After four years, Louis CK and Dane Cook finally got to sit down and hash out the debate among comedy fans — and themselves — about whether or not Cook had lifted three of CK’s jokes. Cook had told me in a 2007 interview that he most certainly hadn’t (even questioning why people weren’t saying Louis had stolen one of those jokes from Steve Martin), and has reiterated that stance throughout. CK has remained largely silent on the matter.
On last night’s episode of Louie on FX, which Louis CK writes, directs and edits, he wrote Dane Cook into the storyline as the means by which CK must acquire concert tickets for his daughter.
Their conversation is so honest, that having spoken to both of them as often as I have, it feels as though Cook had a lot of input into the dialogue that made it into the broadcast. CK had said in interviews that on an earlier episode this season with Joan Rivers, that Rivers had asked to punch up her lines with more jokes. And of course, it’s meta-winking to have him wonder why CK isn’t saying what he’s saying in public, since it’s on TV. So, without further ado, here is the most honest dialogue you’ll probably see, on television or in real life, between two famous comedians debating joke theft involving their own careers.
I’ve transcribed the dialogue below for you if it’s easier for you to read along, or separately from the video.
LCK: Um, I need to ask you for a favor.
DC: This should be, uh, that’s really something. OK.
LCK: Look, I know that, um.
DC: Um what?
LCK: I have a daughter
DC: What can I do for you?
LCK: I have a daughter, she just turned 10, she had a birthday. She wants to go see Lady Gaga.
DC: Lady Gaga. Awesome.
LCK: And I know you have the same promoter as her.
LCK: So I was hoping that you could help me…to get her tickets, for her birthday.
DC: I could totally do that for you. Easily. I know Lady Gaga.
LCK: You do?
DC: And, yeah. I could get you tickets, backstage, and I could help you make your daughter very very happy. All you have to do is go on YouTube and tell everybody I did not steal your material.
LCK: I never said that you stole my material…
DC: You never said it. But you let other people say it.
LCK: What let? I can’t tell other people what to say!
DC: You’re full of shit!
LCK: Dane, look.
DC: You know what? I’m excited that you’re in this room right now, because I have waited four years to tell you this. You know the year 2000 and 6?
LCK: 2000 and 6?
DC: Yes. 2000 and 6.
LCK: You don’t really say 2000 and 6. It’s 2006. 2000 and 6 is like saying the year 2000 and by the way the number 6.
DC: 2000 AND 6 was the greatest year of my entire life. I had a double-platinum comedy album, first one ever to exist. I had a massive HBO special. I was on the cover of TIME.
LCK: Well, you on the corner. The little corner thing. It’s not like when the president is on the cover.
DC: 2000 and 6. That should have been like my triumph, and I enjoyed it, Louis, for maybe two months. Two months before it started to suck, because everything I read about me was about how I stole jokes from you, which I didn’t.
LCK: I kinda think you did.
DC: Dude! Why would I steal three jokes from you when I have hours of material. Why? Why! Why would I do that? Risk my reputation!
LCK: Cause they were funny jokes.
DC: You know what, Louis? You know what the biggest lie in the world is, is that I’m a rock star, I’m a millionaire, I’m a comedy behemoth, and you’re like a comic’s comic. And you’re an inside joke guy. And I’m a sell-out. And, and, and I sold my soul. And you have, and you have artistic integrity. And you’re a good guy. We’re in this room, right now, you and me. You’re looking at me. You let your name be used to hurt me. And now you’re sitting here asking me to use my fame to get you tickets to Lady Gaga? I mean, how shitty do you feel right now?
DC: So you admit that this is all bullshit.
LCK: You wanna know what I think? I don’t think that you saw me do those jokes and said I’m going to tell those jokes, too. I don’t think there’s a world where you’re that stupid. Or that bad a guy. I, I do think, though, that you’re like — you’re like a machine of success. You’re like a rocket. You’re rocketing to the stars, and your engines are sucking stuff up. Stuff is getting sucked up in your engines, like birds and bugs and some of my jokes. I think you saw me do them. I know you saw me do them, and I think they just went in your brain, and I don’t think you meant to do it, but I don’t think you stopped yourself, either. And that’s why I never felt the need to help you not be hated by a lot of people. But I feel bad. I mean I do. I feel bad.
