“I know that things will probably never get better than this and I’m ok with that” – it wasn’t a boastful exclamation from one of the hottest contemporary comedians, but more an admission that Louis CK‘s popularity is unusually strong. With his self titled show a hit on FX and concert film “Louis CK: Hilarious” making the rounds online, Louis CK has built a very strong following, putting him on par with many of the top stand-up comedians performing today. Selling out two back-to-back shows at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, Louis CK tickets sold for hundreds of dollars on Craigslist and had people waiting in line around the block from the Aladdin Theater.
Louis CK’s charm is that he simply isn’t charming. Most comedians want to connect with their audience, compliment their city and make them feel welcome. Louis CK dispels all this pretense and simply says what he thinks and what he feels. This naked approach results in a show that is constantly fresh and alive. I’ve seen much of Louis CK’s work, including his entire series and recent concert film, and the set he did at the Aladdin didn’t repeat a single joke from any of it. To have an entire show of completely new material is a real delight, and some jokes, including a riff on Sarah Palin, seemed to come right off the cuff during the set.
What I love most about Louis CK is his unflinching look at the human condition. He never seems to feel the urge to pretty anything up; instead, he celebrates the ugly and uncomfortable, the absurdity in topics like hitting middle age, being a divorced dad, and raising children. Louis CK hit home runs with lines like, “If you’re a parent and have never given your children the finger behind their back, you aren’t really a parent” and “If you are twenty, there’s no possible way you have anything interesting to say. Your parents moved once and you went to school, that’s about it”.
Some of Louis CK’s funniest material actually came at the beginning of the night from backstage as he put on a mush-mouthed voice and told people not to text or twitter during the show. It was a fun rambling bit that drew explosive laughter from the crowd.
While Louis CK might think he’s at the apex of his career, I think he’s still very much on the rise. Louis CK is unassuming but he pushes at boundaries in a way that really reminds me of George Carlin. He is clearly tapped into something core about how we see ourselves and others. In many ways Louis CK helps give us permission to really laugh at ourselves in a way that celebrates just how imperfect we really all are. For me, Louis CK goes toe to toe with Patton Oswalt for the title of best and funniest comedian performing on stage.