The Collected Wisdom of Louis C.K.

Louis C.K. talks a lot. It’s his job. The guy’s been doing stand-up for nearly 30 years now, which means that over the years, he’s shared his thoughts on every subject imaginable. That’s why we combed through C.K.’s stand-up specials, TV show, interviews, talk show appearances, and Reddit AMAs to compile this list of over 70 of his wisest and funniest quotes, arranged by topic. From capitalism to farts, politics to masturbation, we’ve got Louis C.K.’s thoughts on a wide range of topics, all at your fingertips. Enjoy!


It seems like the better it gets, the more miserable people become. There’s never a technological advancement where people think, “Wow, we can finally do this!” … And I think a lot of it has to do with advertising. Americans have it constantly drilled into our heads, every fucking day, that we deserve everything to be perfect all the time. [Vanity Fair, 2009]


You have to be really tenacious.  You have to keep at it.  There are many roads to get there.  If you can get yourself into Harvard, that’s a good way to go, because every Harvard graduating class, the agencies come trolling around and they’ll look for you.  So if you go to Harvard, you’ll get found there. [Act Four Screenplays, 2010]

Don’t smoke pot. Don’t bitch. Don’t give up. Go on stage ANYWHERE. Try, fail, repeat. [Reddit, 2011]

There’s nothing that beats proving you’re funny by making a funny thing, and right now there are huge outlets for that, with You Tube and all the other stuff online. [Act Four Screenplays, 2010]

The only road to good shows is bad ones. Just go start having a bad time, and if you don’t give up, you will get better. [Reddit, 2012]


It’s just not normal to go in front of people and accept an award. What is that??? How does a human do that? It’s weird … I am very appreciative though. [Reddit, 2012]

Being Nice

Life’s too short to be an asshole, as an employer or as an employee. [Paley Center, 2010]


I am really tired of looking at my hips. I’m seriously really tired of standing naked in the mirror and staring at my hips for hours and hours while muttering, “You hips. You hips need to get it together.” [Vanity Fair, 2013]

Farts are—I just refuse to be snobbish about certain shit with comedy. You know, farts come out of your ass and they make a fucking trumpet sound. That shit smelling gas comes out of your ass and it makes a toot sound. What the fuck is not funny about that? It’s perfect, it’s a perfect joke. It has all the elements. [Time, 2011]


I grew up in Boston, and in Boston, people just beat the shit out of each other for no reason. They just beat the shit out of each other. But I kinda think you need that to keep quality control ‘cause in places where it doesn’t have it, they’re too free. [Louis C.K.: Shameless, 2007]


There’s nowhere I won’t go. As long as it’s horribly, horribly true and/or wrong. [Time Out London, 2008]

I don’t feel those limits when I’m on stage. For some reason, audiences let me get away with things. Remember, it’s all comedy. Words. Thoughts. All thoughts are safe and worth exploring. [Time Out London, 2008]


I just don’t trust any of it. Every time I read something about how there’s been another ridiculous climb of the Dow Jones, there’s a part of me that goes, “This can’t be good.” None of this is real money. You know what I mean? It’s not like there’s actually more of anything. It’s just ideas. When people are getting richer and richer but they’re not actually producing anything, it can’t end well. [Vanity Fair, 2009]

Even after 9/11, during the darkest moment of our recent history, the President told us, “Go shopping.” That’s how we were told to uphold American values; go out and fucking buy more shit. So what were we supposed to do? [Vanity Fair, 2009]


It’s really the kids that do you in. We have two kids. That’s fucking stupid. Don’t do that. [Louis C.K.: Shameless, 2007]

Kids are like buckets of disease that live in your house. [Louis C.K.: Chewed Up, 2008]

When you first get married, you have a relationship that’s so important to you, and you’re working on it together. But then you have a kid. And you look at your kid and you go, “Holy shit, this is my child. She has my DNA. She has my name. I would die for her.” And you look at your spouse and go, “Who the fuck are you? You’re a stranger.” [Louis C.K.: Shameless, 2007]

I used to like people more, but now I have children and that changes your life in a lot of ways. Like you spend time with people you never would have chosen to spend time with, not in a million years. I spend whole days with people, I’m like, “I never would have hung out with you. I didn’t choose you. Our children chose each other based on no criteria by the way. They’re the same size. They don’t care who they make me hang out with.” [Louis C.K.: Hilarious, 2011]


