Meet the kinder, gentler Louis C.K.

TV’s most provocative comedian said his series “Louie,” which starts its fifth season Thursday, will play for more laughs this year — a vow he keeps in early episodes in which he riffs about the dangers of discovering alien life, and panics during a walk with his daughters when he suddenly has to go to the bathroom.

By sitcom standards, those may be outrageous premises, but they’re relatively tame compared with story lines from 2014, when the show often felt more like an HBO drama than an FX comedy.

“It got a little quiet last season,” C.K. said. “It’s not like I’m playing basketball and I want to play baseball. You can do them both on the same court. Most comedy movies that are comedies don’t make me laugh, but dark movies like ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘Goodfellas’ are hilarious.”

One of Season 4’s most moving episodes involved Louie befriending an overweight woman who delivers a beautiful, bitter monologue about how obese men and women are treated differently. It may have been the sitcom’s finest moment.

“Some people connected with it. Others rejected it,” C.K. said. “I love all that. All of those points are valid.”

He’s less generous when you bring up last year’s most controversial scene, in which he tries to pressure his date, played by Pamela Adlon, into having sex, forcing her against a wall as she screams for him to stop. Many viewers — including me — thought the action bordered on date rape, a theory that C.K. attempted to dismiss.

“You’re got to be careful with that word ‘rape,’ because it’s a real serious and bad thing,” he said. “It’s like calling a bad bowl of soup ‘rape.’ It kind of dilutes what it is.”

Despite downplaying the scene, C.K., 47, admitted that one crew member predicted that some audience members might get upset and Adlon herself wondered about the reaction.

“When he told me about it, I thought it was really funny,” said Adlon, who is also a producer on the show. “Then on the day we were shooting it, I looked at him and when we got done, I said, ‘I think that we may be in trouble. I don’t know if somebody’s going to get mad.’ ”

C.K., who is developing two new shows and a stand-up special for FX, said he was in a goofier, more playful mood when writing these new episodes.

But don’t think for a moment that he changed his tone just to mollify critics.

“If I’m feeling like going in a certain direction, then I just go ahead and try it,” he said. “The worst that can happen is that everybody hates it and I get canceled, and I’m not afraid of that. I’ve never been afraid of that.”