*for central and eastern time zones
Although comedian Louis C.K. has gained prominence in the last few years for his leading role on the critically praised FX television series “Louie,” C.K. continues to reach out to live audiences across the country. The television show utilizes a mixture of scripted storylines and C.K.’s stand−up comedy routines, providing viewers with a taste of C.K.’sself−deprecating humor. While the show features original material for each episode, C.K.’s live stand−up shows parallel the stories within “Louie” as he describes his everyday ordeals with his daughters, women and the rest of society.
C.K. performed several stand−up shows at the Boston Symphony Hall from Jan. 3 to Jan. 5 on his most recent tour. Each night consisted of an early show beginning at 7 p.m. and a late show beginning at 10 p.m.
For the late show on C.K.’s final night in Boston, comedian Gary Gulman opened the performance with a 15−minuteroutine. Gulman, who has appeared on both “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and“The Late Show with David Letterman,” also earned the spot of runner−up during two seasons of “Last Comic Standing,” and received a positive response from the Boston audience. Gulman, employing a Boston accent, played up the show’s location by presenting a well−liked bit on the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady.
When Gulman introduced C.K. onstage, the audience applauded wildly, clearly eagerly anticipating the next hour and a half. C.K. introduced his act with a short anecdote about his first trip to Boston Symphony Hall, when he came with his father to see a classical music performance. C.K. divulged that this trip marked the first moment he realized he had full control over the act of killing himself. The audience roared with laughter in response.
C.K. is known for telling simple stories that simultaneously resonate with broader existential concepts, and this evening’s performance was no different. C.K. continued life and death themes throughout various segments of his show, including a hilarious piece on why people are so lucky to have time on earth. While audience members who may not be familiar with C.K.’s style might have expected a more uplifting indicator of the human race’s good fortune, C.K. fans were unsurprised when the comedian reduced the equation to, “We get to have sex!” The joke itself does not necessarily appear original or creative when taken out of context, but C.K. succeeds because he forms clear connections with his audience. In his fearlessness, he keeps nothing from them and in doing so builds up a bond similar an old friend who knows us at our best but more particularly at our worst. The awkward, the painful and the crude are all fair play because of this trust C.K. establishes. We are all in the same position as he is and we all share similar experiences.
The most controversial section of C.K.’s show was without a doubt his finale, which the comedian began by explaining that he often views events and ideas with an “of course, but maybe” mentality. For example, he first states that “of course” safety measures should be taken for people with nut allergies. “But maybe,” C.K. continued, those who are so allergic that contact with nuts is fatal should be allowed to die. He went on to set up another instance using the Make a Wish Foundation and the audience began to murmur and groan, deeming the topic inappropriate for humor.
C.K. maintained his hold on the audience, however, and moved on to the subject of soldiers being killed in action. At this point, heads shook and “oh mans” could be heard across the theatre, but C.K. interjected, “Hey, you laughed at those other ones — you’re all in this with me now.” The now complicit audience laughed with a sense of guilt as C.K. finished the bit. They recognized that the master comedian had proved that there is a comic dichotomy: a comedian can remain distant from a subject and stay on the outside, never taking a chance with a controversial punch line for fear of going into the politically incorrect, or a comedian can allow themself to be pulled into the comic abyss and find side−splitting and profound humor in even the darkest of subjects. C.K. has always chosen the latter, and his ability to balance with the scandalous with the thought−provoking and the profound speaks to his immense skill.
1 The media loves him.
Time called him “Steven Spielberg without the beard and with humor.” Entertainment Weeklynamed him “The World’s Greatest Comedian.” In an essay spiked with references to Kierkegaard and Marshall McLuhan, The Atlantic called him “America’s unlikely conscience.”
“There’s a media embracing of him I haven’t seen with anybody else,” said comic Andy Kindler, another longtime road warrior with stints on Everybody Loves Raymond and Late Show with David Letterman whose State of the Industry rant at this year’s Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal included a long section criticizing Louis C.K.
