In 2006, Louis C.K. didn't know whether his HBO show would be renewed, but he didn't want to sit on his hands for months waiting to find out.
Instead of going conservative by gluing new treads onto old tires, he did something tantamount to suicide for a working comic; he threw out his whole set and started over.
I decided that I would spend the year dedicating my time to building a brand new hour from the ground up. I figured that if it was ready by September, then if I got another season of Lucky Louie, (I didn't) I could shoot that hour and then go back to work. I also figured that if we got cancelled (we did) I would really need something else ready so that I wouldn't die of depression and poverty.
So I hit the clubs hard, recorded every set I did, and started building the time. It was REALLY hard. I didn't know that it was possible for me. Then I listened to a CD called "George on George" where he talked about his work ethic and how, rather than just compiling material in general and shooting the best of what he has at the end of the year, he spent the year developing material specifically for the special. In other words, thinking of it as writing one special, like a novel. If you write a novel, it has a form, a theme, a story, whatever, and you know you're writing that novel the whole time, and when it's ready you publish it and move on. Rather than just writing "things" and then when there's enough of it you put it out.
This approach totally changed how I thought about my task....
Although I haven't been able to put my hand to a copy of George On George, I do recommend checking out the 2007 oral history George Carlin did with the Archive of American Television. Man was crazy-smart and thoughtful about what he did and how he did it.
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