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PLAYBOY: Your stand-up is very personal, but you’ve avoided talking about your divorce. Is divorce not funny?
C.K.: The transition of divorce happened to me three years ago, and it just doesn’t matter to me anymore. It would be like if you had children and you obsessed about the day they were born rather than their lives every day.
PLAYBOY: Comedians have a reputation for ending up as -addicts and alcoholics. How did you avoid that?
C.K.: I did most of my drugs in school. I did loads of drugs when I was in eighth grade, ninth grade. For some reason those were the years I picked, and I learned what the pitfalls were. Also, I’m too driven. I love what I do, and it’s important to me. Being -addicted is one thing. If you’re addicted you have a sickness. But to do drugs recklessly when you’re trying to be a comedian, you’re just not trying hard enough
PLAYBOY: What is a very drunk Louis C.K. like?
C.K.: You know on shows like Dallas or a mob show when somebody goes to a guy’s office and is made a drink at two in the afternoon? Or when you see somebody on a TV show having a business meeting and they drink whiskey from crystal decanters? I don’t understand how everyone in that scene isn’t sleeping. How do you function drinking like that? I tend to go to sleep when I get drunk.
PLAYBOY: Your drunken Twitter rants about Sarah Palin are legendary. What don’t you like about her?
C.K.: I think it’s just fun to say things about her. She opens herself up to be a target. There’s something so self-assured about her. Everybody needs to have some self-doubt and acknowledgment that they don’t know what they’re doing and that life is more complicated than they understand. My objection to her is not political. It’s just aesthetic. It’s just humane. She’s perfectly evil to me, so I like making fun of her in ways that have nothing to do with who she really is. Look, my saying that Sarah Palin has poor Chinese people living in her cunt is not political.
PLAYBOY: You wound up sitting next to her daughter Bristol on The Tonight Show. How did that happen?
C.K.: I was on my way to Los Angeles to do the appearance when the people from The Tonight Show said, “Listen, her daughter is here. You’re not going to say anything to her, are you?” They were a little concerned. And I said, “No, of course not.” So there was no incident. She was very nice to me. I don’t blame people for who their parents are.
PLAYBOY: One of your first writing gigs was for the original Late Night With Conan O’Brien. What do you remember about those days?
C.K.: Those were intense days. Every Friday we used to think we were getting canceled. This executive would come to the Conan office and look at all of us with a very kind, sympathetic expression, and we’d all be like, Well, this is it—we’re done. Everybody would go to their office and call their agent to start feeling around for other work. And Conan would roll up his sleeves, take a deep breath, get this serious presidential look about him and go into his office and have a conference call with all the executives to push for more time. He always got it. Everybody always felt Conan was protecting our jobs, not just his. He had more money than all of us put together at the time. He was very successful already. But he had brought all of us to this crazy place, and he kept it going. So I learned from him. I still think about him. The way he handled the pressure and persevered is something I draw from now in my own life, like having TV shows and trying to keep them on the air.
PLAYBOY: At one point in your career you had worked as a writer for Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Late Show With David Letterman and The Chris Rock Show. Did you worry you would get trapped as a talk-show writer?
C.K.: It’s fun for a while. It’s a good training ground, like college for comedy writers, but you have to get out of it. One guy who used to push me was Chris Rock. He said to me one day, “Why aren’t you directing movies?” I was like, “What?” And he said, “You know, I’m happy you’re here. I feel like I have a minor league baseball team somewhere in Virginia and you’re Barry Bonds, hitting home runs for me every day. I’m grateful, but what are you doing with your life?”
PLAYBOY: You worked with Rock on your directorial debut, Pootie Tang, which has a cult following these days. Who has told you they’re fans?
C.K.: Metallica and Jack White, and I heard a lot of people have it on their tour buses. That’s what I always hear. I get e-mails from people once in a while, and I guess it trends on Twitter. To me it’s just this one old idea I had, and we played it out for what it was worth.
PLAYBOY: What don’t you like about your body?
C.K.: I don’t care about it. I don’t like that it doesn’t do everything I want it to, but that’s my fault. I can’t blame my body. I haven’t put in the investment to keep it going. I train and I train and I usually hit a peak of about two weeks when I feel as if I can do whatever I want, and then it starts to decline exponentially and daily.
PLAYBOY: You talked about having sex with your shirt on during an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. The segment allegedly got the show banned in the state of Mississippi.
C.K.: I felt pretty bad. I thought it was dumb of them, but I felt bad because if you’re living in Mississippi and you like Fresh Air, you probably really need it. I live in New York, and if they canceled Fresh Air there, I’d have a lot of other sources for things I like. But if I were in Mississippi, it would make me cry if they canceled it. I’m being bigoted, but I’ve traveled all over the country, and Mississippi is a thoroughly one-thing state. Georgia is the South, but geez, it has Atlanta and Athens. It’s a really cool state. People make fun of Louisiana, but that’s where New Orleans is, and there are some pretty fucked-up, crazy people in Louisiana. Every state has its thing. Mississippi, I don’t know what’s there.