Louis C.K.'s hilarity requires a new vocabulary
At the Vogue Theatre on Saturday, October 17
Watching Louis C.K. in action, I feel like Alvy Singer professing his “lurve” to Annie Hall. Funny is too weak a word for describing C.K.’s standup comedy. I’ve had to invent new words. He’s ferny. Fuuunny. Ffunny, with two Fs.
The 42-year-old comic wowed a sold-out house at the Vogue Theatre on Saturday, while digging deeper and deeper into darker and darker material.
C.K. is more popular today than he’s ever been in the quarter century he’s spent plying his trade, thanks in large part to a viral video of an appearance on the old Late Night With Conan O’Brien show. In it, he marvels at how good things are, despite all our bitching and complaining. And an endorsement from and role alongside Ricky Gervais in The Invention of Lying has brought him even further into the mainstream.
Despite his late-arriving overnight success, C.K. is still an uncompromising artist who broaches topics that others dare not go near. But what sets him apart from the pack is his ability to distance himself from his most offensive material, while still owning it. He voices his innermost depraved thoughts and finds himself shocked at what he’s capable of thinking, so we don’t hate him for it. We empathize. We get it. It takes a real talent, and a brave one, to suggest, for example, that if society were just a little more lenient toward “kid fucking”, there’d be a lot fewer murdered and missing children. Like fellow shit-disturber Doug Stanhope, his logic is as faultless as his subject matter is cringeworthy. But you have to get past the initial shock of his words to realize that he is in no way condoning pedophilia. It also helps that he’s not a message comic—he’s not there to sell you a way of thinking. He’s just keeping you up to date on his latest ruminations.
With a large chunk of the show focusing on the rage C.K. feels at society’s sense of entitlement (and the adjunct that things are, when you think about it, pretty amazing), he displayed a pessimism about life that rivals Arthur Schopenhauer’s. His 10-year marriage having ended in divorce, C.K. finds himself single again—only single implies hope, something he’s quick to quash. No, he’s “alone”.
Every relationship ends in misery, he says, because you’ll either split up or, in the best-case scenario where you find the partner of your dreams and you spend a fulfilling life together, you’ll eventually lose your soul mate through death. So what’s the point? Even the joyful occasion of bringing home a new pet is tempered by the inevitable: “Hey, look everybody, we’re all going to cry soon”¦ Countdown to sorrow with the puppy.” As depressing as this sounds in print, C.K.’s presentation is, well, ferny. Ffunny, even.
Of course, if we all thought like him, why would we leave the house? Because even if we laugh for 90 solid minutes, as we did, it all comes to an end. As it did.