Though impatient fans may have not liked the 19 months in between the third and upcoming fourth season of “Louie,” Louis C.K. said the break was good for him in a Tuesday evening discussion with New York Times writer Bill Carter at the Directors Guild. Two episodes of the FX hit will air on May 5, to be followed by two each week for the season’s 14-episode run.
The three episodes screened prior to C.K.’s conversation revealed more of the show’s signature offbeat approach. An embarrassing injury obtained at a sex toy shop is treated by a stoic physician played by Charles Grodin, while a night spent in the company of a beautiful astronaut’s daughter lands C.K.’s character in jail.
Preparation for the season, a full two months of which consisted of C.K. taking notes before putting anything into script form, was a pleasurable experience for the comedian.
“I enjoyed again sitting down and writing,” he said. “I didn’t want to do a season that the point of the season was I need another season. I wanted to have a story that I really wanted to tell, so I think that time off helped that way.”
C.K.’s talk with Carter provided insight into the unorthodox way that the series is filmed.
“The first episode back is kind of a dumping ground of many little things that didn’t end up in an episode,” he explained, while promising that the rest of the season will have a more cohesive nature.
Viewers can expect a season that improves upon the earlier three, if C.K.’s promises hold true.
“The early seasons we did really fast and we would shoot like three different locations a day,” he said. “It was really brutal. But this season we went much slower. We got more from the network to do the episodes and so I asked that we only shoot one scene a day and that we take a much longer time to shoot it.”
For C.K. devotees in the audience (there were many), the night provided an opportunity to gain insight into the way that his comedic mind works. In “The Elevator,” an older Hungarian woman, played by Ellen Burstyn, becomes trapped in the elevator. The entire concept was born out of a simple thought: “That started with the idea of somebody getting stuck in the elevator and I needed to help her. That was all I thought and then I thought, ‘Well maybe she needs me to go into her apartment.’ And I had a bunch of versions like, ‘Maybe there’s guns in there, like a lot of guns,’” he revealed.
“And then I thought about there’s a half-naked woman who’s asleep and that I have an imperative to try to wake up a half-naked stranger and that just was an interesting problem to me.”
The comedian also touched on both the element of control that FX has granted C.K. (he explained that his agreement with network president John Landgraf allows him complete creative autonomy) and his oversight over the whole operation, which is run in a very un-Hollywood manner.
“We have a small crew, we have very few vehicles,” C.K. told the crowd. “I don’t have a trailer, I just sit in my car. I change in my car and I sit in my car. It just seems so absurd to me, living in New York, to have a trailer with a chair and a TV. It’s ridiculous.”
Carter, author of “The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy,” mentioned David Letterman’s recent retirement announcement, a development that Louie had foreshadowed in a season three plot arc that saw C.K.’s character auditioning to replace him in the iconic role, though Stephen Colbert was recently announced as successor for the gig.
“I could never be that guy,” C.K. assured Carter, to much laughter. “I wouldn’t want it and nobody would want me to do that job.”
The season premiere will air May 5 at 10 p.m. Jerry Seinfeld, Victor Garber, Burstyn and Jeremy Renner are among the talent that C.K. has recruited to appear in the upcoming season.