First of all, this isn’t a normal show, so suck a bag of dicks if it deserves a normal review. Picture the venue you’ve been going to for years, not religiously, just now and again to see the act or band you’ve wanted to see for a long time. It’s now a few months since you sat in your dressing gown click-click-clicking away at the refresh-pages, ‘captcha’ verifications, wrong passwords and (surely) fair handling fees that has now become the standard routine of online ticket chasing. It’s all normal now, no getting away from it. You cut out of work early on the day of the gig to beat the tube rush, normal. Join the hoards of students, die-hard fans and first-timers in the mass march towards the theatre. Some are standing on pillars squeezing a phone to their head trying to find their mate in the crowd. Normal. And then you all go inside. Normal… yes?…
So what happens next? Well, you all line up at the bar before heading in to tell the mouth-breathers in your seats that… these aren’t their seats. You sit down, you wait half an hour before the first support act comes out, then it’s another twenty minutes before the second support act comes out – and two’s just great by the way – thirty minutes later, more than two hours after you even entered the venue, the actual act you paid to see comes out and makes you grin for an hour while your wallet convinces your brain that it was all kind of worthwhile. What could be better? How about turning up, walking in, the act comes out and does 90 minutes of entirely original material then lets you all go home smiling without wasting a second of your (or their) time. This is Louis CK.
Third paragraph in and I’ve just started the actual review (Bag. Dicks.). If you don’t know who he is you’ve either heard of him or you’re about to, and he’s not going away. In time, you’ll also be to blame for this. Winner of [some] awards and star of [some] TV shows Louis CK is one of the biggest things that’s happened not just to comedy, but to entertainment, in the last decade. A comedian all his life, and finding huge influence in comics such as Richard Pryor, Steve Martin and notably, George Carlin, Louis CK has brought something to British fans that we’re just not used to amongst the carbon-copy panel shows and same old (albeit young) faces. Every year he throws out his full hour of material and starts again fresh. Sixty completely original minutes every year. This is the way to Amarillo.
CK (real name Louis Szekely) has gained a massive influx of new, global fans these last few years partly thanks to his FX show Louie, with a fourth season planned for 2014. With regular appearances from his well known fans and friends (including Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock and David Lynch, amongst others) Louie introduced viewers to CK’s very real, very honest and not always light-hearted perspective on life. Like a grittier, philosophical but just as funny take on Curb Your Enthusiasm the show brought us the world through Louis’ eyes. The eyes of a single-father in New York dealing with divorce, weight, hair-loss and relationships. There’s no glitz, no glamour, no insight to the superstar world of a forty-something star on a never ending rise. And if at any point there is, it all comes crashing down, usually ending with Louie’s foot in his mouth. But that’s a TV show review isn’t it, not a live show review.
Two days is all the UK got, but for anyone who could get hold of a ticket it was just enough. His one night at the O2 arena sold out in minutes, as did the extra show the following night at the Hammersmith Apollo, prompting CK to add a second evening show for the same day which, as expected also sold out in no time at all. This being the reason behind no special support acts, no time wasting, just a very humble comedian wanting to get a fair deal to as many fans as possible but in doing so, giving up his evening to put on a second performance. And it didn’t go unappreciated. In between the usual observations on being an average, middle-aged man “either in the middle of a healthy life or near the end of a crappy one” we’re also treated to random thought bubbles and musings such as “Do you think sharks would be embarrassed if they knew we could see their fin sticking out of the water?” right the way through to the joys of being divorced. Apparently every year unmarried is better than the last and you never hear of somebody’s divorce ‘falling apart’. “We have two girls so me and my wife share custody for half the week, which is great! Who can’t be a great dad for only half of every week?”. Nothing – including murder, racial hardship or slavery is off limits. But he’s not looking for cheap, careless laughs. He has genuine points to make despite the seemingly awful thoughts his brain throws out. He’s just not hungry to provoke or shock, he’s not filtering his thoughts and he’s not willing to compromise. It’s good – really good.
It’s rare to find a live comedy show that deals you more than just ‘humorously interesting’ observations about Facebook, iPhones and celebrities. Louis CK offers so much more. And as a testament to how good he really is at his craft, he’ll even tackle those exact subjects, but in ways you’d never expect. “You don’t watch your kid dancing in the school show because you’re filming it on your phone. You don’t watch the video because you were there, so you tell everyone on Facebook to watch it, and they won’t. But they will post generic, adorable comments pretending they did. So your kid’s dancing, and not person is watching!”*.
Bottom line (and I promise this “review” has one) – Louis CK is a king amongst comics. Any comedian, including Stewart Lee will testify to that. His observation, wit, his genuine philosophies and even his minimalist, impressions of everyone he meets are likely to make you smile, nod in agreement and then laugh til it hurts. If and when you get a chance to see him live, just do it. Even if you enjoy yourself at least he won’t make you wait around all night.
You’ll love this if:
Well, unless you’re planning on seeing him somewhere in Europe or any of his US dates this year you missed this round. So definitely check out his great show Louie and by all means watch any one of his hour-long standup shows from the last few years. They’re all good.
You like your comedy a little more honest and human, without all the forced rock star theatrics and tabloid poking attention-seeking.
You probably won’t if:
You can’t take a joke. You delicate soul you.