The Reign Of King LouiePosted: September 5, 2012
The New Comedy Revolution
By Josh Tuper
French monarch Louis XVI was kind of a shitty king. I’ll spare you all a history lesson, because I’m far from a historian, but basically he was indecisive, weak, wasn’t too into reforms, and eventually led to a revolution and his beheading. Then Napoleon came around and he was just the WORST. Anyway, centuries later a new king Lou has risen up from court jester to bring forth his own revolution (or more like a revoLOLtion, am I right?). He is the great Louis Szekely I, better known as Louis C.K.
It’s not news that C.K.’s series on FX Louie is amazing. It’s raved about by critics on a weekly basis, and those who don’t watch the show are truly missing out. In it’s third season, Louie has touched on subjects such as death, parenthood, war, love, suicide, sex, self image, regret, religion and farts. All topics that we, as human beings, have t0 face and attempt to deal with every day. And while most television shows try and face the issues of our embarrassing humanity, C.K. takes them head on, shoving them in your face without regard for the viewer’s comfort level. It’s awkward for us to watch, but only because we can relate too much. In an episode of this current season, Louie meets a young man in Miami who he becomes friends with. A nice story of companionship in a new place, until the awkwardness of reality sets in as he tries to tell his new buddy that he’s not gay. It’s a new take on the Seinfeld “not that there’s anything wrong with that” bit. Louie, both in real life and his exaggerated television counterpart, wants to be an open-minded forward-thinking man. But he’s only human, and life is uncomfortable.
At it’s core, Louie is in fact a situational comedy. But calling it a sitcom seems hard, and even harder if you’re the type who needs to categorize it in some sort of sub-genre. While most sitcoms and comedies are essentially simple stories with as many jokes and gags shoved in as possible, Louie relies on story first and foremost. The laughs come when they can, because the situations and real-life struggles Louis C.K. faces are funny enough on their own. Sometimes the show isn’t even that funny, yet it’s still the best comedy currently on television. The series’ style itself is even hard to classify in terms of traditional television. Episodes are typically unconnected and each segment is a separate vignette. It barely uses story arcs, except for the occasional woman in his life (such as Pamela Adlon in season two and Parker Posey this season). When I watch an episode I feel like I’m watching a collection of short films, rather than a TV program. But that’s the point, and that’s what makes it so true to life. Reality isn’t always an easy three act story-line and there isn’t always a clean conclusion. Life is messy and random. I propose that we take away the title “reality television” from what it currently represents, and give it to Louie.
Louis C.K.’s revolution is mostly being televised, but there is more to his genius beyond creating the series. Louie has taken out the middleman of comedy distribution, releasing his last two stand-up specials Live at the Beacon Theater, and WORD: Live at Carnegie Hall exclusively digital and only available on his own website for a small price of five dollars. This led to other comedians, namely Aziz Ansari and Jim Gaffigan, to take on similar endeavors. This provides for an almost intimate relationship between comedian and fan, and could most likely completely change the way comedy specials are distributed. Furthermore, I wouldn’t be surprised if this method encouraged new comedians to release their specials without the help of labels, distributors, or Comedy Central’s near monopoly on stand-up comedy.
Louis C.K. is a genius, innovator, and the truest modern day auteur. Everything he does is his own. He’s had complete control of Louie since day one. He does what he wants with his comedy specials, including the profits (the majority of profit from Live at the Beacon Theater was donated to charities). Plus he’s in such high demand that he his upcoming fall tour includes over ten New York City performances! All of which he’s selling directly from his website as well. Yes, Louie is the king of comedy. But that’s not why we love him. Despite all his success and recent fame, he remains a normal guy with stress, anxiety, and fear about life, family, love, farts, and masturbation. Maybe if those French monarchs made more dick jokes, things would have ended better.