GAIL PENNINGTON, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Louis C.K. does things his way.
That includes taking his standup act on the road. The comedian, actor, writer and recent Emmy winner, known for his unsparing riffs on everything from world problems to his own failings, added the role of ticket vendor for his current tour.
Rather than using Ticketmaster, C.K. (born Louis Szekely) sold tickets for the tour only via his own website, keeping costs down - and selling out 100,000 seats (at $45 each, total $4.5 million) in hours. Even tickets for additional shows quickly vanished.
Entertainment Weekly put him on the cover as "the world's greatest comedian." "Louie," the shockingly funny FX comedy for which he won a writing Emmy, just completed its third season, with the first two now on DVD. (Earlier this week, FX announced the series is taking an extended hiatus and won't be returning until 2014.) HBO is rerunning his 2007 special, "Shameless," and C.K. himself is selling the DVD of last year's "Live at the Beacon Theater" show from his website, louisck.net.
Realizing how hot their star is, FX wanted to bring C.K. to Beverly Hills, Calif., this summer to meet with TV critics, who are some of his most devoted fans. But he couldn't make it in person, answering questions instead by satellite and seeming abashed at his reason for being in Albany, N.Y., on his way to the Adirondacks.
"I'm here because my daughter's been at summer camp for a whole month," he said. "This is her first year at sleep-away camp, and I gotta pick her up at, like, 7 o'clock tomorrow morning. I haven't seen her for a month."
That's not really out of character for C.K., 45, the divorced father of two girls of whom he's very proud, and not even for "Louie," whose efforts at parenting his own two daughters often go wrong.
Doing the TV series could keep C.K. off the road, but the current tour is a long one, extending from October through February. Playing to live audiences is vitally important for him, he said.
"The thing I'm best at, I think, is standup, and it's always saved my life," he said. "It would be crazy for me to stop doing it. ... I love it."
His famously foul-mouthed act "is where a lot of my favorite ideas come from," he said. "They start on stage, and it keeps that energy alive for me."
Satisfaction is one thing, but "also the most money I make is on stage. I still make way more doing that than I do doing ("Louie")."
Selling the tickets himself, and preventing brokers from buying up blocks and inflating prices, meant C.K. had to work out special deals with venues. "It means I'm playing in very new places," he said, and "I really appreciate all of these theaters that are letting us give this a try."
One stop is Symphony Hall in Boston, his hometown. "When I was growing up, that was the place where anybody fancy ever played," he said. Doing six shows there, all sold out, "is pretty great."
When TV critics quizzed C.K., though, the topic naturally came back around to "Louie." One questioner wondered whether lovelorn Louie would ever find his soulmate.
"I don't know, man," C.K. said. "I don't know what's going to happen to that guy. I've had so much more better luck with women than he has (that) I'm starting to feel a little bad for him."
Maybe, for Season 4, "I'll park him with somebody for a few episodes, you know, give him a girlfriend, at least let him fail at having a relationship for a minute. Maybe, I don't know."
When the satellite time ran out, C.K. repeated his apology.
"I'm really sorry that I couldn't be there. I really am here because I have to be there for my daughter. I can't squelch on that. That would be a really bad scene, and I miss the (bleep) out of her."