The Wisdom of Louis C.K.

I love Louis C.K. He is considered one of the greatest comedians of his generation but I think he is so much more. Great comedy comes from wisdom and intelligence and - most of all perhaps - vulnerability. Louis C.K. possesses all these things and while his standup is hilarious, I found his recent interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air more than just funny. I found it smart and insightful. I HIGHLY recommend the whole interview but had to share some of what he had to say here. 

On aging:

Well, it’s an interesting thing, you know. You - when you get older and you become less in the center of things, which I think is part of getting older, you know - there’s more energy and focus on younger people - you start to resent it at first. You start to feel like, you know, somebody’s taking something away from you. But then you realize that there’s a privilege in that, and that it means that we’re all developing. And it’s part of your responsibility as a human, I think - is to, you know, get old and die. Get out of the way...
— Louis C.K.

On putting yourself second:

I realized that a lot of things that my kid was taking away from me, she was freeing me of. A lot of things that men hang onto when they’re younger, they’re just not good for you. And that there was this huge pride in having a kid and also that I didn’t matter anymore. The greatest thing about having a child is putting yourself second in your own life. It’s a massive gift to be able to say that you’re not the most important person to yourself... Because you’re - because you’ll always - I don’t know - because that’s always going to let you down, you know what I mean? The idea of I’ve got to get me right. I’ve got to get what I want. I’ve got to get - that’s got to be right. That’s never going to quite work. You know, life just isn’t that satisfying. But if you can be useful to somebody else, that you can actually accomplish, you know what I mean? You can go, I did a pretty damn good job today as a dad - pretty good - best as I could. That’s worth so much more, you know?

I saw a movie once where Spencer Tracy catches this woman about to kill herself. It’s a pretty dark movie for the time, but - I forget the name of the movie. But Spencer Tracy’s on a boat, and he sees a rich, young girl about to throw herself off the boat ‘cause her fiance left her for another woman. And he’s trying to talk her out of suicide, and he says to her, do you have a job? Do you have anything that you do in your life? Which was a funny thing to ask ‘cause she’s like a 1920s - you know, she’s like a socialite. And she said, no. And he said, I think you should get a job because it’s very hard to be sad and useful at the same time. And ever since I saw that, I keep that in my head.

If you can be useful - which means to somebody else, not to yourself - if you can be useful, it just makes you feel better. So I live in service for my kids, you know? That’s the first priority. And things like my career, they feed into that. They’re part of that because I’m providing for them. But also, it’s just not that important. If something’s not important, it’s more fun. It’s more of something you can look at from objectively instead of having it be this albatross around you. I’ve got to get this right. If this isn’t perfect, my life is a nightmare.
— Louis C.K.

On parenting:

Not all kids get a great set of parents. Sometimes they get one who puts in about 50 percent and one puts in about 20. So they’ve got to make up that 30 for themselves or find it in other people - in friends and teachers, you know.

I remember when I was on “The Tonight Show” once with Jay Leno. Rickey Minor was the bandleader for Jay Leno. And he told me that he had a son who was going to start doing comedy, and I said, oh, great. And he said my son graduated law school, but before he goes to be a lawyer, he wants to try comedy, just as a perspective. And I said, it sounds like you raised a great kid. And I asked him, what was your father like? And he said, I never knew my dad. And I said, oh, you were raised by a single mom, like I was. He said, no, my mom was a drug addict and couldn’t raise me. I said, who raised you? And he said a bunch of people. He said, I would just look for mentors in life. He said that he never took having two good parents for granted. You’d think that’s the kind of thing that people have to take for granted, but he didn’t. He found mentors and coaches. He would find - ask people for advice. He built parents in the aggregate.

And I think all kids have to do that ‘cause nobody gets a complete set, you know? No parents are perfect, by the way. It’s not just that some parents are just awful, and these poor kids - it’s part of life. Your parents are going to do the best they can, you know, so I think that’s what I got. I had a very strong working mom. She was an incredible role model for me, but also, she had a job. She couldn’t pay full attention to me all the time. I have three sisters, too, so...
— Louis C.K.

On being honest about your mistakes:

That’s all you can really be for your kids is present. And I think, in the end, that’s the best thing you can do for your kids when they come to you with real problems, is try to understood how they feel, and try to give them a place to say how they feel so that they can sort it out. And give them what you can about your past, you know?

I think to tell them that the world is this place where you’re supposed to act perfectly and to represent that you did is a huge disservice to your kids, you know? So, yeah, my kids know that I did drugs. They know that I’ve struggled with that kind of thing. I think it’s important to share your mistakes with your kids and - because you get knowledge from your mistakes and wisdom from it. If you can’t pass that on, what good are you? To give your kids an impossible bar to reach that you didn’t reach and to say, oh, yeah, I never did any of that and neither should you, you’re just making it impossible. But if you can say, yeah, listen, I did it. It really screwed me up. I don’t recommend it. Tell me what’s going on in your life that’s leading you to get there.
— Louis C.K.