brian?

Brian Nation said...

Song played in rag time is a rag. Ragtime (rag time) comes from ragged time, basically syncopation.

"Anything that is syncopated is basically ragtime. I don’t care whether it’s Liszt’s ‘Hungarian Rhapsody’ or Tchaikovsky in his ‘Waltz of the Flowers.’” - Eubie Blake

Of course when we talk about ragtime we're not usually talking about Liszt or Tchaikovsky. We're talking about Blake, Scott Joplin, and others who played this style of pre-jazz for a period of about twenty years.

On the other hand, what the hell do I know?