Originally posted on September 20, 2012. Please enjoy it.
Louis C.K. is a comedic genius, and not because of the popularity of some of his seminal routines like “The Saddest Handjob in America,” “The N-Word,” or “The Gay People.” No, Louis C.K. is a genius because of the way that he channels the same trait that many of the other comedic geniuses throughout standup history have manifested, honesty. The ingenuity of C.K. is that he does this while maintaining authenticity and introspection which separates him from his contemporaries and places him in the upper echelon of comics with giants like Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, and even Richard Pryor.
Louis C.K. exposes and sometimes bulldozes his views of the world onto his audience. He does not mince or sugarcoat words for his audience or for his critics. He is in a constant search to find truth in his experiences and is unforgiving in expressing those findings. He forces his audience to look inside themselves at their darkest corners, feel awkward, and then laugh at the situation. That is a gift. He forces people to entertain themselves with that which they fear most and are most ashamed of by sharing his embarrassments with them and making a joke of everything. These are standards of observational humor, but done with the C.K. twist. Louis C.K. is like a ball of bubbling disdain from moment you see him. He has a powerful presence, yet a troubled countenance in each of his acts. He ambles onto stage looking equal parts disgruntled, confused, stoic, and vulnerable. Therein lies some of his power. He is allowed to say what he wants to say onstage and he is believable while doing it because his personality encompasses all the requisite emotions that should be present when broaching uncomfortable topics. Because he appears physically uncomfortable (his emotions are shown through his body language), it is okay for the audience to be uncomfortable internally. And then, he hits them with the punchline. His comedic timing is impeccable.
However, there is even more to this great comedian than just honesty, timing, and passion. Louis walks a fine line between pushing boundaries and fighting the hypocrisy of comedy. Most comedians say foul, morally corrupt phrases simply for the reaction that the crowd gives them. They are not nearly as funny as they are shocking. Some comedians never say anything too inflammatory because they are scared of offending their audience. Louis C.K wants his audience to understand that the level of depravity in his comments exist in everyone, but also wants them to laugh at themselves and the fact that the humor makes them so uncomfortable. He has the unique gift of being relatable and being able to connect with his audience.
The last thing that makes Louis C.K. so special is that he never uses the same material. No matter how unnerving and dark his comedy may be, it will never be the same. If you go to his shows, you will never hear the same recycled jokes again. He is dedicated to keeping his act current and spends hours writing and rewriting material. C.K.’s constant introspection feeds his act and his audience benefits from all his hard work and inner turmoil.
Louis C.K. divides himself between bouts of meta-cognition, constant vocal self-soothing, and comedic therapy when he is onstage. He forces his audience to look at themselves and the world in a way that they would not normally try. His angst connects him to the people that are on a psychological journey with him, and because he can be so poignant and funny, he makes the world a little easier to endure. That is the genius of Louis C.K. Check him out.