by Drew Harmon
Beginning September 18th, watch LOUIS C.K.: HILARIOUS on cable channel EPIX. If you don’t get EPIX, you can also download the film from their website.
The film is also showing on Wednesday, September 15th, 7:30pm at Embarcadero Center Cinema. (Tickets)
Louis CK opens his new concert film, “Hilarious,” by somehow referencing Hitler, reminding the audience of their inevitable death and acknowledging how awkward it can be to start a show. And then, he proves himself wrong – because he’s completely in charge of the stage from the moment he steps on and picks up the microphone.
As a comedian, Louis CK has long been respected by just about anybody who pays attention to intelligent, so-called “alternative” comedy. But he’s also a notable writer and director. Not only did CK write, direct and edit the “Hilarious” movie, he did the same duties for the first season of his show on FX, titled “Louie,” which just wrapped up and has already been renewed for a second run in the spring of 2011.
But instead of including written scenes like in the television show, the film is Louis CK doing what he’s best known for – shockingly honest material, somehow carved into remarkably funny bits that manage to confront a variety of topics in modern life without delving into tired stereotypes and weak, contrived punchlines.
For a healthy section of “Hilarious,” CK digs into airline travel and being a parent – both topics that have seen their fair share of hacky premises and awful gags from the pastel T-shirt and pushed-up, sleeves-on-a-blazer crowd. And yet in the hands – and mind – of CK, he finds new approaches into that material, flipping the expectations of what a joke about flying has been for decades and aiming the bit in a different direction completely.
CK’s direction leans towards a basic shot of himself onstage, without much decoration or extras to look at. Even his wardrobe for the film – black t-shirt, jeans and hiking boots – points to a simple, yet refined approach to the performance itself: he’s focused on the ideas within the material and his own immense skills as a comic, and allowing that to take center stage. Even though the movie was shot in a theater in Milwaukee, it seems like an intimate show that fans of Louis CK will be sorry to miss.
CK’s ability to mix the awkward with the funny is a classic blend created by a great comedic mind. His willingness to look inward to discover the general dumbing-down and hypocrisy of American culture is startling, especially in an age of finger-pointing and name-calling. Because for everything CK sees around him that makes him angry or confused, he sees the same things in himself and his own actions, and he mines that revelation for plenty of great material.
With “Hilarious,” Louis CK has once again helped to strengthen his reputation as a prolific, intelligent and funny man. While he may be filthy at times, and while he may say shocking things just for the pleasure of offending an audience, within every joke remains a heart – an underlying sadness about the state of affairs in American life and the futility of ever making them better, despite your best efforts. That point of view may be what keeps Louis CK from gaining a gigantic audience or earning himself a catchphrase to sell on t-shirts and bumper stickers, but it also gives comedy fans a great performer to watch and enjoy.
Louis C.K.: Hilarious begins airing on EPIX on September 18th.