Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage:
Looking and sounding more relaxed than he has, well, maybe ever, Louis C.K. told a sold-out PaleyFest: Made in NY audience tonight at the Paley Center in New York that his look of renewed vigor is no illusion. “I’m feeling a huge amount more energy,” C.K. said, explaining that it’s the result of his having taken a year off from his Emmy-nominated FX comedy Louie. The reigning comic’s comic — widely considered to have the most creative freedom of perhaps any human in television history – made the commitment to take a 12-month sabbatical “for the good of the show. I didn’t want to start making the show with diminishing returns.” He stressed that as his show’s writer, producer, director, editor and star, he would be juggling so many balls that he’d turned in some episodes “that I knew weren’t good enough. It had been kind of a nightmare. We took a year off to kind of hit the reset button.”
So now for the fourth season of the critical smash Louie that he just began shooting, the pace of production will be far more leisurely. “We usually start shooting in February for that year’s show, and we’re four months ahead this time. So we have much, much more time.” The entire season now will be in the can when it returns to the air next spring. But at the same time, C.K. is – by his standards – taking his time. “We have 60 shooting days this year; we usually do 48,” he said. “I feel like we’re doing it a lot smarter, besides finally having the luxury of time.”
Flanked by his executive producer and right hand Blair Breard in a Q&A moderated by Time magazine’s James Poniewozik, C.K. kept to the five-night event’s theme celebrating production in New York City and its environs. He’s lived there since 1989 and is proud to have shot in every borough and in parts of the city rarely seen onscreen. “It’s hard just because you’re in the middle of people,” he said, “but it’s also great because the people really just don’t give a shit. Even when you see people who are fans, they’ve got somewhere to go, so they just keep moving. … When you’re on these streets with a camera, you really get to inhabit the city.” One of the things C.K. has noticed is the explosion of smartphones and people recording video even as the crew films a scene. “It’s like they all want to film it too and do their own show,” he marveled. “At first I thought, ‘This is crazy.’ Then it was like, ‘What do I care?’ ” He’s also proud to be pumping money into the New York economy, albeit with a pint-sized crew. The cool thing, he noted, is that he’s brought “something like $20 million to the city,” which Breard immediately dismissed as “overstatement.” However, Breard made the point that having only a 25-person crew demonstrates that “all you really need to make a good show is a good story. People are amazed at what we can do with the little we have.”
Keeping it all small and simple is what helped C.K. to convince FX boss John Landgraf to greenlight his beloved comedy in the first place. More importantly, it takes the pressure off of him. “If you do a show on NBC at 8:30, it’s gonna be sponsored by people like Nike and Microsoft,” he maintained. “These people want to know what you’re (putting in the show). Our advertisers are, like, Red Stripe Beer. And they don’t give a fuck what we’re doing.” That drew the biggest laugh of the night.