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June 27, 2012 at 10:00 PM EDT

In this week’s Entertainment Weekly, writer Melissa Maerz examines the inner world of Louis C.K., who’s quickly becoming everyone’s favorite comedian — though he wants to keep that reputation in check. Having racked up raves from Joan Rivers and Chris Rock for his painfully funny FX show, Louie, and earned more than a million dollars by selling his comedy special Live at the Beacon directly to fans through his website, he knows the backlash will come eventually. “It’s gross to be giantly famous,” he tells EW. “Anybody who’s a huge superstar is suffering. They’re garish and bloated. It’s like having a fever.”

So he’s invented an equation for finding the perfect amount of fame: “Comedians find their level. Then they get pushed down another 70 percent. Then they float back up to 75 percent. And that’s about where they belong.”

Inviting us onto the set of Louie, which returns for its third season on June 28, he talks with EW about finding his own level — and then surpassing it, and getting kicked back down, and trying to find it again. The controversy over whether or not he’d host this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner taught him a lot about the kind of recognition he doesn’t want for himself. (He discusses his reaction to his biggest critic, Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, in the issue.) But he says the standup scene keeps him hungry in all the right ways.

“I always looked at Woody Allen as a great guide,” he says. “He’s a guy who came up as a comedian, who had his own voice that was sought after because of his standup. And because of his standup, when he wanted to do something this way, they would let him do it.” Now that Louis C.K. is writing, directing, casting, starring in, and otherwise tightly controlling his own show, he admits, “It ended up kinda working out.”

Jerry Schatzberg/Corbis

For more on C.K. — including memories from his friend Amy Poehler, who’s known him since the 1990s, and the reason why he’ll never cast George Clooney on his show — check out this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, available on your iPad on Thursday and on newsstands and other tablets this Friday.


Louis C.K. selling tour tickets directly to fans

The ‘Louie’ TCA panel, featuring Louis C.K.: 10 things we learned

Best of 2011 (Behind the Scenes): Louis C.K. on “Duckling”

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