Louis C.K. – Greatest Living Comedian?
There are a lot of people (including comedians) out there who would describe Louis C.K. as the best working comedian in the world. Those people are correct. The prolific comic makes lemonade out of the shitty lemons that seem to continuously fall into his lap, recounting his struggles with raising his daughters, getting older, and dealing with the minutiae that make life worth hating. He's better than Chris Rock. He's better than Dave Attell. He's even eclipsed Dave Chappelle, something I never could have imagined anyone doing . He's better than a lot of very talented, very funny people, and it's time we all sat down and rightly acknowledged this man's greatness. Because not only is Louis C.K. the funniest man alive, he may very well also be the ballsiest.
This man has no fears when he gets on stage; it's comedy in its purest form. He's just one guy, working with a straight black background, laying his guts out in order to get you to laugh. It's a cliché to say of certain comedians that they say the things you wish you could but can't. Louis C.K. goes one step beyond that- he says the stuff your mind won't even acknowledge it thinks about. He does this at the expense of embarrassing and/or horrifying those closest to him. He refers to his daughter's "twat" and doesn't even bat an eyelash. You spend an hour with Louis C.K. both laughing your ass off, and sitting in slack-jawed awe at just how much of his own psyche he's willing to expose.
Jeff Garlin recently claimed that Brian Regan is the funniest comedian in America right now, because he gets big laughs while managing to tell only clean jokes, which isn't easy. Some comedians often fall back on cursing when their jokes fail to get laughs. But what Louis does is much more difficult: it may be hard to make a clean joke about hot pockets funny, but in the end, it's still a joke about hot pockets; you haven't risked anything by telling that joke.
What Louis C.K. is doing right now is similar to what made Richard Pryor so special back in the 1970's, or what Howard Stern did when he began on the radio. Pryor was upfront about all of his personal shortcomings: his drug use, his troubles with women, his suicide attempt- he hid nothing. There was nothing in his life that was off limits on the stage. When you watched him, there was both humor and a constant sense of uncertainty as to his mental well-being.
George Carlin once said, “I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.” We could say that C.K. is all about crossing the line and pushing boundaries, but I don't think he even acknowledges those lines and boundaries. He's just being honest and poking fun at himself in his own comical way; if people think he is vulgar or offensive so be it- those people can leave, turn off the remote, or change the channel. Maybe it would be better to say that Louis crossed that line a long time ago and never looked back.
Something like that goes beyond mere comedy. That sort of emotional nakedness elevates the performance into something else entirely. Louis CK has said he hates the term, but it is performance art. At its very best, art is someone giving you a piece of their soul and that is what Louis CK does when he performs. He has no fears, and I'm not talking about being willing to get naked in front the audience or something of that sort. I mean that he has no fear of ripping his five-year-old a new one, knowing she'll hear those jokes for herself one day. He's willing to ignore all the potential emotional consequences of what he says just for the sake of laughter. It's an intensely personal, intimate form of comedy. and sometimes you feel like you're sitting in on a therapy session. That is exactly what great comedy is: a form of therapy, and that's why Louis CK is the best around.
I have been a fan of his for awhile now, watching almost every stand-up clip he's ever done as well as his critically acclaimed series, "Louie," on FX. Unlike the majority of comedians who reuse the same jokes for years, Louis is constantly writing new material. Louis has said he loves his shows "but they're a lot of work." A lot of work is right – go to one of his shows, and you probably won't recognize any of his material. He won't even use jokes from his latest DVD, "Hilarious." The Boston Globe reported that "Every year, like a compulsive spring cleaner, Louis C.K. throws out all of his material."
At his live shows, Louis entertains the crowd with his thoughts on ridiculous social norms, fatherhood, divorce, and of course, the infinite troubles of growing older. But despite the bitterness of life's shortcomings, it's clear he's not just an angry guy, but a brilliant writer and loving father who is smart as hell. Louis possesses that extraordinary quality of articulating things in a way most of us can't. He makes us laugh at the things in life that frustrate us the most and avoids sugar coating those aspects of life that scare us. I believe that will always capture people's attention.
Louis C.K. is the funniest comedian working today and his FX show Louie is one of the best comedies on the air. He's not perfect though and when he makes mistakes he will admit them. One such mistake? Getting drunk on a plane and Tweeting graphic insults about Sarah Palin just days before going on The Tonight Show and guesting alongside Bristol Palin. In an interview with GQ, C.K. describes why he regrets saying what he did. It appears it wasn’t as much the content of what he said that he regretted, but that he entered into an arena he didn’t need to. He isn’t a “political comic” and didn't want Hollywood pegging him as some kind of “gatekeeper of Obama.” But don’t think this means Louis has gone soft on Palin herself. He clarifies, "All that other shit, though, saying Palin had a Chinese family in her vagina and whatever, I don’t regret that. It’s comedy. I have said many indefensible things onstage. It’s fucking comedy. Plus, I do believe if she got elected, she’d really Hitler up the place."
Louis pushes the boundaries but still knows how to connect with an audience. More often than not, his jokes first arouse a feeling of nervousness, and then an explosive release of laughter. In the season opener, we see Louie give his five-year-old daughter the finger behind her back after she says she prefers being at her mother’s because there is better food. The situation gets edgier when he gives his older daughter a snack – a mango on a popsicle stick – and gives nothing to the younger girl because, as he says when she asks for a mango pop too, "Life isn’t fair. People aren’t treated equally; get used to it."
C.K. writes, directs and even edits the series but allows us to judge Louie for ourselves. Is he totally moronic and a sorry excuse for a dad, or cleverly preparing his daughter for the rough realities of life? Whatever way we choose to judge him, he is like a breath of fresh air; the last thing we need is more sanctimonious parents on television. In an interview with Alan Sepinwall of HitFix.com, Louis opened up about his complete control over his show and what exactly he aims for: "I like to keep people off-balance, so I like to give them shit they really like and then suddenly lead them happily down a road to somewhere disturbing. And all of a sudden they go, 'How the f*ck did I get to watching this?'"
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