Louis SzÃ©kely (born September 12, 1967), known professionally as Louis C.K. (/ËluËi siËËkeÉª/), is an American comedian, actor, writer, producer, director and editor.
He is the creator, star, writer, director, executive producer and primary editor of the acclaimed FX comedy series Louie. He has had supporting acting roles in films such as The Invention of Lying, American Hustle, and Blue Jasmine. C.K. is also noted for being among the first performers to offer direct-to-fan sales of tickets to his stand-up shows, as well as DRM-free video concert downloads, via his website.
C.K. has won a 2012 Peabody Award and five Emmy awards, as well as numerous awards for The Chris Rock Show and Louie, as well as his stand-up specials Live at the Beacon Theater (2011) and Oh My God (2013).
C.K.'s stage name is an approximate English pronunciation of his Hungarian surname, SzÃ©kely (Hungarian pronunciation:Â [ËseËkej]).
C.K. was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Mary Louise SzÃ©kely (nÃ©e Davis), a software engineer, and Luis SzÃ©kely, an economist.
C.K.'s parents met at Harvard University, where his mother was completing her degree in a summer-school program. They were married at St. Francis Church in Traverse City, Michigan. C.K. has three sisters.
C.K.'s father was born and raised in Mexico and has degrees from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Harvard University. C.K.'s paternal grandfather, Dr. Geza SzÃ©kely Schweiger, was a surgeon. SzÃ©kely Schweiger was a Hungarian Jew whose family immigrated to Mexico, where he met C.K.'s paternal grandmother, Rosario SÃ¡nchez Morales. SÃ¡nchez Morales was a Catholic Mexican. C.K.'s grandfather agreed to have his children raised Catholic, but was (according to C.K.) "quietly Jewish".
C.K.'s mother, an American of Irish Catholic ancestry, was originally from a farm in Michigan. She graduated from Owosso High School in Owosso, Michigan. She attended University of Michigan and graduated from Ohio State University Phi Beta Kappa. C.K.'s maternal grandparents were M. Louise Davis and Alfred C. Davis.
C.K.'s parents divorced and when he remarried, C.K.'s father converted to Orthodox Judaism, the faith of his new wife.
C.K. has said that his father's whole family still lives in Mexico. C.K.'s paternal uncle Dr. Francisco SzÃ©kely is an academic and an international consultant on environmental affairs who served as Mexico's Deputy Minister of Environment (2000â"2003).
Born in Washington, D.C., C.K. lived there only until age 1, when his family moved to Mexico City, where he lived until he was 7. C.K.'s first language was Spanish; it was not until after the move to the U.S. that he began to learn English. He has since mostly forgotten his Spanish.
On moving from Mexico to suburban Boston, C.K. wanted to become a writer and comedian, citing, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, and George Carlin as some of his influences. When he was 10, his parents divorced. C.K. said that his father was around but he did not see him much. C.K. and his three sisters were raised by their single mother in Newton, Massachusetts. The fact that his mother had only "bad" TV shows to view upon returning home from work inspired him to work on television.
C.K.'s mother raised her children as Catholic, wanting them to have a religious framework and understanding, and they attended after-school Catholic class until they completed communion.
The "In The Woods" pair of episodes in his TV series Louie are a loose dramatization of this period of his youth.
After graduating from Newton North High School, C.K. worked as an auto mechanic and at a public access TV cable station in Boston. According to C.K., working in public access TV gave him the tools and technical knowledge to make his short films and later his television shows. "Learning is my favorite thing," he said. He also worked for a time as a cook and in a video store.
His first attempt at stand-up was in 1984 at an open-mic night at a comedy club in Boston, Massachusetts, during the apex of the comedy boom. He was given five minutes of time, but had only two minutes of material. He was so discouraged by the experience that he did not perform again for two years. He and Marc Maron later reminisced about their early careers and friendship on Maron's WTF Podcast.
As Boston's comedy scene grew, C.K. gradually achieved success, performing alongside acts such as Denis Leary and Lenny Clarke, and eventually he moved up to paid gigs, opening for Jerry Seinfeld and hosting comedy clubs until he moved to Manhattan in 1989. He performed his act on many televised programs, including Evening at the Improv and Star Search. In 1993, he unsuccessfully auditioned for Saturday Night Live, and most of the comedy clubs in New York City closed. In 1996 HBO released his first half-hour comedy special.
C.K. has performed his stand-up frequently on shows such as Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Lopez Tonight, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. In August 2005, C.K. starred in a half-hour HBO special as part of the stand-up series One Night Stand.
Inspired by the work ethic of fellow comedian George Carlin, who had committed to dropping all of his existing material and starting over every year, C.K. launched his first hour-long special, Shameless, in 2007, which aired on HBO and was later released on DVD. In March 2008, he recorded a second hour-long special, Chewed Up, which premiered on Showtime Network on October 4, 2008, and went on to be nominated for an Emmy for "Outstanding Writing in a Comedy or Variety Special". C.K. has said that "failure is the road to becoming a great comedian."
