• Featured review: Louis C.K. — ‘Hilarious’

    There has, arguably, been no other comedy album that has gained so much buzz before its actual release than Louis C.K.’s newest gift to comedy nerds—Hilarious. And there’s good reason for that. It’s not that just about any C.K. effort is highly anticipated these days (people anxiously await his relatively rare Twitter one-liners, for Chrissakes); this time around Louis has given a project a complete life of its own before general consumers could even get their eager hands on the thing.

    So let’s take a look at some those early milestones: Shot as a feature film – produced and edited by C.K. – Hilarious became the first ever stand-up performance screened at the Sundance film festival; that went down at the start of 2010. On Sept. 8, it was shown in theaters in major cities (screenings were added due to demand); and on Sept. 18 it premiered completely uncensored on fledgling cable channel EPIX, who, to their credit, have already made a habit of landing exclusive premiere deals with David Cross, Janeane Garofalo, Lewis Black and more. Comedy Central will air Hilarious Jan. 9 at 10 pm EST followed by its DVD, CD and digital download release on Jan. 11.

    Though some of the lucky ones have seen the film or televised version of Hilarious, most fans have been waiting for more than a year to make it their own—whether that means sliding the DVD next to Shameless (2007) and Chewed Up (2008) on their shelf to complete their C.K. stand-up trilogy (hardcore fans will have his 2006 HBO One Night Stand on there, too) or dropping the digital goodness on their iPods next to the aforementioned titles— and, perhaps, (again for the hardcore C.K. heads) Louie’s self-released Live in Houston from 2001.

    Louis C.K. – Give It a Second

    So the day has come (or has almost come, depending on when you’re reading this). But, the question remains: does Hilarious live up to all the expectations? In short: yes.

    Feel free to stop reading now if that’s all you wanted to know. For those willing to dig slightly deeper, read on.

    From each new hour of C.K. material, we’ve come to expect an emotionally rich, soul-baring performance; Hilarious gives us exactly that. And like George Carlin before him, thematic patterns crucial to the performer’s voice are becoming increasingly evident in C.K.’s work. The late comedic icon described the content of his act in thirds: 1. Language; 2. Things that bring us together (“Little World) and 3. Social commentary, religion and politics or the “Big World.”

    By contrast, Louis’ hours can be loosely parsed out like this, in order of emphasis: introspection, family and finally, social criticism. It’s worth noting that C.K.’s brand of social criticism, however, leans more toward the “every day” and less on world issues. For instance, on this album, he chastises “two fat white guys” online at a coffee shop for misusing the word “hilarious”, rips into people who complain about technology when they should simply be amazed by it and questions the existence of women who’s only role in life is being “the hot girl at the bar.”

    And this time around, the hot girl at the bar is not just a bygone concept for him. It’s his reality. Hilarious finds the veteran comedian divorced after 10 years of marriage and entering the dating scene again. If you’ve seen C.K.’s largely autobiographical FX show Louie, you already know this.

    “It’s like talking to a girl at a bar because you’re attracted to her,” he says early in the album about the dreaded opening-line-at-a-club dilemma. “The first thing you say is just going to be dog shit coming out of your mouth— because you don’t know her! The only honest thing you can say to her is ‘I want to fuck your face.’ Anything else you say is just you trying really hard not to say, ‘I want to fuck your face.’”

    All at once, C.K. is funny, honest and perhaps most importantly, he affords the listener – or, at least this listener – piece of mind in knowing that we’re all perverts and its ok—or that maybe it’s not ok, but at least someone feels the same.

    Though he mines more-than-competent material from these type of observations, historically, it’s when C.K. takes aim at himself or casts his two young daughters (ages 7 and 3 at the time of the recording) as the stars of his bits that his stand-up turns into something only he can accomplish. Thankfully, Hilarious is awash in this trademark approach.

    Uncensored – Louis C.K. – The Miracle of Flight

    Most of the latter part of the album is anchored by stories about his kids. According to the now 43-year old father, the older daughter is just perfect: “She’s smarter than me. She’s more decent. She’s cleaner,” he attests. She basically exists to show how bad of a person Louis is. Of course, though, we don’t really believe he’s bad. Would a bad father take their daughters to Italy on vacation and let the older one pet a wild pony? Perhaps. You’ll have to listen.

    The three-year-old, says, C.K. “is a different story.”

    “Here’s her deal. She’s a three year old. That’s it…They are just what they are. They can’t help it. Tape the windows. It’s a fucking hurricane.”

    Louis bookends the set nicely, leaving the audience with the type of self-reflection he began with; this time, it’s a five-minute, brutal analysis of his degenerating physical appearance: “I didn’t even wear down evenly. Different parts of my body are older than others.”

    In the end, Hilarious will be remembered as one of the strongest stand-up comedy performances in the history of the art. But, then again, so was Chewed Up. There’s nothing new here in the way of his own boundaries being pushed or new topics being tackled. You couldn’t say that Hilarious is more “personal” than his last effort or that he’s expanded his worldview. C.K., in short, has just continued to be a fearless comedian who’s able to find humor in honesty.

    Get yourself a copy of Hilarious by clicking the link below. You won’t be sorry.

    Dylan P. Gadino

    Dylan is the founder and editor emeritus of Laughspin.

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