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Louis C.K.’s Successful Transition to Prime Time TV: A Review of Louie

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Louis C.K. Abstracts the Everyday Experience

The Veteran Comedian Takes to the Airwaves in Louie, Review

Louis C.K. in Louie. Photo Courtesy of SalonLouis C.K. is the kind of comedian who can use shock humor without being predictable. His sarcastic tone indicates a deeper understanding of how language often sells us short nowadays. His sardonic wit narrows in on criticizing others without ever fully dismissing himself from the joke. He is self deprecating and at the same time aggressive. He is also a father of two. He uses this blend of humility and courage to dismantle an audience’s expectations of what being a father means. He is a veteran comic with integrity. He has dedicated his comedy towards no other end than to explore the uncomfortable and under-navigated experience of someone who despises himself and at the same time has a firm grip on the fact that life is a game. Louis C.K. has changed the rules by making himself the star of a sitcom about his real life. And at the same time he does so without flair, but instead an introspective eye that leaves the viewer both appeased and unsettled. His show, Louie, flirts with darkness in a way that is new, using his comedy to expose issues such as suicide, and the tenuous grip he maintains with his own self-esteem.

The balding father is a jack of all comedic trades; he is a master of standup comedy, a screenwriter, a writer for television talk shows, and most recently has launched Louie, the hilarious sitcom. In it he plays himself, which is the perfect match because the man himself is not an actor, but instead a depressed man who uses his physical and emotional limitations to create a wry institution of comedic reality. With his bare bones style he has a way of addressing how disgusted he is with our over indulgent lifestyles. His show always begins with a few minutes of his standup comedy, which is sometimes related to the episodes and sometimes not. In one of these sets he remarks on a fellow passenger on a plane who sat beside him and complained that there was no wifi available. He goes on to make fun of this attitude which takes so much for granted, saying “you are going to be in a chair flying through the sky!”

And yet the most valuable aspect of Louis C.K. is his ability to manage his kids. His utterly realistic approach to life translates into him being a good father, one who does not spoil them. He has two daughters who rely on him. The juxtaposition between him being utterly hopeless socially and tragically self-defeating and his caring for his daughters is incredible as it shows the fusion between being an entertainer and being a human being. It is a dynamic not very well created in Hollywood, one which glamorizes stars. Louis C.K. does more than just entertain, he allows us to see him suffer, and dares us to laugh.

The pain of being alive is something that is strongly noted on in his comedy, something we see played out in episode after episode. Divorced and yet unwilling to quit dating, his love life takes him into extremely bizarre scenarios which find him bumbling for conversation. In one episode his girlfriend meets up with him in a cafe and pleads for him to “for just once be a man and decide if their relationship is going to continue.” What follows is silence as Louis can’t decide, mumbling and making indecisive facial expressions. She ends up having to break them up for him, making the scene painfully strained. In this scene we catch a glimpse of fluttering insecurity, of a man who is in too much pain to desire being alone, and too lazy to put in the work. Often in this show it seems as if Louis is showing how badly he wants to quit, a hermit living the life of a star, an enigma wiping his dirty boots on the red carpet.

But his comedy has a moral backbone to it, something which almost apologizes for its indiscretions with its determination to stay honest to himself. He will never be the star who skims over content matter in order to achieve a punch line. His willingness to pick on himself makes him strong as he has nothing to hide. He admits he was never good at picking up women and never knew how he ever got to sleep with one. As he explains he would just blurt out “Can I fuck you?” in a bewildered voice until one of them said yes. His ability to articulate the self-loathing struggle of someone who is good at heart but lacks tact is cunning. With it, he questions the very integrity of our assumptions of what it means to be a good person. He is a father and one who openly lambasts his children during his comedy, but never in a way that is not clever and never without love. Instead of pretending to be perfect, he simply does what he has to, and is in my opinion a moral leader. By portraying himself honestly, he shows America that the path of a comedian is not always glamorous. At heart his humbleness outweighs his crudeness, making his work as bittersweet and intangibly touching. Check out his show on FX which airs on Thursdays at 10:30pm.

Ezra Prior is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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