2.44 Louis CK
“When you’re done telling jokes about airplanes and dogs, then what do you have left? You can only dig deeper. Start talking about your feelings and who you are. And then you do those jokes and they’re gone. You got to dig deeper. Then you start thinking about your fears and your nightmares and doing jokes about that and then they’re gone. And then you start getting into the weird shit. I started to think: what is it I really want to say that I’m afraid to say?” This quotation was taken from a speech by writer, actor and comedian Louis CK in a tribute to George Carlin. You can watch the entire speech HERE. I don’t normally use this space to talk about stuff like this because who cares if I saw some movie or show? Does it matter what I have to say about such things? But I went to see Louis CK perform live last weekend and I finally felt the need to over share that permeates the blogosphere.
It annoys me to no end when someone says, “You have to see this movie.” Just because you like something doesn’t mean I will as well. Whatever happened to a polite suggestion? I’m glad that people feel their opinions matter, but there’s no need to be rude about it. That being said, you have to see Louis CK.
My call up into the cloud of the internet is not because I think he’s really funny and you need to check out his act. Louis CK is not to everyone’s taste. This is because he talks about topics such as fears, anxieties, relationships between men and women, fatherhood, race, the use or misuse of words – difficult subject matter. He is standing on the shoulders of giants, comedians before him like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin, who gave voice to the unmentionable.
I am no comedy expert, this is the first real show I have seen live. I probably won’t see any more – it’s hard to move down the ladder once you’ve seen the best. So, in a way, Louis CK has ruined everything for me.
You could dismiss him as another observational comic who talks about masturbation, taking a dump and sex. As he said in an interview with Jon Stewart, “To me, a fart is funny. It comes out of your ass, it smells like poop because it’s been hanging out next to it for a time and it makes a little trumpet noise when it comes out. You don’t have to be smart to laugh at farts but you have to be stupid not to.” But inside these jokes is someone talking about humanity, human behaviour and the reality – or sometimes surreality – of day-to-day existence.
This clip from his appearance on David Letterman encompasses the three major aspects of his style: personal reflection on his life and human behaviour, infused with a surreal concept.
Talking with Marc Maron on the WTF podcast, Maron referred to the young Louis CK as someone who was building his own brain. What I think he meant was that Louis CK opened his mind to the experiences around him. In my opinion, any artist that has a cultural effect trains himself or herself to see the world from a different perspective. To point out what is wrong, point right at it and talk about the issues that are important. George Carlin did this with his Seven Dirty Words, Lenny Bruce did this with his discussions surrounding race.
Louis CK told Maron that he never wanted to exist in a vacuum. The point is to bring it out into the open and have people laugh. There are two key learning points here. First, artists are prone to say that they create for themselves. What is art without an audience? What is art without it having some type of impact on people’s lives? Second, when I walked out of the show last week, everyone had a huge grin on his or her face. We collectively shared an hour and half of pure laughter. He entertained us, he made us laugh.
I discussed in an earlier entry that I believe comedians are clowns. Not birthday clowns or circus clowns. They are the clowns of Shakespeare, the characters that make fun of the king and expose hypocrisies, most of the time without anyone realizing. To me, the comedic clowns are the ones that keep us all in check, encourage us to see ourselves from different perspectives.
There were two moments during the show where Louis CK said, “Wow, that was the worst thing I’ve ever said.” He was really giving voice to the thoughts that the audience was thinking. By making us laugh at these subjects we are afraid of talking about, he was inviting us to discuss them, to acknowledge them, break them apart and move beyond them. In a way, isn’t this what we all aspire to as individuals? The ability to access the different layers of our psyche, explore the deep dark parts of our collective unconscious.
In my own work, I want to dig deeper. Louis CK has described how he performed the same act for fifteen years until he hit rock bottom. He looked to George Carlin who wrote new material every year and Louis CK wondered if that was possible. Something broke in Louis CK and he started down a road to, as he said, explore what he was afraid to say. Words contain power, but once they are spoken, sometimes that power can be evaporated and you can move towards a higher ground of self-awareness. Louis CK is not only an inspired comedian and writer, he displays that these parts of us are accessible and in order to create work that connects to an audience – to become better people – we must ask the question: what is it I really want to say that I'm afraid to say?