Friday, July 9, 2010

Louie Review

Louis C.K. is a comedian who has been turning all the right heads for the past ten years as a writer, actor, director and stand-up. He has a new show called Louie which was picked up by FX this spring. The first episode aired on June 29th, 2010.

I've been a fan of Mr. C.K. since a coworker forwarded me his bit about airplanes from an appearance on Conan a few years back. Getting more into his comedy, I discovered that he wasn't fucking around with a mordantly depressing outlook just for laughs. His bit about being overweight and addicted to eating is at once hilarious and heartbreaking, a line lesser comedians either have the wisdom not to straddle or try and fail. Most of his humor follows the arc of an amusing set-up, a human failure, and then total ownership of not only the isolated incident of failure but of the neurosis that gave rise to it.

One of his most refreshing characteristics is that he doesn't rely on sarcasm and irony for laughs. He owns his outlook and inhabits the situations he describes, whether he actually experienced them or not. He is not a snide observer watching a 22 year old girl shiver in the cold with nothing on, standing on line for a club. He is himself and he gets his laughs by exposing the audience to his thought process. Sympathy for her youth, resentment at her sex appeal, and palpably, depressingly, desperation. We laugh with him as he laughs at himself.

This is not to say that Louis is a loser that we laugh at. While there are certainly vestiges of a self-deprecating class clown in him, he has an air of confidence that fully humanizes his neuroses and makes them relateable. And it is this fully rounded picture of a human that elevates his comedy above others in his field. Comedy has traditionally been used to make light of the situations in our lives that would otherwise bore, depress, or sadden us. But with Louis C.K., comedy makes light of us. The situations are merely pathways into our shared human experience which we all recognize when paraded onstage but would prefer not to think about at any great length on our own.

This post claims to be a review of the television show Louie and, despite not dealing with any content from the show itself, it is. Louie is Louis C.K. As he does with his stand-up, Louis totally inhabits his show. He is a man obsessed with the incongruity between how we like to think of ourselves and how we really are. A man obsessed with the gulf between how we think humans should behave and how we are actually wired together. And while the first two episodes of his show have him acting out stories instead of recounting them, he does not lose his clout. We swim in the gap between social and private behavior as easily (and entertained) as we do in his stand-up.

Watch Louie on FX, Tuesdays at 11pm.