Louis C.K. Candidly Explains How Pootie Tang Almost Killed His Career

Louis C.K. live at the comedy store
(Image credit: Netflix)

If you’ve watched Louis C.K.’s half-hour dramedy on FX, you might be wondering why this brilliant stand-up comedian hasn’t tried to direct more often. Louis has total creative control over the show, writing, editing and directing every stimulating episode. He regularly produces some of the most thought-provoking comedy you’ll find on cable television, and it’s a wonder he doesn’t get more opportunities to direct and flex his creative muscles.

Blame Pootie Tang, a comedy derived from a Chris Rock Show sketch that Louis -- a close friend of Rock’s -- wrote and attempted to direct back in 2001. At the time Louis was a nobody, for lack of a better word. And so when he tried to work in some of his signature, challenging comedy he met serious resistance from Paramount. The studio hired editors to chop up Louis’ final cut, then locked reels without allowing his feedback to be considered. Louis describes the horrific process in great detail during an interview with fellow comedian Jim Norton on Sirius XM’s comedy channel, Raw Dog. It’s a candid piece that’s a must listen for fans of Louis C.K. and anyone interested in the behind-the-scenes process of filmmaking:

The clip is a little old, but still fascinating. "I can’t say they took my movie away," Louis laments. "They hired me to work on a movie that I happened to have written, and that I care a lot about. But I got thrown off because I wasn’t doing what they wanted. That’s the way it works. … I had made something that was pretty unique, and nobody knew how to handle it."

Though Louis C.K. remains the credited writer on the largely-panned Pootie Tang, he basically says he hates the cut the studio released and he understands why critics and audiences hate it. He even says it killed his desire to direct.

"By the time it was finished, I was disgusted with the whole thing. And I was also a pariah. I was not hirable as a director. It ruined my filmmaking career. A good example of that is I haven’t been hired as a director since then."

Instead, he’s making his mark on FX, which, in turn, is benefiting his live comedy. You can’t bury talent even though Hollywood often tries. Hard. And this Louis interview shines a light on the inventive ways the industry often tries to silence those who have a voice.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.