On April 18, 2009, C.K. recorded a concert film titled Hilarious. Unlike his previous specialsâ"which had all been produced for television networksâ"Hilarious was produced independently, directed by C.K. himself, and sold to Epix and Comedy Central after it was complete. As a result, it was not released until late 2010. It was published on DVD and CD in 2011. It is the first stand-up comedy film to be accepted into Sundance.
In a 2010 interview, C.K. talked about how, after his divorce, he thought, "well, there goes my act." He alluded to the way that his marriage had been central to his act and his life, and he said that it took him approximately a year to realize "I'm accumulating stories here that are worth telling." One element in his preparation for stand-up was training in the boxing gym, including with Lowell, Massachusetts fighter Micky Ward, trying to "learn how to ... do the grunt work and the boring, constant training so that you'll be fit enough to take the beating."
On December 10, 2011, C.K. released his fourth full-length special, Live at the Beacon Theater. Like Hilarious, it was produced independently and directed by C.K. However, unlike his earlier work, it was distributed digitally on the comedian's website, foregoing both physical and broadcast media. C.K. released the special for $5.00 and without DRM, hoping that these factors and the direct relationship between the artist and consumer would effectively deter piracy. At the end of the special, the release of a new album, recorded at Carnegie Hall the previous year, is mentioned. As of December 21, 2011, the sales of the special from C.K.'s website have earned him over $1 million.
The success of the special prompted other comedians, including Jim Gaffigan, Joe Rogan, and Aziz Ansari, to release their own specials with a similar business model. On May 11, 2012, C.K. additionally made two audio-only downloads available for $5.00 each: WORDÂ â" Live at Carnegie Hall (and the audio version of his first HBO stand-up special, Shameless), as well as an audio-only version of Live at the Beacon Theater.
C.K.'s fifth one-hour special, Oh My God, was recorded at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona, and premiered on HBO April 13, 2013. It is also sold and distributed using the same model as C.K. used for Live at the Beacon Theater.
C.K. released his sixth one hour special Live at The Comedy Store recorded, unlike his past few specials, at a club, The Comedy Store in West Hollywood. C.K. mentioned the material was intended to be an exercise in creating an act which harkened back to his early days of working in comedy clubs. The special premiered exclusively on FX on May 28, 2015.
C.K. is the first comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden three times in a single tour.
C.K.'s credits as a writer include the Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Dana Carvey Show, and The Chris Rock Show. He has been quoted as describing his approach to writing as a "deconstruction" that is both painful and frightening. His work for The Chris Rock Show was nominated for an Emmy Award for writing three times, winning "Best Writing in a Variety or Comedy Series" in 1999. He was also nominated for an Emmy Award for his work writing for Late Night with Conan O'Brien C.K. wrote and directed the feature film Pootie Tang, which was adapted from a sketch that was featured on The Chris Rock Show. The film received largely negative reviews from critics, but has become a cult classic. Though C.K. is credited as the director, he was fired at the end of filming with the film being re-edited by the studio.
He also wrote and directed the independent black-and-white film Tomorrow Night (1998), which premiered at Sundance, and several shorter films, including six short films for the sketch comedy show Sunny Skies (1995) on the Showtime cable network. C.K. self-released Tomorrow Night in 2014. He was nominated for an Emmy Award for writing on his 2008 special, Chewed Up.
He won two Emmys in 2011 for the Louie episode "Pregnant" and for his special Live at the Beacon Theater.
C.K. has co-written two screenplays with Chris Rock: Down to Earth (2001) and I Think I Love My Wife (2007).
Acting, writing, and directing
In June 2006, C.K. starred in Lucky Louie, a sitcom he created. The series premiered on HBO and was videotaped in front of a studio audience; it was HBO's first series in that format. Lucky Louie is described as a bluntly realistic portrayal of family life. HBO canceled the series after its first season.
Other roles C.K. has played include a security guard in Role Models and a potential love interest for Amy Poehler's character in a multi-episode story arc on NBC's Parks and Recreation. C.K. has also appeared in the films Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, Diminished Capacity, and The Invention of Lying. In 2013, C.K. had supporting roles in the critically acclaimed films Blue Jasmine and American Hustle.
In August 2009, FX picked up his new series, Louie, which C.K. stars in, writes, directs, and edits. The show features his stand-up routines blended with segments which are based to some extent on his offstage experiences. The show premiered on June 29, 2010. Each season of Louie contains 13 episodes. The show addresses life as a divorced, aging father.
