Louis C.K. wants someone to hit him. Hard.
He's standing in the U-Save Car and Truck Rental in Queens, shooting a scene for the third season of his semiautobiographical FX comedy, Louie (premiering June 28 at 10:30 p.m.), in which his character flies home to visit his estranged father. In the scene, he's so nervous, he throws up all over his rental car. The props guy has already prepared the ''vomit'' a special blend of cream of mushroom and chunky vegetable soup in a blender. But first C.K. needs to look like he's really sick. So he wolfs down some Popeyes chicken, runs a few laps around the parking lot, and drops onto the gasoline-stained floor of the U-Save for a dozen push-ups. By the time he's done, he looks like he's going to have a heart attack. But that's not enough.
''Can someone please punch me in the stomach?'' asks C.K., red-faced and sweaty. A very tall man from his crew steps up. ''How hard?'' he asks. ''About 40 percent,'' says C.K. The tall man hits him, gently. ''A little harder,'' demands C.K. The tall man hits him so hard, there's an audible Oof! as the 44-year-old doubles over. ''Okay,'' C.K. wheezes, the blood draining from his face. ''That's good.'' The tall man starts laughing.
It's okay to think this is funny. C.K. might be the most respected comedian in America, but he still wants you to laugh at the things that make him feel awful, because they're probably the same things that make you feel awful. And he knows that his fans always laugh the hardest when he's getting punched in the gut. The best Louie episodes the ones that deal with suicide, the war in Afghanistan, and C.K.'s cringe-inducing real-life feud with Dane Cook are both very funny and very hard to watch. Consider that Louie's pilot ended with a monologue about putting his dog to sleep. According to C.K., it was the worst-testing ending in FX's history, with 100 percent of the audience reporting that it made them depressed. He refused to let anyone change it. ''I've always felt compelled to say things that most people don't want to hear,'' he admits, sitting in the diner across the street from the U-Save and eating some cold pasta from the craft-services table. ''They're either offensive or weird, but my goal has always been that anybody can enjoy them. What's more fun than taking something that's really from the depths of you something that should really be kept private and making some 54-year-old guy in flip-flops in Kentucky really laugh at it?''