I really do not think it is too bold or overreaching to say that Louis C.K.'s latest sitcom, Louie on the FX Network in the States, is by far the most original, groundbreaking comedy series in years. Although he is well-known as a gifted comedian, it is hard to believe this show is from the same guy who wrote and directed Pootie Tang.
Each half-hour episode of Louie plays as a series of short films or vignettes, loosely tied together by clips of C.K.'s stand up comedy act (like in the first few seasons of Seinfeld). Each episode is written and directed by C.K., showing an auteur style with an old-fashioned New Yorker aesthetic.
C.K. plays himself, a divorced 42-year-old father of two girls trying to navigate the middle age of his life, telling some very personal stories. His comedy, which ranges from the humanistic realities and fallacies of life to the wildly surrealistic, absurd thoughts of the mind, plays so genuinely and articulately.
Much of the humour strikes true and the viewer is left to wonder how much of it is based on actual events of C.K.'s real life. The opening credits evoke a classic film vibe of decades past with C.K. emerging from a New York comedy club, walking down the street as credits roll over perhaps the most obvious song choice ever, "Brother Louie", which consists of the name "Louie" repeated over and over again.
Louie proves itself so inventive and original by somehow playing on classic film troupes and conventions. Louie's artistic and editorial flourishes are pitch perfect. He populates his surreal comic world with fellow comedians and caricatures of characters that reveal C.K.'s true comedic sensibilities.
These surreal situations are never resolved or really pay off and that's the beauty of it. They act as humorous musings or side trips from daily life. C.K. plays confident and self-assure on stage, where he is happiest. In everyday life, he's a simple, awkward father trying to date and get along. There is some pretty dark, disturbing, vulgar humour that derives humour from pain. He comments on the ridiculous aspects and flaws of society.
In one episode, C.K. absolutely and viciously tears apart a heckler (video below) in somewhat of a fantasy sequence. He follows it up with a sad, touching story about he uses comedy as an outlet for releasing his frustrations and sadness in the world. In another, a teenage bully thoroughly threatens, emasculates, and embarrasses him on a date. C.K. proceeds to stalk him all the way to his home and confront his parents. What proceeds is entirely unexpected as he enters a deep conversation about life and family with the bully's father. C.K. explores troublesome topics of the day. One memorable scene has him and fellow comedians exploring homosexuality and the genesis of gay slurs.
C.K. acts as a comedic everyman who we sympathize with. Unlike Larry David's sheer zaniness on Curb Your Enthusiasm, this is a far more reason and grounded comedy by which C.K. can brilliantly exploit the absurdity of in his comedic bits. Each episode segment acts as a mindfully thoughtful exploration of bits from C.K.'s acts, taking real life epitomes of life to strange conclusions.
The show is so honest yet hilarious in its exploration of the genesis of comedy. C.K. sees the absurd realities of life and points them out in order to find their comedic value. Life is only as sad or funny as you find it. Louie plays truly like short film segments with a singular vision and voice and not born from the typical communal writers room mentality of most sitcoms. What Louis C.K. does so beautifully and artfully is play on our comedic expectations, exploring the sad truths in life, exploiting it ironically and artfully.