“In the old days, it was hard to get attention for anything that wasn’t mainstream,” added Kindler, who criticized Louis C.K. for talking too much about all the work he does on his FX show, promoting himself while also appearing to resist promotion. “Are we celebrating the art of things, or are we celebrating that they’re successful?”
2 He’s successfully taken control of his art, looking out for fans in the process.
Louis C.K.’s FX show Louie is as close to a one-man-band as possible, with the comedian writing, directing, casting and even helping create the music for his show, to Emmy-winning results.
Likewise, he sold his last concert, Live at the Beacon, online to fans for $5 a pop, earning more than $1 million in less than two weeks. His tickets for concerts, including tonight’s sold-out stand at the Straz Center in Tampa, were sold at $45 each using techniques to cut down on scalping.
A multimillionaire star who is willing to leave concert revenue on the table to thwart scalpers? What fan wouldn’t love an artist like that?
3 He’s hilariously self-deprecating while shocking the audience in ways they don’t expect.
Filthy as Louis C.K. can be onstage, nobody gets nailed worse than the man himself, who describes himself as “a bag of leaves nobody tied up.”
Critics like Kindler suspect his modesty is just a pose. But comic Gilbert Gottfried, who famously lost a job voicing the duck in commercials for insurance company Aflac after tweeting jokes about the tsunami in Japan, said audiences are often drawn to the kind of edgy, self-effacing material that scares corporations and big institutions.
“People are willing to follow you down some dark places — not corporations, but the people will,” he said, laughing. “When that (firing) happened, it became a major news item, it was all over the place, but you realize the public doesn’t care. … They get it.”
4 His creativity, once unleashed, brings amazing results.
Ask how the comic creates such a fitting score for Louie and he reveals the secret: Often the music comes first, before scenes are written.
“We always make music before I start writing,” he said. “The first thing I do all season is make two days worth of music. And some of that music helps me write. I listen to it when I’m writing.”
Like so much else on the show, the quality comes from Louis C.K. following his instincts wherever they lead. For fans of great comedy, there really isn’t anything more compelling than that.
Full article here.
It’s no secret that Louis C.K. is a fan of the distinct two-part episode structure (tonight’s episode marks the 14th time in less than three seasons there’s been a slash in the episode title). He does this to varying levels of success — I’ve discussed my theories in two-parters “Telling Jokes/Set Up,” “Barney/Never,” and“Ikea/Piano Lesson” this season — but it’s mostly an effective tool C.K. uses to highlight an overarching theme. In this case, it’s Louie desperately trying to find something he’s looking for.
Sometimes the symbolism on Louie is far from subtle, and you don’t need to make too far of a leap to connect the dots between Louie literally trying to find the people in this episode to figuratively trying to find things of deeper and more emotional meaning as he meanders about his mid-40s. (Though the symbolism here isn’t nearly as obvious as it was on , say, every episode in Season 5 of Mad Men, but that’s a discussion for another day.) But more times than not C.K. hammers home these themes with an irreplaceable endearing quality that few shows can duplicate.
The episode opens with a vignette with a rare occurrence for any Louie episode: a call-back character. In this case it’s Parker Posey’s crazy, unique girl from the bookshop in the Daddy’s Girlfriend episodes, who’s name we finally learn is Liz (not Tape Recorder). The offbeat night the two spent together really left an impact on Louie, and after she starts showing up in his dreams, he tries to seek her out. Turns out she no longer works at the book store, but with the help of very hipster-looking Chloe Sevigny, he tries to track her down despite not even knowing her last name.
It’s clear that Sevigny’s character is bored with her life at the book store and is an old-fashioned romantic. At first it seems like she just gets off on the thrill of being a low-rate P.I., snooping into other people’s personal lives and insisting Louie how “he has to” follow up on all these things about Liz, regardless of how uncomfortable he becomes. Of course, Louie’s naturally uncomfortable nature reaches an all-time high when Sevigny’s character literally gets off on her speech to at the coffee shop.
