LEO Presents A Little Off Center — Comedian Louis CK
Saturday, Jan. 19
$28-$35; 8 p.m.
Comedian Louis CK found the fine line between shock-comedy and giving his audience pause with insight into their own lives. Which is why he’s on the list of the Top 100 comics, ever. While low on the list at the moment, he’s in his early 40s and just hitting his stride, these days feeling a little “Chewed Up.” Feeling chewed up isn’t a bad thing to Louis. If any of us give life an honest (keyword: honest) look, who among us wouldn’t feel a bit gnarled? And that’s where Louis’ connection with his audience sneaks up and catches you off-guard.
“The title of the show is a metaphor for turning 40 and beyond,” he tells LEO. He explains it in the context of comparing a young, nubile woman’s nipples to the nips you get when you’ve passed, let’s say, the age of nubility. “They look chewed up, but that’s OK. Because I feel chewed up, and it feels OK. I’m not interested in girls, I’m interested in women.” “Chewed up” is a statement of maturity from a happily married man, though you might not know it from his act.
He featured his marital life in an HBO series called “Lucky Louie.” The show broke ground in dealing with adult themes on an adult level. Never engaging in overt sexuality or in-your-face shock scenarios, each episode found Louis and his wife Kim (played by Pamela Adlon) in conflict about their sex lives, parental care for their 4-year-old daughter, and their acknowledged hatred for one another. It’s this acknowledgment of disgust, they argued, that led to their happiness.
“Adults aren’t used to talking about children in an adult way,” he says. “People say to me all the time, ‘I can’t believe you said that, but I’m glad you did.’ I have a bit about cleaning shit from my daughter’s vagina, which doesn’t sound funny out of context.” But in context, this is the conversation Louis has with his audience. He’s breaking down familial walls, walls that might not be cracked through years of couple’s therapy.
Talking with LEO early in the day from his home in NYC, he rushed in a cab between home and his daughter’s school, where she was throwing up … on her birthday. “This day sucks,” he says; proof that Louis lives his act. Giving the guy a break, we talked again late that night as he walked his dog, Loona, through his Manhattan neighborhood. “This is the dog I took with me three times on a drive around the country.” In an homage to one of his favorite books as a teenager, “Travels With Charley” by John Steinbeck, he took Loona on Louis’ own search for America. “It was great fun, but also fucking depressing,” he explains. “Americans are depressed because everything looks the same. And every Wal-Mart sells them the same shitty crap they fill their homes with, and they give their neighbors the same shitty crap.” Lifeless downtowns, cookie-cutter shopping centers, neighborhoods and chain restaurants are the things that worry him about his daughter’s future. “I don’t want that to be their options … Even if you try, it’s tough to feed kids healthy food. A slice of bread is full of fructose corn syrup shit.” This is why living in New York, he feels, at least gives them a sense of diversity, originality and healthy options. (Though, for the record, this LEO writer on a frequent visit to NYC passed a newly opened multi-level building in Chelsea resembling a modern night club or swanky bar, and the giant green neon sign read “Olive Garden.”)
The Chewed Up tour traveled most of the country through 2007 as he polished it for his final leg starting in mid-January, and in March, he’ll film the show in Boston for national release. Originally slated for an HBO slot in 2008, he opted to film it independently to the highest, or most interesting, bids. “The Louisville show is polished,” he says. “We’ve worked out the bugs and have it almost perfect.” In addition to the Chewed Up tour, he has completed several film roles he’s completed. He plays the character Marty in a soon-to-be-released “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins” with an all-star cast including Martin Lawrence, James Earl Jones, Mike Epps and Cedric the Entertainer. “I didn’t want to do this film, but Chris Rock said I had to. He said I’d be in every trailer since I’m the only white guy in the film, and he was right. Martin Lawrence was amazing to work with.”
His most recent challenging role was in the indie film “Diminished Capacity,” starring Matthew Broderick and Alan Alda. Louis plays Big Stan, who throws his buddy (played by Broderick) against a wall, causing him memory loss. “This role scared the shit out of me … performing with Broderick and Alda. In fact, right after our Louisville show, we fly to Park City for the Sundance premiere.”
Days before the writers’ strike began, Louis worked with CBS on a new sitcom. “It’s similar to ‘Lucky Louie’ a few years down the road, but very undeveloped right now,” he says. “During the writers’ strike, we aren’t even thinking about it.” The challenge of a network show, with executives scared of offending advertisers and audience, is one for which Louis is prepared. “Everyone today is far too easily offended. If we do a show where we offend raisins, we’ll have Raisinists picketing advertisers. Americans have become boring because they don’t look for the truth.”
In a personal favorite “Lucky Louie” episode, Louie was forced to attend an AA meeting with his friends. Through his meeting with fellow AA-ers, many of whom were homeless, spouse-beaters and deadbeats, the show ends with his declaration, “Did you ever consider that alcohol isn’t your problem? That the real problem is that you are all still just a bunch of fucking assholes?”
Louis, through tested practice, is not afraid of failure. His early standup wasn’t good because he, too, tried to pander to the audience. But he learned that once people trust your ability to make something work, you can say almost anything. And do almost anything. Living in Mexico until the age of 4, and moving near Boston as a young school kid who couldn’t speak a word of English, he’s learned to trust himself. “I used to be pissed off at people in general. But I’m not anymore. People in most parts of the country don’t have options, and hate it. They are force-fed everything like cattle.”
Louis is thrilled he can share with audiences his comedic search finding the truth in the details, a journey often uncomfortable but always hilarious with, we hope, no end.
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