Louis C.K. – Oh My God!
Ever since Shameless slew us and landed him the position of the world’s most prominent comic Louis’ sorta-yearly stand up specials have become a big event in the comedy world. His last, Live at the Beacon Theatre made massive waves when he announced that alongside writing, directing, performing and producing the hour, as he does all his shows, he was also going to fund and funnel it out to audiences himself online; a plan that was met with a lot of great press and a lot more profit. Its interesting then that C.K. chose to shoot this special for HBO, using the more traditional model.
‘I love sitting. I’d take sitting and doing nothing over standing and fucking anyday.’
One would assume that the reason for this relapse is related to his taking a year off of Louie, his TV show; its obviously more relaxing to have someone else step-up and take on some of the responsibilities. The first thing that you notice a out this special is that Louis seems to have spent the advance that they afforded him on buying a new blue shirt to replace the old black one – shame then that he spills a drink on it midway through the set – but that besides that everything else about the production is identical to his prior work: from the pre-show sneak peek to the credit font this is a straight Louis C.K. Production. But what about the content? Oh My God is a fitting title for a follow up to Hilarious, what with both being exclamations one should let out during one of his sets, but does it stand up qualitatively to his biggest hit?
‘Why did he die? Because who gives a shit? That’s the actual reason. It didn’t matter that he was alive, that’s why he’s dead. He didn’t know his name and he didn’t love you back, these are the facts about that fish’s life.’
A simple synopsis of the set might scare some of the more squeamish hardcore fans out there; suggesting as it does both a simplification and a repetition of what we have come to love from Louis. He begins with some local banter before starting straight into a fifteen minute section of animal-based humour and while that might sound like selling out, like he has become a broadcast comic, the section is as deep and intriguing as his work has ever been. Each bit that he delivers gets the laugh (which is something when your audience is as stuck-up and inhibited as I) but also leaves you with a strange aftertaste, a lingering feeling that what you heard isn’t that funny, that the more appropriate response may have been to cry.
‘Life is an education. If you’re in an argument with someone older than you, you should listen. It doesn’t mean they’re right, it just means their wrongness is rooted in more information than you have.’
Here more than ever the fact that Louis is delivering the words makes all the difference to their impact. His delivery is both brilliant and deceptive in its style because without his exaggerated sounds and spacework the majority of his ‘jokes’ would simply be philosophical statements and his philosophy is a rather bleak and existential one. Ruminating as he does on the folly of modern life -whether or not anyone cares that seals and sea-lions are different things – the miracle of modern dating – comparing a woman agreeing to date a man to a man agreeing to date a bear/lion hybrid, such is the inherent danger – and marveling at the fact that humanity somehow managed to escape the food chain.
‘When you have bacon in your mouth it doesn’t matter who’s President.’
He cuts a seemingly ridiculous figure up there on the serious circular stage, surrounded by an adoring audience; the setting evokes images of Greek Philosophers in debate, the lectures of Socrates but the images which we are actually given are those of a middle-aged, overweight man who selflessly shows us why, at his weight, putting on socks is the hardest thing in the world. C.K. Is obviously an incredibly intelligent man and as such he plays up both the physical and behavioural aspects of himself that suggest otherwise; he knows that modern day men and women don’t like to listen to lectures and so he disguises himself as a dolt, delivering these deep thoughts in the guise of coarse gross-out comedy.
‘You’re never gonna watch it. You don’t watch it, you put it on YouTube. ‘You watch it!’ These kids are dancing for no one.’
The other aspect of his performance that most stands out in this special is his storytelling. Some bits are bite-sized, traditionally structured jokes with a set-up and a punch line but with others he creates these chilling alternative universes by taking everyday topics and extending them to ludicrous lengths; the result these dark little dystopic fictions that you feel yourself falling into without the slightest of actual movement on stage. They are akin to subplots from an episode of his series – where he seemed to have honed this skill – where his storytelling is also evocative that you easily get past just how perilously strange much of his content is.
‘If murder was legal there would be so much murder. Regular people would murder. Murderers would murder even more and then really nice, sweet people would murder a few people. You wouldn’t trust someone who didn’t murder people.’
Unlike a lot of the ‘alternative’ comedy that you see out there these days Oh My God still resembles stand-up as we know it, because unlike them Louis isn’t rebelling against anything, he doesn’t need to. He, like humanity, has taken himself out of the food chain, he is king now, he sets the standard for all other stand-ups to tray and fail to follow. If he wasn’t already this special makes him their god and I think he’d do a pretty decent job at being ours too.
‘That’s where human greatness comes from, is that we’re shitty people. That we fuck others over.’
I can’t convincingly name a novelist, filmmaker, politician or philosopher working today who has a better grasp on masculinity, mortality or the modern day mentality as a whole and on top of that he also seems to have gotten a grasp on himself, to have done what no comedian should ever do: gotten happy. Despite the countless deaths and depravities that he describes along the way the ultimate message of the special is an uplifting one: that life is laughable, its ludicrous but its also largely awe-inspiring and its up to us, as our own gods, to sort and separate the events along those lines. After Oh My God I feel much the same way about Louis as he does life after divorce: it just keeps getting better.
‘And then Anna Karenina shit on his chest. The End.’