*for central and eastern time zones
No one owns a concept, and the idea behind the skit — many white people feel entitled — is far older than “SNL” or Louis C.K. But it’s notable that one of the most prominent comedy shows on television either didn’t know or didn’t care that it was re-using a premise that one of the most popular stand-ups in the country introduced less than two years ago.
Also read: How Louis C.K. Cut Out Networks, Used Them to Earn $1M — and Gave Half Away
In his special “Hilarious,” C.K. argued that Americans are so spoiled by technology and other gifts that they complain about tiny inconveniences like having to choose a language at the ATM.
“We have white people problems in America,” C.K. said. “That’s when your life is amazing so you just make shit up to be upset about.”
That’s also the premise of the “SNL” skit, which features white people complaining about such minor problems as not getting to sit together on a plane.
“SNL” used C.K.’s concept, but unfortunately not his jokes — the show added some stale stereotypes about black people going on break a lot.
The one good joke in the skit, which featured host Charles Barkeley: “For those of you at home, ‘awkward’ is a white people word that can be applied to every situation.”
C.K. is accustomed to having his ideas, um, borrowed. In an episode of his FX show “Louie,” last season, he included a scene in which he confronts comedian Dane Cook over claims that Cook ripped off his premises. (Cook denies it, and blasts C.K. for not defending him.)
The “SNL” skit also features a riff about white people and free range chicken that’s awfully similar to one on the last season of “Portlandia” — the very funny IFC comedy series that features Fred Armisen, who’s also in the “White People’s Problems” sketch. We know there are no completely new jokes, but wow.
When Louis CK began writing on staff at “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” he was 30 years old and not the household name in US comedy he is today, but in a recent interview he speaks about how although he was young and inexperienced, writers and producers on the show heeded his advice.
Famously, the first episode of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” started with Conan attempting suicide in his dressing room after receiving some pretty bad pep talks. It was all down to Louis that these series of sketches were stopped.
Speaking to Jonah Weiner Louis said “”He told me he was going to put a gun in his mouth, and I was the new guy, and I said, ‘Are you really going to do that?’ and they were like, ‘You think that’s too dark?’ and I said, ‘You can’t do that, that’s vicious, that’s really hard for people to take,’” CK recently told interview Jonah Weiner . “I talked them out of it, and it was like they were asking me for permission. ‘Really, is it too much?’ ‘Yeah, guys, that’s crazy.’ A gun in the mouth, Jesus.”
Although Louis only had experience in short films, a short TV sketch job, and a decade of standup, Conan and Robert Smigel listened to him.
Looking back on the gig now he remembers it fondly saying, “It was hard to do, it hurt. It was hard to do that, but I loved the work, I loved it, and Robert let me do anything I wanted to, anything…I got to shoot some really elaborate, crazy shit there, and it’s something I learned how to do: live comedy, sketch comedy with an audience, and I hunkered down, watching it happen.”
Since then, the comedian’s (who is of Irish and Mexican descent) profile has exploded. His popularity as a standup comedian and star of his own FX show, “Louie”, was brilliantly illustrated recently when he launched some new stand up material on his site.
Louis had expressed his annoyance at never receiving a royalty check for sales from standup specials so he decided to sell his material directly to his fans from his site. He made $1 million from his $5 material, in just ten days.
From the $1 million, he donated $280,000 to charities including the Fistula Foundation, Pablove Foundation, Charity: Water, Kiva, Green Chimneys, and Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. Another $250,000 went to costs, and another $250,000 went to a “big fat bonus” for his staff members. The comedian paid himself $220,000, an amount he says is enough.
Louis CK was the bright-eyed rookie when he joined the first writing staff of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” That was a tough feat to pull off on a show hosted by an inexperienced 30-year old on-camera rookie and led in the writing room by a 33-year old scribe, but at least Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel had experience with “Saturday Night Live” and other TV shows. All Louis had on his resume were a few short films, a quick TV sketch job and a decade of low-pay standup gigs.
Luckily, his relative inexperience didn’t stop the show runners from taking his advice.
The first episode famously began with a skit that saw Conan, after receiving “pep talks” from people that told him he better be as good as vacating host David Letterman, try to hang himself in his dressing room before the show began. That they didn’t go any farther came thanks to Louis.
“He told me he was going to put a gun in his mouth, and I was the new guy, and I said, ‘Are you really going to do that?’ and they were like, ‘You think that’s too dark?’ and I said, ‘You can’t do that, that’s vicious, that’s really hard for people to take,’” CK recently told interview Jonah Weiner. “I talked them out of it, and it was like they were asking me for permission. ‘Really, is it too much?’ ‘Yeah, guys, that’s crazy.’ A gun in the mouth, Jesus.”
It was a prelude to some difficult times, but overall, he remembers his time on the show fondly.
It was hard to do, it hurt. It was hard to do that, but I loved the work, I loved it, and Robert let me do anything I wanted to, anything,” Louis said. “I got to shoot some really elaborate, crazy shit there, and it’s something I learned how to do: live comedy, sketch comedy with an audience, and I hunkered down, watching it happen.”
