Louis C.K. seems to be everywhere these days, whether he’s dropping sitcoms out of nowhere, stealing the spotlight at the Oscars or hanging out with comedy nerds Fred and Carrie on this week’s Portlandia. But for a man who’s become this ubiquitous, fronting confessional stand-up specials and running autobiographical TV series, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the guy. Here are a few surprising things about the stand-up extraordinaire that even a super fan like you may have missed.
10. He’s an “Accidental White Person”
With his fiery red hair and pasty white skin, Louis doesn’t exactly scream Hispanic. And yet, Louis is as much Mexican as he is anything else. He actually spent the first seven years of his life south of the border, only learning to speak English when his family moved to the States. His real name is Louis Szekely, coming from his father’s Hungarian/Mexican side of the family. He changed it to the abbreviated C.K. because no one ever knew how to pronounce his name. Much like America, Louis is a melting pot. Who knew?
9. He Once Asked Donald Rumsfeld If He Was a Lizard Person.
Louis has been a regular on the Opie and Anthony radio show for years, amassing over a hundred hours behind the mic. But no visit got more attention than when he asked former Secretary of Defense and Iraq War architect Donald Rumsfeld if he was a “lizard person.” What makes the exchange even more noteworthy is that Rumsfeld never actually denied he was one. Cue The X-Files music, because Louis just went full Mulder on us.
8. He Was The First Stand-up Ever on Conan.
Louis was one of the first writers hired when Conan O’Brien succeeded David Letterman as host of Late Night. In those early days, the show struggled to book guests, thus the repeated appearances of Tony Randall and the Zappa brothers. This dearth of options led to one of Louis’ big breaks. What do you do when you’re short a guest and have time to kill? You shove whoever’s siting around the office on camera and hope for the best. That’s how Louis (back when he had a full head of hair) became the first stand-up to perform on Late Night w/ Conan O’Brien.
7. His Boxing Trainer is Micky Ward of The Fighter fame.
In 2008, Louis was going through a rough patch. His marriage had fallen apart, and his HBO sitcom Lucky Louis had been canceled. Out of shape mentally and physically, he began to feel like all this turmoil was taking a toll on his act. And so he did what any of us would, and hired Micky Ward, the boxer made famous by Mark Wahlberg in the Oscar winning film The Fighter, to knock him into shape. Seeing similarities between stand-up and boxing, he felt it was important to “do the grunt work and the boring, constant training so that you’ll be fit enough to take the beating.”
6. He Confronted the President of the Catholic League Over an Insult…
Louis is never shy about offending people. He’ll say whatever he wants to make a point, or get a laugh. Most people love him for it, but Catholic League president Bill Donahue isn’t most people. He wasn’t a fan of Louis’ HBO sitcom Lucky Louie, calling it “barbaric.” What he wasn’t counting on was having to say it to the crass comedian’s face. When the two met, Louis confronted him on the insult, and got the pious politician to admit he’d never seen the show.
5. …And Also Apologized to Sarah Palin.
Like we said, Louis is famous for a lot of things, but having a filter isn’t one of them. Add in a few cocktails and some free Wi-Fi on a long flight, and you’ve got a recipe for comedy gold, with a very serious hangover. Back in 2010, a lubricated Louis decided it was time to take down everyone’s favorite Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin. And oh boy did he, tweeting a lot of things we can’t repeat here. But years later, at the SNL 40th Anniversary, Sarah Palin approached him, and told him how funny she thought he was. Overcome with guilt, he blurted out an apology. Palin later said “maybe it surprises people, but I was sincerely humbled and appreciative.” And you know she means it, because that’s about the only thing she’s ever said that makes sense.
4. He Broke an Emmy Record While Simultaneously Getting Snubbed.
In 2012, Louis broke an Emmy record, raking in seven individual nominations for his work on the FX series Louie, along with his self-produced stand-up special Live at the Beacon Theatre. It was an impressive haul, which makes the fact that Louie failed to get nominated for Best Comedy that year all the more bewildering. Still, Louis was grateful, telling the New York Times, “that’s a lot of nominations. It feels selfish, because I was really rooting for everybody on my show, so I feel a little selfish.” He would go on to win two Emmys that year, three if Julia Louis-Dreyfus counts as a “Louis.”
3. He Has A Feeling Martians Crashed A Moon Into Earth.
Back in 2014, Louis sent out a seemingly innocent tweet, reading, “I seriously just can’t think of anything to tweet. #sorry.” But when has Louis ever stopped because he didn’t have something to say? Before anyone knew what was happening, he began laying out a massive theory about how Martians abandoned their planet, destroyed by global warming, and used their moon as a spaceship to take them to Earth. Apparently, the Martians crashed the moon into our planet, killing everyone on board and causing our smaller moon to enter orbit. Not yet finished, he explained that he also felt that our solar system is a spaceship, and the sun is the engine, and someday we’ll find the button that will let us travel through the universe. It all sounds pretty solid to us. He ended his rant by letting us know “I’m not high.”
2. His Shoots Are More Student Film Than Sitcom.
Unlike most other sitcoms, that have craft service budgets bigger than average Americans earn in a year, Louis likes to keep things pretty low rent. He used his own camera, a $17,000 RED, for the first few seasons of his show, before FX convinced him to let them buy him a new one. He also only shoots three days a week, because he has his daughters for the rest of the week and doesn’t want the show to interfere. Robin Williams, who guest starred on a episode, was so shocked and impressed by the bare bones approach Louis had adopted, he returned his paycheck so it could go to the crew.
1. He’s Got Joe Rogan’s Back.
Louis is one of the great comedians of our time, and as a result he’s been the victim of joke thieves for years. Most famously, he confronted Dane Cook in an intense episode of Louie over the comedian’s penchant for repeating his material. So when Joe Rogan, a fellow comic who’s waged war against joke thieves, came under fire, Louis had his back. Apparently, Joe and Louis shared a management company, along with famous joke thief Carlos Mencia. When their managers pressured Joe to quit harassing their cash cow, or face their wrath, Louis dropped them out of solidarity. Now, remind me, how many Emmys is Carlos pulling in these days? Yeah, that’s what I thought.