live comedy review: louis c.k.

By Stefanie Lee on 11/17/2012

On Wednesday (November 17), I saw a master at work. I try not to use words like “master” or, for that matter, “amazing” or “best,” precisely because of this master, but because he’s the master, I’m going to do it. I saw Louis CK perform at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, a venue normally reserved for the actual Classical Music Symphony. I’d be missing a huge opportunity here if I didn’t crack some dumb joke about how Louis’ comedy is symphonic in its own right, and there goes that chance, because I’d rather say it differently, and hopefully a little more originally. Louis CK is the best comedian in the world right now–there I go again, saying “best”–but I can’t think of a single comedy fan who wouldn’t back me up on that superlative statement. He’s the best. The best. Best.

If you’re into stats, he’s been putting out–that’s writing, honing, touring with, recording, and then discarding–one hour of comedy per year since 2007. That’s insane. No one has done that since George Carlin, and Louie is very openly following in his footsteps, in terms of work ethic. Under most circumstances, one album per year is not a model that yields a quality product; see Rihanna for a clear example. But Carlin then, and Louie now, stand as beacons of light in an otherwise dull, fuzzy field of comedy mediocrity. Or, maybe that’s a little unfair. There are plenty of talented, hilarious comedians out there right now, making all of us laugh hard when we need to, and even more when we’re not expecting to. Comedy is a beautiful thing. But Louie’s mind works in such a rare, clear way that he gets even funnier and better with age. His jokes pertaining to getting older don’t feel outdated or unrelatable; even living comedy legends like Robin Williams and Jerry Seinfeld have succumbed to this staleness. Louie doesn’t. He pushes forward, ever-observant, at once cynical and hopeful about the world, experiencing it as only he can, with his mind. It’s not that he has an unfiltered mind, it’s that he has a perfectly filtered mind. He lets everything, unfiltered, filter through his mind, and the result is pure and jagged and crooked and free of schtick. He is the singular schtick-less comedian, leaning on no repeated catchphrase, no signature impression, no favorite bit as a crutch, making what comes out of his mouth unpredictable in the most honest sense of the word.

Then again, it’s probably best to let him speak for himself: from 2008’s “Chewed Up” (and this bit too), and 2007’s “Shameless” (warning: NSFW)

I’m not going to tell you what Louis said at Davies Hall last Wednesday. There’s no point. It would ruin my experience and yours, especially because you’ll see it a few months from now anyway. I am going to tell you to go to his website and buy a ticket to an upcoming show, if you happen to live in or near one of the cities on his tour. And if you can’t do that, I am going to tell you to get a Netflix Instant account and watch whatever’s available of his poignant, bizarre, contemplative, brilliant, and hilarious half-hour show from FX. Here’s a sample.

Of course, comedy is a subjective thing. Not everyone finds the same things funny, and not everyone feels the same unabashed devotion to Louis C.K. as I do. That’s fine. But for me, listening to Louis C.K.’s cadence and timing and wording and logic is an absolute truth, even when it’s made up for the sake of comedy. He mines his own imperfect veins for comedy gold, and occasionally comes across some minerals, too, knowing full well that his audience considers them both priceless. And if they don’t, they can go suc–well, you know.  Δ


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