To me the goal of comedy is to just laugh, which is a really high hearted thing, visceral connection and reaction. And any time I take laughs away on the show I have to replace it with something at least that high; it has to be that height. It can’t just be interesting. It has to be holy shit one way or the other; holy shit, that’s funny or holy shit that kind of scared me. I’ve been interested in scaring people too because it’s sort of, it runs by some of the same rules as laughing. Or oh my God, that’s so, I really feel that. Or what the fuck is this? I don’t understand this. These are all heightened responses and I have to be getting one of those. If it’s not funny it has to be super compelling in another way. [Time, 2011]

I can feel how an audience is reacting when I’m on a stage, but when you are on stage, your perception is distorted. That’s something you just have to know. It’s like pilots that fly at high Gs and they lose, sometimes, consciousness and hand/eye coordination and they just have to know that that’s going to happen. They have to be trained to not try to do too much while they are doing that. So when you are on stage, you have to be aware that you are wrong about how it feels a lot of times. [AICN, 2010]

Watching Malcolm X speeches – a guy who’s saying to these people, “Nobody’s saying what you want to hear. I’m saying it ‘cause I’m one of you. And I’m one of the worst of you.” That’s just huge. That’s what it is I think to be a comedian. [AST, 2006]

I think of boxing a lot with standup. I even train with boxing trainers [AICN, 2010]

I find that when people laugh really hard, it’s usually because they’re connecting and identifying in a way that they hadn’t considered. That’s my payoff. [Pitchfork, 2010]

Everything that’s difficult you should be able to laugh about. [Vulture, 2010]

It’s just a big excuse to say awful things. [Pitchfork, 2010]


Credibility lasts about two cycles of bad material, and then you’ll probably never get it back. If you let people down, that’s really hard to come back from– harder than climbing from nothing to something, even. [Pitchfork, 2010]


Out of the people that ever were, almost all of them are dead. There are way more dead people, and you’re all gonna die and then you’re gonna be dead for way longer than you’re alive. Like that’s mostly what you’re ever gonna be. You’re just dead people that didn’t die yet.  [Louis C.K.: Hilarious, 2011]


Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce … That would be sad. If two people were married and they were really and they just had a great thing and then they got divorced, that would be really sad. But that has happened zero times. [Louis C.K.: Hilarious, 2011]


Drugs are so fucking good that they’ll ruin your life. [Live at the Beacon Theater, 2011]


I did a show in New Jersey in the auditorium of a technical high school … Technical high school, that’s where dreams are narrowed down. We tell our children, “You can do anything you want.” Their whole lives. “You can do anything!” But this place, we take kids – they’re 15, they’re young – and we tell them, “You can do eight things. We got it down to eight for you.” [Louis C.K.: Hilarious, 2011]


My uncles were all funny. My dad wasn’t funny, but my uncles were all funny. Now I go back and I like him better than them, they were manipulative funny. [AST, 2006]

I had to be the head of the household really for the first time and say okay, I have to actually make a rule that we’re going to live by here. And I decided what it was is that the family comes over the work always. I mean, with the kids it’s a priority. Because I wanted them to have a feeling like they could count on me like I was really there, I wasn’t just visiting. I didn’t want one of these moments like, “Jeez, honey, I’m sorry I’m not going to see you this week or this month or whatever because I’m going to LA.” I got some offers early that go out to LA and do parts on sitcoms and I said no, because it meant going and being away for a month. [Time, 2011]

’Fuck it.’ That’s really the attitude that’s keeps a family together. It’s not ‘We love each other!’ It’s ‘Fuck it.’ [Louis C.K.: One Night Stand, 2005]

That’s what being a parent is like. It’s like Platoon. [Time, 2011]


The meal is not over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself. [Louis C.K.: Chewed Up, 2008]


I think the idea of fucking someone who just watched you perform is… it’s just not me. [Reddit, 2011]


I remember the day I saw my hair was thinning. I don’t remember caring much. I don’t care. It’s just hair. It never bothered me much. I was pretty young, too. And it happened and is happening veeery slowly. I have a feeling dead people get really mad when we complain about losing hair. [Reddit, 2012]


I’ve started to kind of hate people, and it’s not because I have anything against them. It’s just, I enjoy it.  It’s recreation.  [Louis C.K.: Shameless, 2007]


