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Big Red

Louis C.K. brings his comedic bite to broader audiences with full-fledged concert film

Some years ago, in a review here, Bill Burr was proclaimed “comedy’s future.” On seeing the concert film “Louis C.K: Hilarious,” it could be said that there are a few alternate futures to choose from.

In “Hilarious,” Louis C.K. takes on a wider range of subjects than in “Chewed Up,” his last album and special, which ran on Showtime rather than as a full length film. “Chewed Up” dealt with marriage and kids, but since Louis has gotten divorced, his material about his children has taken a different spin. The end result is that “Louis C.K.: Hilarious” is as memorable a stand-up concert film as Bill Cosby’s “Himself” was nearly 30 years ago in an entirely different media universe.

C.K. teases himself as being bad at starting shows even as he skillfully evokes one of his comic heroes, George Carlin (thanked on the liner notes), by philosophizing on the fact that we’re all dead for way longer than we’re alive. [Carlin once took looking at old movies as a jumping off point for the same idea – telling his audience to look at a crowd in an old black and white movie and confirm, when you spot an old, gray-haired person, “yeah, that guy’s dead now.”]

Even though C.K. is a lot more explicit than Cosby [whom he also thanks as an influence on this album], he exudes the same kind of wonderment in storytelling in “Hilarious,” especially in the pieces, “Cell Phones and Flying,” and “My 3-Year-Old is a 3-Year-Old.”

Where Cosby memorably recounted how a father finds it O.K. to serve chocolate cake to the kids for breakfast, in C.K.’s world, corralling the kids has gotten a lot harder. In “3-Year-Old,” he gets into an argument when his daughter insists the cookies are called “Pig Newtons.” “This isn’t even from memory,” C.K. says. “It’s right there on the box. … I say to myself, what are you doing? Why? … But for some reason I engage.”

Throughout, C.K. gleefully wears the persona of a misanthrope. Where Carlin merely marveled at human folly, C.K. actively hates it. In “Cell Phones and Flying,” he marvels at the miracle of cell phones and how entitled we feel to take it for granted. “Just a few years ago, nobody had their own phone in their pocket. … It had a dial and a rotor, and you had to turn it. … This is amazing – we have phones you could call in an airstrike on. … Give it a second, could you give it a second? It’s going to space … Is the speed of light too slow for you? … The shittiest cell phone in the world is a miracle. … People say the craziest shit … ‘I hate Verizon!’ Why, did they fire you and take your pension? No, one time the reception was weird for a second.”

As you can see, the sheer quotable resonance of the pieces in “Louis C.K.: Hilarious” makes it memorable. What Louis C.K. has done is inject more edge and a nastier bite into subjects that appeal to a broad audience, and keep that comedic fire burning longer.

A one-hour version of “Louis C.K.: Hilarious” airs on Comedy Central Jan. 9. The full feature film will be released on DVD on Jan. 11, along with a CD version.




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