Where Part I is clearly on the more surreal side of C.K.’s projects, the “Lilly Changes” half of this slash episode hits much closer to home, showing Louie in dad mode (always my favorite Louie stories). We’ve always seen Lilly as a very intelligent and on-the-ball 10-year old, but for the first time we (briefly) see Lilly outside of her life with daddy when some of her classmates start teasing her for being a “nerd.” Louie tries to get her to open up to him, but Lilly isn’t having any of it. Louie has been proven to be a great dad, but sometimes he’s a little out of touch with his daughters (like when he tries to cheer her up by taking them on the Merry-Go-Round in Central Park, something Lilly has clearly out-grown).
Apparently when Louie is stressed, he takes his laptop in the bathroom and smokes a cigarette, and when he comes out, Jane greets him with the news that Lilly went out. Jane doesn’t seem too bothered by this, but obviously, Louie freaks out. His daughters are the only two things left in his life that he loves, and being a dad is one of the few things he’s any good at, so screwing something like this up is up there with the worst things he could ever do.
He doesn’t want to leave the house incase Lilly decides to come back, and he’s so scared to face his ex-wife with this news that he’d rather call the police to try and settle the matter than call her to see if she ran off to her mom’s house. But just when it looks like a full-on investigation for the missing girl could be underway, Lilly emerges from the closet with her robe and headphones on. Turns out she was just trying to take off some steam, 10-year old style (though seriously, who reads with headphones on?).
As usual, plenty of Louie’s insecurities are brought out in this episode, and while it wasn’t nearly as laugh-out-loud funny or emotionally poignant as many episodes this season, it was a fine filler installment leading up to the final four episodes of the season.
- “I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping, as we all should.”
- “Life isn’t that long. 80-some years, buy some shit, use it, it breaks, try to fuck somebody, hope your shit’s don’t hurt too badly.
- Classy dad move of the week: Louie giving Lilly the double middle finger when she’s not looking.
- Jane’s classmate (7 years old) is teaching her Slovenian, and she thinks it’ll be helpful to use some of it when looking for Lilly.
- You don’t need a seatbelt in a taxi. They are magic and nobody dies.
“We can’t have a show where everybody just says whatever because it’s cute,” Louie yelped in a season two episode that briefly sent up C.K.’s painful real-life experience making HBO’s Lucky Louie. With an episode like “Dad,” one has to wonder if replacing the word cute with silly or some equivalent would nullify the gripe for C.K. and turn it into a mantra. “We can have a show where everybody just says and does whatever because it’s absurd — sometimes, at least.”
Flashes of the ridiculous have abounded in Louie’s two-point-six seasons — a date ditching Louie via helicopter; a duckling halting an encroaching military firefight; a crazed hobo’s dismembered head flumping down the street after he’s accidentally launched into traffic; a dog changing into another dog during a marijuana binge; a tryst between Louie and Joan Rivers. The moments have accumulated so precipitously that, while writing and talking about Louie, I know to keep a hat nearby stocked with mostly interchangeable words like wacky, absurd, bananas, and yes, the anchor, silly. One or two can usually get me through an episode. But with so many instances crammed into the single installment that was “Dad,” it feels worthwhile to step back and wonder whether this was Louie at peak ludicrousness. I was wrong to see the title and expect a story mirroring something as heavy and filmic as season one’s similarly bluntly titled “God.” So, so wrong.
The kitchen sink approach left “Dad” with moments I wished would spin out into full stories and segments I found myself antsy during. The cold open was excellent: A serene moment of Jane’s violin playing, as impressive as it is beauteous (actress Ursula Parker apparently performed at Carnegie Hall at age eight). “It’s not time to do that right now,” a fuming Louie tells his child prodigy. “But it’s beautiful,” Jane explains. If there’s any key to the episode, it’s this —Louie is, or can be, a show capable of great beauty in its singular viewpoint and presentation and humor and realness. But tonight’s just not the time for that.
