Louis C.K. is a funny dude. He didn’t become the voice of American comedy, a modern day Mark Twain of the masturbation joke, by accident. But here’s the thing: he was a funny dude long before a lot of us caught on. To prove it, we dug back into his career, and found he’s been making hilarious contributions to the world of comedy for decades. You may not have known who he was in 1993, but that doesn’t mean you weren’t watching him. Here are some of his lesser known videos you may have never seen. If you like what you see, be sure to catch Louis this Thursday at 10P on a brand new Portlandia.
10. The short film ‘Ice Cream’
Louis’ 2009 standup special Hilarious was the first of its kind to screen at the Sundance Film Festival. But what most people don’t know is that it wasn’t Louis’ first time at the fest. In 1992, he was still just a struggling stand-up when his short film Ice Cream was surprisingly accepted. He later said, “I got really lucky. It was like the biggest deal of my life when I got that.” It was actually his burgeoning auteur talents, along with his stand-up comedy, that caught the eye of Robert Smigel, head writer of the soon to debut Late Night w/ Conan O’Brien.
9. Playing a dog expert on ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien’
Louis got his first big break when Conan O’Brien took over Late Night, and brought him on board as a writer. A struggling stand-up, he would put his performing chops to good use, occasionally popping up in bits like the one above where he appears with Robert Smigel as a pair of fake dog experts. Eventually, Louis decided he wanted to move on, and focus on his standup, but was afraid to quit. Instead, he asked for an insanely high salary, hoping to get fired. Not knowing this, Conan fought with the network to get his man paid, only to have Louis walk anyway. Conan joked years later that he should have just fired him.
8. Being pranked by Steve Carell and Dana Carvey
Louis soon found himself writing for The Dana Carvey Show, an ABC sketch show that would flame out in glorious fashion. The short-lived show’s troubles began when it debuted after family friendly sitcom Home Improvement with a sketch about Bill Clinton suckling puppies on his teats. This middle finger to taste was conceived by one of the most legendary writers’ rooms in television history. Comedy heavyweights like Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Charlie Kaufman, Robert Smigel and Dino Stamatopoulos were all part of the staff, but it was Louis who served as the head writer. Despite its failure, the show has gained a cult following over the years. Louis popped up in a few sketches, such as the hilarious one above where Carvey and Carell played the world’s dumbest pranksters.
7. Playing an artist named David Cross on MTV
Louis soon started branching out, making short films for MTV. Here he stars as “David Cross,” stealing his good friend’s name to portray a toilet photographer who takes “pictures of crap and tells you it’s art.” An obscure clip from the days when MTV actually gave comedians early breaks, it was projects like this that helped Louis hone his voice as he took the long way to success.
6. Opening up to Dr. Katz
Dr. Katz doesn’t get talked about a lot anymore, but back in the ’90s there was nothing like it on TV. With a premise that basically just turned comedians loose, and then animated their routines, the Comedy Central show helped introduce the public to everyone from Todd Barry to Marc Maron to Patton Oswalt. Louis guest starred on four episodes, giving us an early peek into what makes him tick. Hint: it involves eating a lot and sex.
5. Playing a park ranger on ‘The Chris Rock Show’
After the impressive debacle that was The Dana Carvey Show, Louis took a job writing for close friend Chris Rock. He would win his first Emmy for his work on the HBO series, and occasionally pop up as a sketch player. Here, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo, Louis plays a park ranger who lies about his park’s preponderance of killer bears. After five seasons, Rock convinced Louis to stop writing for others, and strike out on his own.
4. His first feature film ‘Tomorrow Night’
Tomorrow Night is a feature length film that Louis scrimped and saved to shoot back in 1998. After a number of mistakes, like having to reshoot the first three days of footage, his $20,000 budget quickly proved too little, and he was forced to make a plea for money while doing a guest spot on Late Night. Sure, he was probably joking, but comedian friends like Jon Stewart, Dennis Leary and Chris Rock took him at his word, and helped him finish the now $180,000 production. Long unreleased, Louis is now offering the film on his site as a digital download. Check it out to see comedy greats like Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, J.B Smoove and many more in early roles.
3. Louis gets animated
Louis teamed up with Augenblick Studios (Ugly Americans) for this animated short which shows how animation can take you to amazing places and resolve your unsettled parental issues.
2. The NSFW Short Film ‘Brunch’
Louis first showed off his filmmaking chops in a series of short films, many of which can be found on his YouTube page. In “Brunch,” comedian Rick Shapiro, who plays Bernie on IFC’s Maron, chats with some nice elderly ladies. The jazzy score and slice-of-life tone that veers into raunchy absurdity hint at Louis’ future FX series.
1. Louis Learns About the Catholic Church (NSFW)
If Horace and Pete, Louis’ recent, self-funded and self-released Web series has taught us anything, it’s that he’s always looking for a new way to do things. When YouTube launched in 2005, Louis was unsurprisingly an early adopter, making a number of videos for the site. Here Louis decides to investigate the Catholic Church, and uncovers some very disturbing — and graphic — facts. This video is not for the easily offended. Then again, if you can’t take a joke, you’re probably not a Louis fan to begin with.