DC: That’s great. I mean, that you feel bad, right here, in this room, just the two of us, alone. Maybe if you felt bad publicly, on the Internet, then this could all be behind us.
LCK: Well, are you willing to admit that even for a minute, that maybe you inadvertently took them, or some, maybe you had some part of it, maybe they got in your brain, you shat them out. Maybe it was inadvertent, but maybe it did happen. I shouldn’t have come here.
DC: Louis. Do you want the tickets? Because I’m sure that, honestly, I think that your daughter, I bet she’s really nice. But you have a lot of nerve coming in here. I mean, I don’t know what it’s like. I don’t have kids, so I don’t get it. But it must mean a lot for you to come in here and do this, so, you want the tickets?
LCK: Thank you. Yes. I’d like the tickets.
DC: How many?
LCK: Two, please.
DC: You got it. Hmm-mm. OK.
LCK: Thank you. I appreciate it a lot. Seriously.
DC: The one thing that, like, really just, gets to me, is the whole thing about people saying that I stole the joke about the itchy asshole. Because I get an itchy asshole. a lot. So for you to think you’re the only person who got an itchy asshole in America? I mean, that’s bullshit.
LCK: You should try natural laundry detergent.
DC: What?…Your daughter is 10?
DC: Why are you getting her tickets?
LCK: What do you mean?
DC: She’s 10. I mean, I remember being 10. An envelope when you’re 10 is, that’s a bummer. You know, when you’re a kid, you want like a box. Why didn’t you go get her something? Get her something like a gift that you found, from her daddy. You know? A box is exciting. An envelope is, you know.
P.S. Here is what Dane Cook told me back in the summer of 2007…
“I will say, Louis CK, I wrote Louis CK a letter. Louis CK wrote me a letter. I’m cool with Louis CK now. We hung out backstage at Comics Come Home, and I think we have a nice rapport. Do I think it sucks that I had to go through that rocky time, and having people saying that? Yeah. But it was going to happen, from somewhere somehow. There’s too much good happening to me, somebody had to come and blast me from somewhere. I told my family ‘Get ready, because it’s my turn to take some shots.’”
“But Louis CK is a great comic, and again, I’ve never spoken to this but, about those premises, some of those things were things I’d been doing for years. And certain people would come to me and go, ‘You were doing that in New York City too after that guy got hit by the car. What if he took it from you and put it on his CD?’ Never. Because I can look and say, if 10 comics watched a guy get hit by a car out here, right now, seven of them might go onstage that night and talk about the observational humor that they had. How many people have probably talked about it? It just happened that Louis and I had some parallel thinking. And when I look and go, maybe one night at the Cellar, he absorbed? No. I’m not going to go and blame him or say that at all, because I think he’s a great comic, and a great guy. And I hope to work with Louis CK on something someday. I hope we can put this behind us and actually do something good for the benefit of comedy. I mean, he’s a good guy. (emphasis now added)”
I saw another guy earlier this year who did essentially the same bit with the naming the kids strange sounds, and he did it for his Live at Gotham set for Comedy Central. “I know the guy that you’re talking about, because I remember people talking about it.”
And I wondered why would you do that when that’s one of the bits that people claim you’ve stolen from CK?
“What’s going on? Right. But I’ll tell you who else did that bit. Steve Martin. And Louis loves Steve Martin, and I love Steve Martin. Now would I say, ‘Louis you stole that bit from Steve Martin?’ No! Absolutely not. And that’s one of these three little pieces of things, again. Just, I’ll say to anybody, you really want to know the truth? If you want to just hate me for the sake of hating me, you want to jump on this? Well, you’ve got a good excuse. But if you really want to know the real deal, listen to ‘Harmful (When Swallowed),’ listen to ‘Retaliation,’ watch Vicious and go, ‘Who the hell else is doing this B-and-E thing?’ My comedy is my thing. I have my own unique spin that I put on stuff. You can’t look at one little piece of something without looking at the whole thing.”