Nick Di Paolo and Louis C.K. don’t see eye to eye on politics. That’s putting it mildly.
C.K. may have been the first mainstream entertainer to dub Donald Trump a Nazi. Di Paolo shreds every element of the progressive agenda from his self-titled podcast.
The two remain like “brothers,” Di Paolo says, one reason he quickly signed on for “Fourth of July.”
The film, directed and co-written by C.K., follows a now-sober pianist’s reunion with his combustible family. It’s based on star Joe List’s deeply personal experiences and features several of C.K.’s comedy chums (Di Paolo, Robert Kelly, Lynne Koplitz).
“Fourth of July” worked around traditional Hollywood gatekeepers given C.K.’s radioactive status within an industry that once adored him. Five years ago, the comedian admitted to exposing himself to several women.
His celebrated career collapse as a result.
C.K. slowly worked his way back into show business, self-producing two stand-up specials. “Fourth of July” is his first major film since “I Love You, Daddy,” which he wrote and directed in 2017. The comedian’s scandal convinced the film’s studio to shelve its theatrical release. It remains in limbo with no plans for a public release.
“Fourth of July” let Di Paolo reconnect with List, his former opening act. List was 24 at the time the two met, and Di Paolo saw his alcohol problem up close.
“He loved his booze, as the movie points out,” Di Paolo recalls. “He wasn’t getting any better as a comic.”
They reconnected after List got sober, and Di Paolo saw a marked difference in his peer.
“He was a different comic. His posture was standing up straight. He had a whole new 30 minutes [of material],” he says. When List made his “Late Show with David Letterman” debut, it was Di Paolo helping him with his tie before he went on stage.
“I was so proud of him,” he says.
Di Paolo plays the boorish Uncle Kevin in “Fourth of July,” but the comic says one of the actors offered the role of List’s mother might surprise audiences.
C.K.’s team sent Meryl Streep the script, according to Di Paolo, who notes she read it cover to cover before turning the gig down due to a previous commitment.
“I can’t do this, but I love it, and whoever plays Kevin will get all the laughs,” she reportedly told them.
“Fourth of July” is “selling out everywhere,” Di Paolo says, adding he wouldn’t be surprised if Hollywood eventually softens its stance against C.K.
“If anybody can make a comeback, it will be Louie,” says Di Paolo, who notes he’s had his fellow comic’s back since “day one” of the scandal. He notes the sensitivity C.K. brought to his work, particularly his FX series “Louie” which featured Di Paolo in several episodes.
“This guy is so far from being a misogynistic, [Andrew] Dice Clay type. He’s a brilliant, sensitive guy … he went a little nuts one night” he says, noting a show business hypocrisy behind C.K.’s downfall. The disgraced comic is far from alone in his actions.
Di Paolo says his wife, who worked in the music business, endured chronic sexual harassment from male colleagues.
That said, had C.K. exposed himself to Di Paolo’s sister “I’d punch him in the face.”
C.K. may not need Hollywood moving forward, Di Paolo suggests.
“Fourth of July” is drawing a crowd, C.K.’s “Sincerely Louis C.K.” just earned a Grammy and his stand-up act has little problem snagging venues.
“The Grammy win is a little foreshadowing that he’s back in somebody’s good graces in some respect,” Di Paolo says. Then again, C.K.’s solo experiment may be permanent. And he’s not alone, given the success others like Andrew Schulz are having without the usual gatekeepers.
“[C.K.] doesn’t need them … it’s an awakening. It’s good for the whole industry,” says Di Paolo, who recently moved to Georgia and produces podcast content along with his stand-up gigs.
“We’ve entered a new era. Everybody’s doing their own thing, cultivating their own audience,” he says.
Di Paolo, a Massachusetts native who spent two decades in the Big Apple, doesn’t regret leaving New York for the South. The local crowds, he notes, would rather be offended than double over with laughter.
“New York was getting intolerable … I got sick to my stomach driving down there [to the Comedy Cellar club],” he says, recalling how audiences would moan, not laugh, at edgy jokes told by comedy icons like Dave Attell.
“Comics 1/8th as provocative as I am were getting moaned at,” he says, adding he ending up cursing out his own woke crowds at the end of his New York days.
Now, he’s producing his own podcast, riffing on stage more than he ever did and “punching up” monologues for late night’s newest star, Greg Gutfeld. And he has few kind words for the late-night competition.
“The Colberts of the world, they’re not comedians. They’re a f***ing mouthpiece for the Biden administration and the Democrats. They’ve sold their souls to the devil,” he says, softening his tone for one late-night progressive.
“Kimmel disappoints me. I like him. This is the guy who created ‘The Man Show,” he says.