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Entries in Louie (2)

Tuesday
Jul122011

Love Letters to 'Louie' - Steve Siddell

Photo courtesy of Steve Siddell

By: Keith Huang

Welcome back to "Love Letters to Louie," an unabashedly sycophantic meta-review of the television show "Louie" (Thursdays, 10:30PM on FX).

Today's semi-annual installment comes from Steve Siddell, a good friend of The Apiary, who worked as a gaffer on several episodes during the first season.

Steve is a member of the improv troupe Handsy, and can be seen fairly regularly on your TV box. He also recently starred in this excellent short video, "Conversations."

Steve writes:

"It can be frustrating to be an actor and performer whose day job is lighting for movies. Working as the gaffer on some of 'Louie' was the closest I came to breaking down and begging to be given a part. It was also one of the only things I've worked on as a technician where I would read the sides everyday (usually it's all garbage and I ignore them).

It was a pretty small crew and most people knew I did comedy stuff. I also had a few commercial spots running so I was secretly hoping that through some crazy star alignment Louie would hear about a show I was doing or see one of my spots and then cast me in some brilliantly deadpan role in an episode. That never happened, he just kindly called me a "fucker" when I tried to sneak a light on set that he didn't think was needed.

Photo: Eric Liebowitz/FX NetworksLouie definitely knew what he wanted and no one could possibly argue that the show isn't entirely his -- including the lighting. From a lighting perspective it could be difficult working for him because most scenes he just didn't want to light. We would move so fast that it seemed more like a student film than a TV show and he seemed to see the lighting guys as an annoyance rather than an asset.

However, it was fascinating for me, as a comedy person, to watch him work. Since it was his show from top to bottom and since he's a comedian, he placed the most value in maintaining a rhythm and moving quick enough that stuff stayed fresh and funny to him.

I also admired the way he would direct actors. He seemed to do a lot of takes but he directed very tightly and I'd hear him give really great notes. I think he is such a good storyteller that he just instinctively knows when a character needs to be more of a dick, or little more desperate, or whatever. I hear directors say such bullshit sometimes, especially in comedy. It's either totally pointless or just rewriting a line to make it funnier. Louie seemed to only give necessary direction.

Now, as for the way the show looks, I know a lot of people like the look, and yeah, it has a style. It's not really my style. To be honest I've still only seen a few episodes but I think even a little cinematic elegance can help tell any story, even one about a guy as inelegant as Louie.

I think the awkwardness of the technical direction gets in the way. Or maybe I'm just a frustrated, underutilized actor...wait, I mean technician."


^Steve hanging out with Davis Love III, captain of the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup team.

PREVIOUSLY

Monday
Dec132010

Love Letters to 'Louie' - Ann Carr

Louis C.K. and Ann Carr conduct some kitchen therapy on "Louie" | Photo: FX NetworksBy: Keith Huang

Welcome to "Love Letters to Louie," an ongoing series of first-person accounts by comedy people who played some part in the show "Louie." Up first is comedian and actor Ann Carr, who had a hilarious guest-starring role in the show's season finale, "Night Out." Here's what Carr had to say about crying on cue, working with Louis C.K. and her character "Karen the Way Too Emotional Babysitter":

First of all everyone, including Louis, probably knows by now that I’m a cry baby.

It really doesn’t take much. Just this morning I was watching one of those Folger’s Coffee commercials where "Bobby" comes home for the holidays and started bawling. It’s pretty pathetic. But I guess it’s also a benefit because my crying got me hired for my role on Louie (and maybe because I’m a good actress too. Not to brag or anything. I’m from Iowa. They shun braggarts and leave them in the woods to die alone).

Photo: FX NetworksThe irony is that for a very long time, I had a real, real, hang-up (and probably still will, especially after writing this) about crying on cue. But the whole process in preparing for my appearance on Louie involved crying. I had to cry on cue in the audition. Then, after nailing the audition, cried when the casting director wrote to tell me that Louie had decided to cut the episode because he felt the writing wasn’t where he wanted it to be. Then I cried because I got an email saying that Louie had changed his mind about the episode and they wanted to hire me for the role of Karen (the way too emotional babysitter). And then I cried after that to my boyfriend while saying something like: "I’ll just never forget that he gave me my first job! It just feels so wonderful to have people believe in me after all these years of struggling and sometimes not being able to believe in myself." O.M.G. I AM Karen.

Fast forward to the shoot. Um, I was PRETTY EXCITED. Basically I was in full dork mode. They put me in holding. I was reading over the script for the day and laughing -- up to that point I’d only read my scene -- and Louis walked in. "Hi, I’m Louie" -- Oh really? Thanks for clearing that up 'cause I wasn’t sure after watching your other TV show and seeing you destroy a packed auditorium with your sabre sharp comedic wit during an hour-long special.

"Yeah, I know. My boyfriend is in love with you" -- and so on. I was geeking out. As someone who writes and performs, not stand-up but her own brand of comedy, it’s just inspiring to make the acquaintance of someone you admire.

Anyway, we talked for a bit. He asked me how long I’d been in the city and when I told him, his reaction was sort of a mix of "Wow, that’s impressive" and "You’re alright with sacrificing the best years your life for this?" (Okay the last part was me projecting. But he might have very well thought that).

Then I remember he corrected me on time zones. Anyway, I was kind of nervous and a little worried, and hoped that he would approve of my performance. Mostly, though, I was pretty psyched just to be there.

Photo: FX NetworksOf course it didn’t hurt that I loved the role -- so FUNNY, and so spot-on for a woman of a specific age and specific place in life. We started shooting. It was AWESOME. Louis knows his stuff and totally knew what he wanted -- camera angles, lenses, types of shots -- he just knows his shit. Totally impressive.

And, even though he was focused and wearing all these hats, we had fun! (In spite of the role calling on me to cry pretty much the whole time). Seriously one of the best times I’ve ever had as a performer. Also, the best crew I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Just cool people all around.

So anyway, we wrap the scene and Louis says to me "So you know the whole story about this right?" And I thought I did, so I said, "Yeah, you wanted to cancel the episode!" And then he said -- like it was nothing -- "Oh, yeah, I did. But then one day I was just bumming around and decided to watch the audition tape, and when I saw your audition I CHANGED MY MIND."

Um, I almost lost it. For real. He changed his mind. Seriously, Louis. Thank you from the bottom of my heart (I’m tearing up writing this so I’m now officially pathetic). It’s so hard to be an artist and that was just such a great day and such a generous moment of encouragement.

Okay one more thing -- and he totally didn’t have to tell me this either, so ... I’d like to thank him again, especially because I know he’s had to build his career and I think he knows how hard it is to book a job and then do a good job on the job and on and on. Before I left he said "You’re a real talent. Ann." I mean ... it just means so much. So yeah, thank you Louis. You’re awesome.

I have to go wash the snot off my face now.

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