Keeping it real is what it's all about, the comedian believes.
By JOHN BENSON
Never discount the power of HBO.
Just ask Louis C.K. (born Szekely, which is pronounced SEK-kay), who over the past few months has gone from somewhat obscure stand-up comedian, comedy writer ("Late Night with Conan O'Brien" and "Late Show with David Letterman") and feature film writer/director ("Pootie Tang") to star of his own HBO series "Lucky Louie."
Despite the recent publicity, C.K. said any hint of celebrity or notoriety is kept in check.
"Mostly you think you're a hero on TV and then you come home and your wife makes you think otherwise, very quickly," said C.K., calling from his home in Upstate New York.
If you're looking for insight into C.K.'s stand-up comedy, just watch an episode or two of his new sitcom "Lucky Louie." It's the cable network's first foray into a live-audience sitcom and is decidedly HBO with adult-humor and adult topics. If you ask C.K., he'll just say the show is a new millennium reflection of America.
"We talk about not having a lot of money in America, which is how most people live, in debt and not being able to really make any headway," C.K. said. "That's something that's not being dealt with on TV right now at all. Everybody on television is rich and beautiful."
Invariably every generation has a television touchstone with the era. This was the case with "The Honeymooners" in the '50s, "All in the Family" in the '70s and "Roseanne" in the '90s. In fact, C.K.'s persona as a working class schlub with a family and flabby mid-section is as formulaic as it comes (see "The King of Queens" or "Everybody Loves Raymond"). But in looking back over the aforementioned classics, C.K. believes he's instilled a similar quality into "Lucky Louie."
"It's just the show is about having a family and about regular life," C.K. said. "I don't feel like the subject matter is what should be different about a show. For me, it's how you do the show and what levels of honesty you reach. There have been shows about families for years but they really haven't talked about what it's actually like to be in one."
Being honest is also the hallmark of his stand-up routine, which he performs on the road roughly 15 weeks a year.
Oddly enough, even though C.K. has been a working comic for over two decades, he's never been through Northeast Ohio. That will change Friday and Saturday when he performs at Hilarities.
As far as material, C.K. uses his home life -- married with two young kids -- to fuel his stage act. While celebrity does change one's life, C.K. said he's still an average guy with a family and tons of debt.
A decade has passed since C.K. wrote, directed and produced his own movie, "Tomorrow Night," which was critically-acclaimed but never picked up for distribution. He's still paying off his creditors but the upside is it keeps his material both on screen and on stage grounded.
"It's just still me being raw and honest and saying what I feel," C.K. said. "I talk like regular people, so I definitely curse. If you don't like that, stay home."