Stand-up comedians mostly (not always, but mostly) fall into two categories: the Michael Macintyres and the Louis CKs. The Michael McIntyres prance about on stage and screen, weaving a merry tapestry of safe, observational humour talking about really funny things like tights and how people eat their dinner. They release best-selling biographies (usually at Christmas), which you always see on the shelves at WH Smith, telling you all about how they became rich, famous and funny. It’s all very comfortable and upset-free.
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Then there’s the other category, who have stared into the abyss and realised that the human condition, far from being something you can poke gentle fun at, isn’t really anything to be celebrated and instead deserves the kind of humour which is black and merciless. Louis CK is the don of this school of thought, and lucky for us he is hitting our nation’s capital this week for a cluster of dates as part of a brief European tour. Your correspondent has tickets to see him in action at the Hammersmith Apollo on Thursday night and cannot wait, but what is it about this balding funnyman with the odd name (it’s actually derived from his birth surname Szekely) that makes him so damn awesome?
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Comedy is a strange thing: we like to laugh, but not always because we’re happy. Louis CK has an innate understanding of this concept, with an acerbic brand of comedy that mixes self-deprecation with razor-sharp takes on modern living. Many things about life are so weird or horrible that the only sane response is to find the humour in them, and Louis CK finds laughter in all facets of daily existence, however mundane, as well as poking fun at his own skewed perspectives.
What elevates Louis CK to the top of the comedic panthenon is that while his subject matter is often bleak, he somehow manages to make it something that can unite and uplift his audience. It’s misanthropic comedy but there is also a sense of wonder in his work, particularly where he express awe at something as commonplace as a smartphone.
No topic is off limits to Louis CK, including himself, and this makes for comedy that has both its feet planted firmly on the ground. Rather than battle with his flaws, the same flaws that we all deal with on a day-to-day basis, he accepts and embraces his shortcomings and turns them into a source of laughter and catharsis. He’s also really fucking funny. Here’s one of my all-time favourite skits, as he tackles the issue of homosexuality with a hefty dose of common sense;
Louis CK also happens to be an incredibly hard worker: he changes his material every year and writes, directs and produces his own TV show for the FX network. Not too long ago, he cut out the middle man entirely and began selling his own concert films for $5 a pop along with tickets for his shows via his website. This is a man with the utmost respect for his audience, who is grateful for their patronage and wants to make sure they get a fair deal. Oh, and he’s really fucking funny too. We love you, Louis, and we don’t care if you make fun of us for it.
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