Why Louis C.K. doesn’t let fans take pictures of him.

Are you having actual experiences? Or do you do things simply for the sake of recording and sharing them? It may seem like a silly question, but it’s worth thinking about.

This week comedian Louis C.K. did an iama (“I Am A…”), which is essentialy an intrview with the Reddit hivemind. Reddit loves Louis, so the results were wonderful, but I want to talk about one comment in particular. Louis only recently rose to national prominence, and is now regularly recognized on the streets of New York City where he lives. When a Redditor asked Louis how he feels about this, Louis explained why fans wanting pictures with him made him enjoy meeting them less, at least until he stopped doing pictures with them.

“Every person on the planet now has a camera,” said Louis, “so it sometimes happens that up to 20 people in one day or more want me to pose with them for a picture that they can put it on Facebook. That’s a lot. Also I don’t like doing it. It makes me feel weird.”

He didn’t always mind connecting with fans. In fact, he used to love it: “I remembered that when it was earlier in my career, when someone would say something like, once or twice day, I really liked it and felt genuine interest in them and gratitude”.

So Louis adapted a new policy. “I refuse to ever take a picture with anyone,” he said. “I just say no. I don’t do that. But I shake their hand and I talk to them for a bit. Because I like that. I can tell this disappoints people for a second but as we talk they feel okay about it.”

An actual conversation. An actual experience. To me, that’s better than a photo.

Not so long ago, if you wanted to take pictures, you had to conciously decide to carry a camera with you. Not anymore. Everyone carries their cell phones everywhere, and all of them have built-in cameras.

So we take pictures constantly, creating an entire genre of photos we didn’t have a word for just ten years ago: the Facebook photo. It’s a quick snap of yourself and your friends, with a touch of where you are in the background, taken primarily to document the fact that you hung out with a given friend.

These photos can be fun, but they can also take away from actually enjoying a given moment.

In 2006 I wrote about how technology was starting to intrude on real moments, in real life. Some friends and I, during a trip to the St. Louis, stumbled upon a view of the World Series from the top story of a parking garage. It was amazing, but when I turned to my friends to talk to them about it I was interupted by cell phones. Everyone was on the phone, asking if their friends and famailes were watching the game and explaining that they were watching the game from a parking garage. I couldn’t share the moment with them, because they were sharing it with someone else.

People pay more attention to their phones now than I could have imagined way back in 2006. What you pay attention to matters, however, so I”m going to ask again: are you having actual experiences? Or do you do things simply for the sake of recording and sharing them?

Think about it. Sure: you can look at photos and videos whenever you want, but actual experiences only happen once.


  1. Interesting read. I didn’t know that about C.K., but that is perfectly understandable. It’s good that he has the guts to just say no to it instead of doing it with some and not with others. That would actually hurt fans more, as it’s bound to catch on: “What? They guy has a photo with him, but he told me no? Jerk!”

  2. Something you mentioned in this article resonated with me…and brought me back to another article you wrote as well.

    You said, “In 2006 I wrote about how technology was starting to intrude on real moments, in real life.”

    Yes, this is so true! Younger people lack the experiences and perspective that I have (as I graduated HS in ’76)…that prove your statement to be so true!!

    The other article you wrote about cursive is a prime example! You used the word “useless” when referring to it…which shows your lack of perspective. It also shows how much technology has has not only intruded, but erased some of the ties to real life.

    Cursive, you say, is tied to real life? Yes I say…It surely is. Taking it away has helped in a big way to distance this generation even more from history. One of the biggest links that tie us to it is being able to dicipher all the historic documents…which are all in cursive. Now the common person…high school or college student…going to a museum or doing research online will not be able to read any of the documents. It is a huge shame.

    Also, our signitures…signing our name…has down through history been what separates us from the next person. I’ve kept the cards and letters of my grandparents and other distant relatives…why? Because of their signitures…which told so much about them.

    We have robbed this generation of something precious. We’ve let technology get in the way of real life.

    As a side note. It’s interesting that vinyl records are coming back when they used to think they were so archaic. But of course it’s because the sound that resonates from an LP can’t be matched. Also, railroad ties were taken out all over the country because trains were thought to be archaic as well…but now they are putting so many of them back because they’ve come to their senses that it’s one if the best forms of transit…but sadly at a great financial cost of having to replace them.

    Come on…leave well enough alone!

    1. You speak as though cursive handwriting is some innate part of being human, but it isn’t. It’s an invention. It’s technology. There’s nothing natural about it, it’s a tool that we used for a particular period of time and that we are now using less and less.

      The fact that we’re using it less isn’t because schools aren’t teaching it – schools aren’t teaching it because people aren’t using it. Mine isn’t the side of this discussions that’s activist – yours is. You’d keep something irrelevant in the school systems out of nostalgia, while that time could be used for something constructive. You’re the one who needs to leave well enough alone, not me.

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