TITLE: Louis C.K. on Teaching AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: June 20, 2016 3:45 PM DESC: ----- BODY:
Louis C.K. on stage
When I read this interview with Louis C.K. last week, the following response spoke to me as a college professor, not as a stand-up comedian:
Can you explain the difference, practically, between the stand-up you were doing at your peak and what you're doing now?
I think I'm a better comedian overall than I was back then, but back then I was better at performing. When you're that greased up onstage, you just have a higher comedy IQ. It's the ability to go on any stage in the country and be perfectly present and able to maneuver the set and have great timing. Some of it is being in physical shape. When you're under pressure or strain, you get dumb, you know? It's why I started working out in boxing gyms, because you watch a guy who's fighting, he's in a terribly arduous moment and he's making intelligent choices. So to me that's when you're 55 minutes deep into your sixth show of the week, in your fifth city of the week. You have to be able to be great right in that moment. You have to be, "You're not going to believe what I'm going to do next." The audience is tired, and you have to have more energy than anyone in the room. You have to be able to control the pace. At my show last night, I was talking to myself a little bit while my mouth was moving delivering material. I was thinking, You're going too fast. Cool it. You have plenty of time and loads ... to say.
It's funny how so many of us, doing so many different things, experience so many of the same ups and downs in our professions. With a few changes to the surface of this story, it sounds like something a college instructor might say ten years on. I've even reached a point where I can talk to myself in an analytical way during a class session or a presentation. I was never as good in 2004 as Louis was, but I feel the same evolution in how I feel about my work in the classroom. One thing I haven't tried is boxing. (Perhaps that is one of my more intelligent choices.) I have had to make some tough decisions under grueling conditions while running marathons, but those tend to unfold at a slower pace than in the ring. "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face." Like Louis, I'm always trying to get better at teaching in first gear. He is probably more natural than I am in an amped-up state, too. Both are a challenge for me. -----