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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: LOUIS CK: HILARIOUS

Written, Edited and Directed by Louis CK (Circus Time Productions)


Massachusetts native Louis CK's new standup movie comes out today called Hilarious and I have been waiting patiently for it for a while. Louis is one of the premiere comics in America today and along with the sadly retired Dave Chappelle, George Lopez and Patton Oswalt is one of the top observers on male contemporary life. Louis' impressive resume includes a writing Emmy for his work on The Chris Rock Show, writing and directing some vehicles for Rock (Down To Earth, I Think I Love My Wife, Pootie Tang), roles in movies like The Invention of Lying, and Role Models countless stand up specials as well as his own highly regarded TV shows on HBO (Lucky Louie) and FX (Louie), and his numerous hit stand up specials and sold out tours.


Ricky Gervais guest starred on Louis Season 1
Hilarious has been winning praise from the jump off. It has lofty the distinction as the first standup movie ever to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and spent most of last year on the indie film circuit. I was lucky enough to see his last special live in Boston 2008's Chewed Up and I had high hopes to see more of Louis' unflinching and fearless style again which I honestly can't get enough of.


After an ominous opening where the music sounded eerily like LED ZEPPELIN's epic “No Quarter”, Louis tackles the most real and painful subjects of life with a deadpan, self-depreciating delivery. The way Louis takes on these topics is both funny and sad at the same time and shows how exasperated and vulnerable he can be. Like a small child with no lid, the laughter he draws out from the crowd is genuine since he says the the things we think, but dare not say. Sometimes there is a uneasy nervousness that develops since he broaches a lot of topics that seem off limits to other comics, but is in this facet of his act the Louis shines most brightly.



Louis causally discusses mundane things about life that vex him, death, his insecurity about being newly single following his divorce, sex, racism and stupidity of people, the antics of his children and problems with aging. By alternately toying with the audience's comfort zone he really uncovers a lot of the collective pathos that we all feel, but can't always talk about. He also discusses how we take modern life for granted and in this way he has become one of the great social thinkers of our time with an honesty that is lacking from the work of many other comediennes. One thing Louis incorporates in Hilarious more than his past acts is taking on the euphemisms and the modern cliche of over exaggerating soft language like his hero and mine, George Carlin. I saw a great interview a year ago where he talked about the album Carlin on Comedy where Louis talked about modeling his recent standup career on Carlin. Carlin's technique for creating his standup act was to constantly reinvents his act to become a more prolific writer and be more original over time. Louis has taken this up and admitted that he is better at comedy as a result.


There will never be another...
As I was watching the film I had a concept fly into my mind from my class at Boston University last year with historian Professor Joe Boskin. To sum it up I'll paraphrase from Steve Martin's memoir BORN STANDING UP from 2007:


Martin describes comedy and the performance of comedy as being the one place in life where the audience is in the dark and performer on stage is illuminated like a dressing room mirror that reflects back all of the audiences’ experiences. It is the collective understanding of this shared, immediate exchange that creates what is satisfying for both the comedian and the audience, which of course is laughter and understanding. In Martin’s opinion comedy is not safe, but rather daring and risk taking in its’ attempt to "shine a light back to society.” 


Louis does this with great aplomb and never condescends to the crowd, always placing himself in the same boat as us and giving us back a “we're all screwed and we're in this thing together” kind of vibe. This may be his greatest gift of all.

Lucky Louie was such a dark and underrated show.

Even though Louis singled out the word genius as prime example of modern abuse I think it is safe to say history will show the term accurately describes him. Please go buy the DVD and CD today so as Louis might say his childrens' futures will be somewhat less shitty and rotten.

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