"Boston is a great town to grow up in, but I really wanted to get out of there," says comedian Louis CK. "I'm a nocturnal person, and Boston closes at like 1:30. It drives me nuts."
Like many a great artist, the Newtonian funnyman knew he'd have to slip the surly bonds of his hometown in order to find fame for himself. But that doesn't mean he doesn't enjoy coming back. (And, let's face it, it made for the perfect locale in which to set his unjustly short-lived HBO series Lucky Louie.)
On Saturday night, stand-up/actor/writer brings his newest comedy show, Hilarious, to the Orpheum Theatre. The Phoenix called him last week to talk about his hometown, his idol George Carlin, his pals Conan O'Brien and Chris Rock, the perils and pitfalls of writing for late night television, shooting a movie with Ricky Gervais, and finally reaching that stage in life where one can treat the front row of the Green Monster like one's own private restaurant.
Does performing in Boston feel like a homecoming to you?
I love it. And I always kind of save it up. I don't work there often, I kinda come like once a year. And last year I did my special there, Chewed Up, at the Berklee. It was really nice. People I know come out and see me, and it's also, besides where I grew up, it's where I started as a stand-up, so it's a meaningful place.
Talk about coming up in the '80s Boston comedy scene.
I started in like '85, and guys like Steven Wright were still around and Kenny Rogerson and Steve Sweeney and all these amazing comedians, and it was like this really high bar, a great talent pool. So it was really inspiring to come up around those guys. It was a big comedy scene so there were a lot of opportunities to work, so I was able to get on stage a lot and had a lot of influence to be as good as possible. it was really rich soil for a comedian — as opposed to if you started in Cincinnati in the '90s and there was like one club and two local comics. But if you're gonna be a comedian, you'll find a way. You'll get to where the comedy is.
I'm guessing you felt the need to leave Boston in order to make it.
Boston was like it's own world, entirely, and there were guys who really made their whole career being headliners in Boston. And I kind of realized that if I put a lot of time into doing that, that would be all that I did. So I wanted to go out. I used to drive around the dead streets of Boston in a car. I just didn't know what to do with myself. And also, I needed a lot of input and a lot of stimulus, and when I moved to New York it was just a constant, overwhelming non-stop amount of stimulus. I more moved to New York as a person [as opposed to a comedian] and there's loads of face time in New York comedy clubs. And in Boston, that whole comedy scene is gone now. It couldn't survive there. When I left, it was starting to get too big, and it was clear that it was gonna burst, which obviously it did.