When the Bell House announced late last Friday that it would be adding a third show to its sold-out Louis C.K. run, I ditched my mountain of unfinished BULLETT business and flagged a cab to Brooklyn. [Ed. note: Leila, you’re fired.] Tickets to the fleshy and freckled comedian’s live performance were in such high demand that news of their availability began trending on Twitter.
Whether or not it’s possible for a 44-year-old standup veteran to embody a zeitgeist is still unclear, but in a comedic landscape overrun with Larry Davids, Alec Baldwins, and H. Jon Benjamins, Louis C.K.’s frumpy honesty is oddly touching. In his FX show Louie, C.K. plays a version of himself: a bumbling and lonely single dad who generally makes good decisions, and cares about the people around him. His is a “manly” brand of humor (he revels in gross bodily functions and understands the fairer sex about as much as he does exchange-traded derivative contracts), but he’s also aware of the audacity of it all.
C.K. opened his show by regaling the crowd with a memory from his childhood. Although he was born stateside, C.K. lived for a time in Mexico, where he lovingly recalls having defecated on a driveway. As crude as it sounds—nay, as crude as it is—he then explained he’s been reminded of the moment because his children are finally at a “memory-making” age, meaning that the stuff he does with them now counts. There was a shift in both his bowels and his mind; it was, for him, a formative step toward adulthood. It’s also the essence of the Louis C.K. experience.
Fatherhood was a prevailing theme throughout the show, but not in a maudlin way. In fact, the highlight of the night involved C.K.’s recollection of taking his kids camping for the first time. Like many of his jokes, it went dark—and quickly. After putting his daughters to bed, he heard a large animal sniffing outside his tent, which forced him to imagine the phonecall he’d have to place to his ex-wife, informing her that her children had been eaten by bears. “How would that go?” he wondered. “What would I say? Would I open with the bear-eating bit, or would I have to explain the entire camping scenario first?”
His world is dark and unfair, but instead of appearing unsympathetic or unlikeable (here’s looking at you, Larry David), C.K. gives the impression of being on the audience’s team (which is perhaps why he has such a strong, young, and surprisingly female fanbase). Having gone over his scheduled set time for the third show of the night, he enrapts a bunch of rain-soaked kids who paid $10 to watch him perform. Truth be told, the Emmy-nominated star could have commanded much, much more.