Louis C.K. is about to experience first-hand1 how an innovative team solves a high-stakes problem. But for the moment he is focused solely on his own Saturday Night Live monologue. Having practiced delivering 12 minutes of material, he is hell-bent on using every last second of it.
In an interview with his friend Judd Apatow, a leading Hollywood comedy writer and movie director, C.K. later recounted training for the solo performance “in really shitty places” where he was sure to be playing “without any support” before small, completely uninterested audiences. He was testing himself under the toughest conditions. He had never worked so hard, and the piece got steadily better week by week. At the SNL dress rehearsal, C.K. boasted, he “f---ing killed.”
Just afterward, he feels “jacked up” as he heads into a meeting with Lorne Michaels, SNL's revered creator and producer, who wants to discuss the imminent televised performance. Settling into an oversized leather chair, C.K. remembers his manager's advice: “Don't let Lorne cut a single minute.”
Michaels has other ideas. “So you did 12 minutes in the monologue,” he says. “How much do you want to do on-air?”
“I want to do all 12,” C.K. replies.
“You're not doing 12. It was good but there was a lot of air in it, a lot of stopping and starting.”
Red-faced, C.K. shoots back, “I'm doing 12.”
“Calm down,” Michaels tells him. “I'll you give you seven and nobody's ever done seven.”