Louis C.K.: I learned that those things aren't so bad. I learned that the benefit of the education is worth the trouble. It goes away. You take a few days off, and let yourself wallow, and then you get a little tired of hearing it from yourself, and then you get interested in something else. It would be like if you could go to hell, for a visit, before you die, and you found out it wasn't so bad. If damnation is actually kind of comfortable, the place they put you up is kind of nice, and the people are cool. And then you go back to your life and say, Fuck this, man. I'm doing whatever I want.
Having a movie go down in flames and having a series canceled, and the cancelation cheered by the fucking TV intelligentsia, those are the two hells of putting yourself out there and trying to make a show. I've lived them both, and it wasn't so bad. I still had wind in my sails, so now I'm not afraid to do that anymore.
Slate: You were defending Tracy Morgan on Twitter this week for some controversial jokes he made at a show in Nashville. [Morgan said that homosexuality is a choice, and that if he had a gay son he would stab him to death.] Why did you think it was clear that he was "fucking around"?
Louis C.K.: Well I've said a lot of things that were worse than what he said. I have my things that make it OK for people when I say them. I have my irony and different levels that I'm working at, so that makes it OK for people around me, for people that come to my shows. And people heard this Tracy shit mostly third-hand. He didn't stand on a public stage and say this stuff. He didn't make these announcements: "Here, America, are my views." Where you say something makes a huge difference about what you say and what it means and what you let yourself say.
There's a lot of times when I let myself channel bad ideas as a way to do comedy. I think it's something that's a healthy thing to do, honestly. And I think the person who really fucked people up and hurt people with Tracy's words was whoever took it out of that Nashville club and put it on the national stage—whoever called Huffington Post or whoever started this shit, and said, "Guess what Tracy Morgan said," and announced it to the rest of the world. He wasn't trying to say it to the rest of the world. So when I read stuff like, How are gay people going to feel when they read this? Well they didn't have to read it! They weren't part of that show. Maybe there were gay people there who were laughing. You don't fucking know. Nobody gets to say that they represent anybody and they're offended on behalf of the whole world.
You can see this shit really bothers me. I didn't carefully inspect what he said. I heard some of it, and it made me laugh. I didn't get the context, but I have to defend it, because if I was in his role, if I was in his situation, which I might be someday—which I already am for having said something on his behalf—I would want someone to step forward and say something. This is a freedom that I live off of. I think, whatever, if Tracy made a mistake, he certainly didn't deserve all of this. And I don't know him well, but he's a good guy. So I'm using that judgment, of just, hey, I met him and he's a good guy. And I get a sense of him as a father, and there's no way he would stab his kid.
It's a dumb thing to take at face value. You'd have to be a moron. And if you do, you are not allowed to laugh at any more jokes. You are not allowed to laugh at any jokes that have any violence or negative feelings attached to them, ironically or otherwise. I think there's a lot of hypocrisy in that. If anybody thinks that what he said is true and there's no comedy in it, don't come to my shows. I've said to many audiences that I think you shouldn't rape someone unless you have a good reason, like you want to fuck them and they won't let you. That's worse than what he said! And I didn't wink and say, just kidding. I just said it.
Slate: But you first told that joke a while ago, right? I wonder if you had initially told that joke today, with the Internet what it is now, if it would have become more of a firestorm.
Louis C.K.: That's absolutely true, and it's dangerous. Of course I wouldn't fucking rape anybody. Of course it's not OK. It's stupid to even have to say that out loud, but that's where all this is headed, and that's why I said something. That's why I got into this dirty mess, and I know it is dirty, and I know that there's a lot of people who are going to say, "Oh, I must not really care about gay people's problems." Of course I do! I've devoted several chunky bits to telling people to leave gay people alone. I'm out there saying it 50 ways to Sunday. It's not about that. But this shit really bothers me, it really does.
Slate: Finally, what's the best thing you saw on the Internet this week?
Louis C.K.: Jeez, I don't know. I don't see a lot of stuff on the Internet, where I go, "Oh, awesome." You know what? I watched Family Guy on Netflix and I laughed really hard. It was something to do with that fucking dog. I think that's what it was.
This interview has been condensed and edited.