We’re soon treated to Excelsior C.K., Louie’s uncle. It’s the second appearance by 72-year-old F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus, Scarface), all but obliterating the oddness that was his cameo as a potential threesome-mate for Louie last season. In the show’s consistency-be-pretty-much-damned tradition, Abraham’s in a new role, and he’s impossible to figure out. He uses a baffling story about a boot-wearing duke and a credenza to demand Louie reconcile with his father. Along the way, he: deploys a terrifying condom-applying pantomime as a metaphor for father and son kinship; gesticulates meaningfully with his middle finger without realizing, or caring, that it’s synonymous with telling someone to fuck himself; orders two Cornish hens and some water.
There’s a reprisal of Louie’s comics-only poker game, nice in that it reminds us of the show’s deliberation on the word faggot, if not as memorable in actual content this time around. But it’s Sarah Silverman’s second consecutive appearance, and we do get to learn that Jim Norton jerks off to his own infantile porn doodles.
At the doctor, we get a great new encapsulation of C.K.’s worldview when he’s quizzed about any new stresses appearing: “I got kids and, uh, work, it’s hard sometimes, but boilerplate misery — alone in the world, might as well be a maggot sucking a dead cat’s face, what’s the point, but nothing new.”
“Dad” also holds more references to existing C.K. stand-up material than a typical episode. The lazy off-brand Staples employees? “You’re wearing a vest that matches the building; just do the thing that is the point of the place.” Doing something forbidden with a rental car (now, vomiting; then, in the Live at the Beacon special, abandoning it at airport parking)? Yup. A traffic altercation?Topic = mined.
Louie almost reuniting with his father is an anticlimax leading to a dance-remix-length version of the date fleeing Louie in a helicopter. Seconds before seeing his father’s face, Louie vaults into a breakneck run. He helmetlessly commandeers some insane three-wheeled vehicle I don’t even have a clue what it’s called. Then a climb and a jump on a Boston dock and Louie’s onto a tropical/Miami/eighties-themed speedboat and out into the ocean, as far from his father as possible, in the kookiest manner possible.
• C.K.’s actual father left when C.K. was young. “I imagine he’s seen my show. I haven’t really talked to him about it,” Louie said, perhaps cagily, in 2011.
• A couple nice behind-the-scenes bits from earlier pieces of Louie journalism: One, from Entertainment Weekly’s cover story this summer, said C.K. wanted to look genuinely sick before barfing onto the rental car, so he “wolfs down some Popeyes chicken, runs a few laps around the parking lot, and drops onto the gasoline-stained floor of the U-Save for a dozen push-ups. By the time he’s done, he looks like he’s going to have a heart attack. But that’s not enough.” He proceeded to have a crew member punch him in the stomach a couple times, once at “about 40 percent” and once “a little harder.” Jesus, Louis.
• Anecdote two, from the A.V. Club’s early season-three chat with C.K.: “I’m physically pretty banged up from this season from shit that I did. I fucking jumped into a boat that was ten feet off a dock, and I really hurt my knee. I’ve taken such a beating. But I do it because I know I’m not going to get an opportunity to do this for very long. This is going to feel like it was only a few years as soon as it’s over. I’m trying to really slow down time while it’s going on. And it’s really important to me that I earn it, that I earn what I’ve got in front of me by doing the show as well as possible. So that’s how I feel about it. It’s a big fucking deal.”
• Louie has ordered his daughters off to do homework so many times. Kids do get homework, but … ?
• Anyone else had the exact same experience in Staples or a similar place? “Please don’t ever make us help you and if we do help you we’re not going to help youhelp you.” New York’s Staples seem to operate solely on this ethos.
• You may have caught C.K.’s name sneaking into the editorial spot alongside former Woody Allen editor Susan E. Morse the last few weeks. This week the cut was all C.K.
• Louie getting out of the car and yelling “I’ll staht somethin’!” needs to get turned into a GIF immediately.