It’s been a very old thing for people to gather together and laugh at stuff. The first comedian in America really was Abraham Lincoln … He used to go to a pub near where he lived and stand in front of the fire and he packed the place every night and he would just talk and bust everybody in their guts. He was just a hilarious speaker and that’s what he did. [AICN, 2010]

The Greatest Generation gets too much credit. Those World War II guys, if they had all the shit we have today, they’d be assholes too. It’s just circumstantial. It’s what you’re called on to do that makes you great. We haven’t been called on to do anything but buy shit and get fat. [Vanity Fair, 2009]


Friends should always tell you the truth. But please don’t. [Vanity Fair, 2013]

When you write from your gut and let the stuff stay flawed and don’t let anybody tell you to make it better, it can end up looking like nothing else. [Pitchfork, 2010]

Human Connection

I’m a vulgar, fucked-up degenerate comedian who did drugs. And I’m connecting with Christian mothers and fathers. I love that. That means so much to me. [Dead Frog, 2006]


[Listing his favorite authors] F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nicolai Gogol, Richard Wright, John Steinbeck. [Vanity Fair, 2013]

I love The Office, it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Bill Cosby, George Carlin and Richard Pryor are my favorite stand-ups. I also love Derek and Clive and everything Dudley Moore and Peter Cook did together. [Time Out London, 2008]

[Listing his favorite stand-up specials] Richard Pryor: Live in Concert. George Carlin [Back in Town] … Eddie Murphy: Delirious. Bill Cosby: Himself. [Reddit, 2011]

The earliest stand-up comedy I was aware of was Bill Cosby … I watched Saturday Night Live as soon as I was aware of it, and Monty Python used to be on PBS at weird hours, so I used to try to watch that. And I loved George Carlin on SNL, that was the first stand-up I ever really remember seeing on TV. And then Steve Martin. I guess I was in fifth or sixth grade when Steve Martin showed up, and he was instantly my idol. And Richard Pryor around the same time too, I sort of became aware of him, though I don’t remember the first time I saw him. [AST, 2006]


The last jobs I had were fixing cars and covering football games for a local access TV station. As in driving the mobile van to the field, setting up 3 cameras, teaching depressed grownups and interns how to use them and directing the game from the van and then wanting to kill myself. [Reddit, 2011]

I’d love to have a shitty job. I couldn’t hold any down. Standup was the only thing I could stick with. I’m an idiot that way. [Reddit, 2012]


Well, I think “likability” is an overused word. I don’t watch people ‘cause I like them; I watch them because they’re compelling. Sympathetic is a little different … Likable just thins you out. Working to make a character likable is what kills most TV shows.  [Vulture, 2010]


One time, I threw a candy wrapper on the street … I was with a friend who said to me, “You just littered on the street! Don’t you care about the environment?” And I thought about it, and I said, “You know what? This in’t the environment. This is New York City … New York City is not the environment. New York City is a giant piece of litter. Next to Mexico City, [it’s] the shittiest piece of litter in the world. Just a pussy, runny, smokin’, stinkin’ piece of litter. [Live at the Beacon Theater, 2011]


I ate too much and masturbated too recently, you know? It’s bad to like jerk off and run out the door, ‘cause you run into somebody. “Oh, she knows…” You got to take some time alone to process the shame. [Louis C.K.: Chewed Up, 2008]


Bill Gates has 90 billion dollars … If I had 90 billion dollars, I wouldn’t have it for long because I would just dream of all the crazy stuff I could do with it. This guy, 90 billion dollars. He could buy every baseball team and make them all wear dresses and still have 88 billion dollars. [Comedy Central Presents: Louis C.K., 2001)


To me, comedies are usually the least funny movies. Movies that are actually a comedy are usually not all that funny. To me Goodfellas and Raging Bull are two of the funniest movies I ever saw. [Vulture, 2010]

The Jackass movies are honestly some of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I laugh so hard at them. Those guys are geniuses. If they had grown up with a different group of people, they could’ve been performance artists at Bard College, and people would be writing papers about them. [Pitchfork, 2010]


I really love Barack Obama. Sorry if that’s like “Ew. The president. That’s lame.” I love Barack Obama. What a great man. I’m so lucky to have voted for that guy. [Vanity Fair, 2013]

[to Donald Rumsfeld] Are you a lizard person? [The Opie and Anthony Show, 2011]


God is like a shitty girlfriend. [Louie, 2010]

