If you couldn’t already tell from the numerous posts devoted to Louis C.K. this week, “Louie” returns tonight to begin the third season of what may be the best all-around comedy on television right now. It’s at the very least, the most abstractly original, insightful, and interesting comedy on television right.
Louis C.K. appeals to a lot of people in different ways, but the biggest comedic draw for me are his parenting philosophies. A lot of stand-up comedians center their acts on exes, sex, masturbation, politics, gender, race, and sexuality, and there’s plenty of that in Louis’ stand-up, but what sets him apart from almost all the others are his thoughts on parenting. They are funny, they are wise, and they are spot-on. Once you have kids, there’s little more satisfying than having your biggest complaints about parenting reflected back in a darkly hilarious manner. Somehow, it makes parenting feel more cool than it actually is.
In fact, If you ask Louis C.K. what makes him a successful stand-up comedian now, he’ll tell you that it was becoming a parent. Actually, Rolling Stone did ask him that question, and he responded:
It was because before I was a kid, I think, and I’d simply escaped – those were just childhood annoyances that I escaped from, I think, through a certain kind of comedy. But having kids, you don’t escape from it, you seize onto it, it’s a big, stressful, exhilarating, real life thing. And it’s permanent, it’s something that you have to evolve for. Some people don’t, but I think you have to actually change your values system, and you have to revolutionize yourself in order to do it properly, because kids can’t raise kids, and I think you’re somewhat a kid until you have them, then you really have to grow up. Again, some people don’t, there’s a lot of bad parents. That’s what you call on.
Since parenting plays such an important role in his comedy, I spent a couple of hours going through Louis C.K.’s interviews and through his stand-up acts, and below I’ve collected his best quotes on parenting. Think of it as a handbook on how to be a good — or at least successful — parent without losing your sense of humor or perspective.
- On Naming Your Kid
“There are no laws on naming your children. None. You can name them anything you want. I’d like to name my kid a whole phrase. You know, something like ‘Ladies and Gentlemen.’ That’ll be a cool name for a kid. ‘This is my son, Ladies and Gentlemen!’ Then, when he gets out of hand, I get to go, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, please!’
- On Avoiding Illness
Kids are like buckets of disease. Last week I got a flu that I caught, because my daughter coughed … into my mouth.
- On Hitting Kids
“I really think it’s crazy that we hit our kids. Here’s the crazy part about it; kids are the only people in the world that you’re allowed to hit. Do you realize that? They’re the most vulnerable and the most destroyed by being hit but it’s totally OK to hit them. And they’re the only ones! if you hit a dog they will put you in jail for that shit. You can’t hit a person unless you can prove that they were trying to kill you. But a little tiny person with a head this big who trusts you implicitly: ‘FUCK ‘EM, WHO GIVES A SHIT! LET’S ALL HIT THEM!’ People want you to hit your kid. If your kid is making noise: ‘HIT HIM! HIT ‘EM!’”
- On Just Getting Fuccking Through It Some Days
It’s like Platoon. You’ve got all this fucking stuff; you have an impossible amount of shit to carry, and usually, a kid sometimes too. And I see parents all over the place with skinny little ankles and, you know, with no particular features and they just — life’s worn them down to a basic like human shape, you know? Their personality and whatever they — the lines in their face and the chiseling is gone. They’re just this thing and it’s like ant strength, and you just have to, you just have to do it to get through whatever fucking, you know, we’ve got to get from here to there. And she didn’t want to be here any more, and she has to go to the bathroom, and I’ve got a stroller.”
- On Gender Roles in Parenting
Roles have all changed. There’s a lot of fathers who take care of their kids, there’s a lot of mothers who have careers. But in culture, those roles are still the same. When I take my kids out for dinner or lunch, people smile at us. A waitress said to my kids the other day, “Isn’t that nice that you’re getting to have a little lunch with your daddy?” And I was insulted by it, because I’m like, I’m fucking taking them to lunch, and then I’m taking them home, and then I’m feeding them and doing their homework with them and putting them to bed. She’s like, Oh, this is special time with daddy. Well, no, this is boring time with daddy, the same as everything.
- On Where to Find Parenting Role Models
Being a father is something I had to figure out on my own, because I didn’t really have a role model for a dad. I look at other fathers and they’re role models for me. And as far as work goes, I had to raise myself. When you don’t have a dad, you sort of collectively and from within find the strength that a dad is usually called on to give a kid. So that informs the way I work hard when I do and also when I’m not able to, it probably gives me a little bit of a problem with authority, I really don’t like being told what to do or say, it really bothers me, down in the guts, so I think that’s probably from that.
- On Telling Your Kids About Gay Marriage
“It doesn’t have ANY effect on your life. What do you care? People try to talk about it like it’s a social issue. Like when you see someone stand up on a talk show and say “How am I supposed to explain to my child that two men are getting married?” …. I dunno,it’s your shitty kid, you fuckin’ tell ‘em. Why is that anyone else’s problem? Two guys are in LOVE but they can’t get married because YOU don’t want to talk to your ugly child for fuckin’ five minutes?”
- On Shitty Kids
Some kids suck. Some kids are just shitty … and I think that some parents just want to [flip off] their kids all the time. As much as you love your kid, there has to be those times, when your kid is being a shit, and he’s going ‘Why can’t I have some candy, I wanted a candy,’ and you just wanna go, ‘You know what? Fuck you kid, alright? Fuck you. How do you like that? Fuck you, buddy.’”
- On Not Acting Like An Idiot When You’re Raising Your Kid
“I’m not doing a good job of raising my kids. I’m trying, and my goal to to have kids that are better than I am … that’s important, because I think human beings are still evolving … so there’s nothing less than human evolution at stake when you act like an idiot. And if you are an idiot, you should be selected out … by lions.
- On Sympathizing With Other Parents
You know when you see a mother someplace, like at McDonalds, and she’s melting down on her kid. She’s like, ‘Shut up. I hate you and you’re ugly.’ And people are sitting around and saying, ‘Oh my goodness. She’s a horrible mother.’ Guess what? Those people aren’t fucking parents. They don’t have kids. Because any parents that are in that store are saying, ‘What did that shitty kid do to that poor woman?’”
- On Dealing With Questions From Your Kid
“A kid asks [her distraught parent] a question like, ‘Why is the sky blue?’ And her mom is like, ‘Just shut up and eat your french fries.’ And you think, ‘What a terrible mother. Why doesn’t she answer her child? When I have a child I will answer all of their questions. And open their minds to the wonders of the world.’ Well, guess what. You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. You can’t answer a kid’s question. They don’t accept any answer. They’re never like, ‘Oh. Thanks. Now I get it.’ They just keep coming, ‘Why, why, why, why?’ until you don’t even know who the fuck you are anymore at the end of the conversation.
- The Best Parenting Philosophy You’ll Ever Need to Know
“I have one guiding philosophy on raising kids, and it’s an old saying I’ve renovated. ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Leave the dude alone, and he’ll figure it out.”