In season three, episodes dealt respectively with a date with an unstable bookshop clerk (played by Parker Posey); a doomed attempt to replace a retiring David Letterman; an aborted visit to C.K.'s father; and a dream-reality New Year's Eve episode in which C.K. ends up in China. These episodes were ranked in critic Matt Zoller Seitz's favorite 25 comedy episodes of 2012. Seitz called the episode "New Year's Eve" "truly audacious". C.K. has been nominated three times for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (2011, 2012, and 2013) for his work in Louie.
The show was renewed for a fourth season; with a 19-month hiatus after season 3 to accommodate C.K.'s roles in David O. Russell's American Hustle and Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine.
C.K.'s production company, Pig Newton, where he works with partner / producer Blair Breard, has a contract to develop and executive produce pilots for FX Networks. In January 2014, it was announced that C.K. is producing and co-writing a Zach Galifianakis-created comedy pilot for FX Networks. The 10-episode single-camera comedy was ordered to series, will debut in 2016, and is called Baskets. It will feature Galifianakis as the main character, a struggling clown named Chip Baskets in a pilot episode written by Galifianakis, Louis C.K. and Jonathan Krisel.
C.K. is also developing with FX the series Better Things, to star Pamela Adlon. C.K. will co-write and co-produce. The show is about a single working actress mother and her struggles to raise three daughters.
During the 2014 Television Critics Association presentations, FX Networks' John Landgraf reported that Louie will return in spring 2015 for a shortened fifth season of seven episodesâ"compared to the 13 episodes of prior seasons.
In May 2015, it was announced that C.K. would be directing and starring in a film titled I'm A Cop that will be produced by Scott Rudin, Dave Becky, and long-time associate, Blair Breard, with a budget of $8 million.
As a voice actor, C.K. portrayed Brendon Small's estranged father, Andrew Small, in Home Movies, and appeared several times on Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.
C.K. was a frequent guest on The Opie & Anthony Show, which also features his Lucky Louie co-star Jim Norton. C.K. was also a part of Opie and Anthony's Traveling Virus Comedy Tour with other comedians in 2007. He has appeared on on Sirius XM's Raw Dog Comedy show, and in 2007 hosted a three-hour phone-in show on the service at the request of Opie & Anthony, during which he advised callers on their relationship troubles. As of May 2011, C.K. has hosted over 107 hours of radio with Opie & Anthony. In the Louie episode "Barney / Never", Opie, Anthony, and Norton (along with comedian Amy Schumer) play the on-air talent of a stereotypical wacky morning radio program into which C.K.'s character is calling to promote a nearby gig.
During an interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on The Opie & Anthony Show, C.K. repeatedly asked Rumsfeld whether he is in fact a reptilian space alien who "eats Mexican babies". Rumsfeld declined to comment. The video has since gone viral.
C.K. has been an occasional guest on The Bob & Tom Show, a showcase for comedians. He also worked with Robert Smigel on TV Funhouse shorts exclusively for Saturday Night Live, with topics ranging from politics to surrealism. C.K. hosted Saturday Night Live on November 3, 2012 and was subsequently Emmy nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. He returned to host the show for a second time on March 29, 2014, for which he was once again nominated in the Emmys for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.
C.K. innovated direct-to-consumer distribution of his and others' work, selling tickets via his website in DRM-free format. In this way C.K. sold tickets for his stand-up tour, circumventing large ticket outlets (e.g., Ticketmaster), creatively bypassing their overhead and the venues they control. C.K. has said the ticket outlets create barriers to consumers, whereas direct distribution is easy â" and has effectively "closed the gap between how easy it was to steal it [versus] how easy it was to buy it."
C.K. and artist/painter Alix Bailey married in 1995. Together, they had two daughters. They divorced in 2008, with C.K. and Bailey sharing joint custody of their children.
While C.K. was raised Catholic, he pokes fun at religion in his comedy and says he has "zero idea how everything got here". C.K. has also been quoted as saying, "if I were to make a list of possibilities, God would be pretty far down. But if I were to make a list of people that know what the fuck they are talking about, I would be really far down."
Although he infrequently discusses his political views, C.K. has defended same-sex marriage in his stand-up and has spoken negatively about capitalism. As for political partisanship, C.K. states, "Some things I think are very conservative, or very liberal. I think when someone falls into one category for everything, I'm very suspicious. It doesn't make sense to me that you'd have the same solution to every issue."
- 2000: The Short Films of Louis C.K. (DVD) (out of print)
- 2001: Live in Houston (CD) (out of print)
- 2005: One Night Stand (DVD)
- 2006: Shameless (DVD/video download)
- 2008: Chewed Up (CD/DVD)
- 2009: Hilarious (Epix - CD/DVD)
- 2010: Word: Live at Carnegie Hall (MP3 download)
- 2011: Live at the Beacon Theater (video download)
- 2013: Louis C.K.: Oh My God â" Phoenix, AZ (video download)
- 2015: Louis C.K.: Live at the Comedy Store (video download)
- Official website
- Louis C.K. at the Internet Movie Database
- Louis C.K.'s channel on YouTube