I’m not an athiest. I think god is there and that he is watching and he made us. I just don’t give a shit … I don’t “believe in god.” I have zero idea how everything got here. I would personally say that, if i had to make a list of possibles, God would be pretty far down. But if I were to make a list of people that know what the fuck they are talking about, I would be REALLY far down. [Reddit, 2011]

“It’s in the Ten Commandments to not take the Lord’s name in vain. Rape isn’t up there, by the way. Rape is not a Ten Commandment. But don’t say the dude’s name with a shitty attitude.” [Louie, 2010]

Single People

Whenever single people complain about anything, I really want them to shut the fuck up. First of all, if you’re single, your life has no consequence on the earth. Even if you’re helping people aggressively, which you’re fucking not, nobody gives a shit what happens to you. You can die, and it actually doesn’t matter. It doesn’t. Your mother will cry or whatever, but otherwise, nobody gives a shit. [Louis C.K.: Shameless, 2007]

You’ve got to be optimistic to be single. Stupid. You have to be stupid. That’s what optimistic means, you know? It means stupid. An optimist is somebody who goes, “Hey, maybe something nice will happen.” Why the fuck would anything nice happen? [Louis C.K.: Hilarious, 2011]


If you do something and people think you’re stupid, just go for crazy. You get more respect that way because nobody likes stupid people. [HBO Comedy Half-Hour, 1996]


Now we live in an amazing, amazing world and it’s wasted on the crappiest generation of spoiled idiots. [Conan, 2009]

Twitter and Facebook and MySpace; all that stuff makes you warped. We’ve all basically given ourselves data entry jobs. I’ve actually heard people say things like, “Aw shit, I have to update my Twitter.” Really? You have to? That’s a big priority for you? [Vanity Fair, 2009]

People say ‘my phone sucks.’ No it doesn’t! The shittiest cellphone in the world is a miracle. Your life sucks. Around the phone.” [Louis C.K.: Hilarious, 2011]


There’s a huge amount of work that goes into placating a network in regular television. It’s literally 70% or 80% of your workload, is showing them the material, getting their notes and presenting it to them and making sure they weigh in. It’s a huge amount of work. [Act Four Screenplays, 2010]

I remember reading an article about Frasier when it was going off the air – a very sad obituary from a TV writer who said that Frasier was such a smart show, and it was for the Mensa set. And he gave an example, where he quoted some line about a woman that Frasier thinks is very mean and he says, “Her idea of tough love is the Spanish Inquisition.” And they thought that was very smart—just because he mentioned something from history. [Dead Frog, 2006]

There’s a need to perfect things in a writers’ room, and that can take a lot of fun out of a show sometimes.  It’s a struggle.  It depends on your personality.  Some people love working with a writing staff.  I had a great writing staff on Lucky Louie, but it sometimes felt like Congress or something. [Act Four Screenplays, 2010]

Sometimes I just want to tell a story regardless of whether it fits what the show is saying. I’ve been in a lot of writing rooms where somebody says an idea and everyone’s dying, like laughing so they’re delirious. It’s like a black hole in a good way, everything starts to fall into it, you know what I mean.

And then after a few minutes everybody calms down and somebody says yeah, we can’t do it that way, it doesn’t make any sense, because it hurts this thing and this. And then everyone gets a little—has a moment of silence for the idea and moves on, and something amazing was kept away from the public. [Time, 2011]


I wish I could [keep a journal]. I have a lot of journals with one page half written in. I sometimes will write myself a quick email on my Blackberry when I think of something. [Reddit, 2012]

I can’t sit down and write jokes. I just flows in from some maddeningly elusive place. Believe me, if I had an Alaska in my brain, I would drill baby drill, and I’d cum right on Sarah’s back while I was there. [Reddit, 2012]


All these words we use, anybody can be a genius now. It used to be you had to have a thought no one ever had before or you had to invent a number. Now, it’s like, “Hey, I’ve got a cup in case we need another cup.” “Dude, you’re a genius!” [Louis C.K.: Hilarious, 2011]

For more on Louis C.K., check out some other pieces we’ve run on the comedian/actor/writer/director/middle-aged bald guy:

Louis C.K.’s 19-Year Backstory with SNL

The Short Films of Louis C.K.

Louis C.K., TJ and Dave, and the Power of Slow Comedy

The Lost Projects of Louis C.K.

The ‘Louie’ Map of New York

The Collected Wisdom of Louis C.K.