Who’s the best comedian working today?
If you said Katt Williams, you probably own at least one pair of purple shoes, consider hushpuppies a vegetable and pronounce cognac with a hard “g”.
If you said Dane Cook, you’re an idiot.
If you said Steven Wright, you’re incorrect, but I like the cut of your jib. (Also: what’s a jib?)
If you said “_____” (fill in the blank with whoever will be at Stanford’s over the next few weeks), then you’re Craig Glazer.
The correct answer is Louis C.K., born Louis Szekely, native of Mexico, prolific joke-writer and all-around King of Comedy.
Fact: Louis C.K. was born in Washington DC, but lived in Mexico until he was 7. His first language was Spanish and his parents—an economist and a software engineer—divorced when he was 10. This fracture undoubtedly led C.K. to a life of sorrowful outlooks, which have likely (indisputably) influenced his comedy.
Evidence: In Season Two’s “Bummer/Bluberries.” Louie is heading to a “non-date” with a woman. Unexpectedly—and really, would anyone expect this?—Louie sidesteps a charging, lunatic transient who then caterwauls into traffic. He is hit by a truck and killed, and his decapitated head lands very near a startled Louie.
Evidence: Louie enjoys a fantasy scenario wherein an attractive neighbor begs him to fuck her with a “bag of dicks” while on an elevator ride. Once inside his comfortable Manhattan apartment, Louis sits in a chair and pleasures himself to said fantasy.
Both of these vignettes—which, along with the intersperse of stand-up sets make up his brilliant FX sitcom—are fleeting moments of absurd humor and delayed juvenile angst sandwiched between flashes of comedic brilliance that routinely leave the viewer LOL’ing one moment, and pondering their own mortality the next.
Louie, unlike the majora of modern American sitcoms, dwells somewhere within the disgusting psyche of everyone, making the viewer both uncomfortable and alternately supremely self-actualized.
We like this show because we want to fuck someone with a bag of dicks; we fear death and the unknown and all that is uncertain in the world. We cringe when elderly relatives use the word nigger, we question the validity of celebrity and we fall in love with other single parents during PTA meetings.
Louis C.K.—who is a devilishly inseparable from his onscreen character (hint: they’re the same person)—is the quintessential everyman, only he’s way goddamned funnier and a whole hell of a lot richer than your mechanic.
Fact: Speaking of, after Louis first bombed on a stage in Boston in 1984—first time out—he spent a few years as an auto-mechanic before giving it a shot again.
And thank God he did.
After honing his craft in front of calloused Massachusetts racists, he went on to write for Letterman, Conan and the Chris Rock Show. He received an Emmy nomination for his writing on the latter, a feat that he would later duplicate for his acting work on Louie.
But before that, there was Pootie Tang, Down to Earth and I Think I Love My Wife, all screenplays that he co-authored with Rock, and all things I bet he wishes he could erase from the resume, or at the very least, do over.
Same with Lucky Louie, the 13 episode HBO sitcom—with a live studio audience!—that began to scratch the surface, but left an insatiable hole where success wanted to live. There wasn’t anything wrong with Lucky Louie, per se. It was a multi-cam sitcom with some adult situations that told the tale of a wry, part-time auto-mechanic and his familial misfortunes. Despite the show receiving mixed reviews from critics, and viewership that rivaled some of the stations more acclaimed programming, HBO pulled the effort after one year.
From the ashes of his failed sitcom rose a glorious standup Phoenix, a beautiful, gluttonous bird who devoured accolades, delivered championed hour-long specials and eventually discovered the majesty of self-management: his 2011 special Live at the Beacon Theater cost $5 on his website. He made over $1 million off of the engagement.
Fact: Louis changes his standup act once a year. Entirely new material, once a year. Though I’m no expert, I don’t believe there’s another comedian doing this right now.
Maybe these long-term struggles (the failed projects, the road life, the years of financial insecurity), coupled with his own divorce (and orgied with the divorce of his parents as a young child) led to the insufferable pain that begat Louie, our cantankerous, yet loveable hero.
We all know that great comedians are borne from tragedy. It’s basically a given.
Richard Pryor grew up in a whorehouse and was molested.
Lenny Bruce battled heroin and morphine addiction most of his life.
Mitch Hedberg: ditto.
What makes comedy great is that it takes the audience away from their own shortcomings and places the weight of failure squarely on the shoulders of the entertainer. We may be fat, but they’re fatter; we may hate our life, but we have to suffer through the indignities of airport security one-tenth as often as they do.
Our love-life may be a train-wreck, but seriously… did you hear that shit about him trying to pick up that tranny at the bar? Oops.
And therein lies the brilliance of Louie. It takes the mediocre things in our lives—PTA meetings, visits with elderly relatives, first dates—and twists them into our own worst nightmares. Comedy is all around us—the absurdity of life is often macabre in itself—and this seemingly innocuous program helps us recognize that fact.
That’s why if you’re not watching, you deserve to be fucked with a bag of dicks.
Louie, Season Three premiers Thursday on FX at 9pm CT.