For so much more, click over to Jonah Weiner’s website.
The Conan-Leno late night debacle seemingly has everyone in the entertainment business taking sides including comedian Louis C.K. who has publicly joined team Conan.
“Conan gave me my first job, to me that’s sacred,” C.K. (a.k.a. Louis Szekely) said of O’Brien while promotinghis new FX comedy “Louie” during the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour which concludes today. “I love the guy and I think he’ll end up somewhere else and he’ll go back to doing Conan. It’s hurtinghim inside because he wants to be the host of ‘The Tonight Show.’”
O’Brien is finalizing details of a deal that has him leaving as host of “The Tonight Show” after just seven months behind the desk.
“I think he’ll be fine, he’s a really hard-working guy,” C.K. said.
The comic said he could never understand the desire of O’Brien – and David Letterman before him – to follow in the footsteps of Johnny Carson on the NBC late night franchise anyway.
“When I was a kid, that was Johnny Carson’s show and it was kind of what old people watched… . When [David] Letterman really wanted ‘The Tonight Show’ I didn’t understand it, he had his own show called [Late Night with David] ‘Letterman.’ And when they rejected him he went and got [The Late Show with David] Letterman again. He’s doing great. Conan had ‘Conan.’ People didn’t call it ‘Late Night’ — that was how much he had made it his. I don’t know why you’d want to give that up to host ‘The Tonight Show’ — it’s just this old [expletive] thing. Let Jay have it.”
The late night situation came about after NBC replaced Leno with O’Brien last June and gave Leno a five-times-a-week prime time show. Both are flailing in the ratings so the network has canceled Leno and plan to move him to the 11:35 p.m. slot and push O’Brien and “Tonight” to 12:05 a.m. O’Brien refused to move and that has set the stage for the current messy showdown.
C.K. noted that the situation is a “traumatic thing” for those involved “except for that guy, [expletive] Zucker, whatever his name is” referring to NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker who masterminded the changes.
Said CK: “I don’t know, he’s probably a great guy. He’s just a great villain! That face! And doing all these crazy things, and making everybody mad!”
He’s pretty impressed with Leno’s mettle though: “Jay is from Massachusetts which is close to where I grew up. He’s a Boston comic and he’s like, ‘It’s my show, I’m [expletive] holding on to that show … It’s very impressive what he pulled off.”
“Louie” is based on C.K.’s life as a comedian and divorced father of two and will premiere on FX in March. His previous series, “Lucky Louie,” had aired on HBO.
Comedian Louis C.K. was annoyed that he never saw a royalty check from sales of his standup specials through traditional outlets like DVD or iTunes. So he produced his own recent special, sold it online directly to fans for $5 — and made a cool million in just 10 days.
Louis C.K. announced the sales milestone on Wednesday night’s episode of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
Louis C.K. began selling the special, filmed at New York’s Beacon Theater, on December 10. He put up a simple website that directed customers to “buy the thing” through eBay’s ( , Fortune 500) PayPal for $5. A footnote explained that the file has “no regional restrictions, no crap. You can download this file, play it as much as you like, burn it to a DVD, whatever.”
Louis C.K. called it an “experiment” when he launched the sale. Wednesday’s $1 million milestone showed that it’s paying off.
Jimmy Fallon asked: “You just said ‘Hey, everyone who wants to see the show, you give five bucks’?”
Louis C.K. paid to produce the special “out of my own money,” he responded. “So I had it. And I said, I can just give it to people for a little bit of money.”
A friend told him “everyone’s going to steal it…so I just wrote a note that said, you know, please don’t do it,” Louis C.K. said, as the audience laughed. “And they didn’t. So it made a lot of money.”
Louis C.K. said he was shocked as he watched the orders come in — and then began to feel guilty about the amount he’d netted.
“I’ve never had a million dollars all at once. I grew up pretty poor and I was like, this is not even my money,” he said. “This is just a five-dollar impulse that 220,000 people had, and now I have it. And I felt uncomfortable about having that much money.”
So Louis C.K. set aside $250,000 to cover the cost of the expenses of producing the special, then doled out another $250,000 in bonuses for his staffers.
He then donated $280,000 to five charities: The Fistula Foundation, The Pablove Foundation, charity: water, Kiva and Green Chimneys.
“I was going to [donate] $100,000, but it’s like blackjack — I just kept dishing it out,” he told Fallon.
That leaves $220,000 left over.
“Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my childen [sic]. The rest I will do terrible, horrible things with and none of that is any of your business,” Louis C.K. wrote in a statement posted on his website.
A $220,000 profit is plenty, he added.
“I never viewed money as being ‘my money’ I always saw it as ‘The money.’ It’s a resource. if it pools up around me then it needs to be flushed back out into the system,” he wrote. “If I make another million, I’ll give more of it away.”