Louis CK in Montreal 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

One of the most celebrated strands of Louis CK’s comedy is that we should all stop griping about the modern world and instead appreciate its marvels.

Well, among those marvels we should probably count Louis CK himself.

When the whole comedy community, from Ricky Gervais to Chris Rock, heralds someone as one of the best stand-ups of their generation, the inclination is not to believe it: to lower expectations and steel yourself for disappointment. But with his sold-out 90-plus minute show here in Montreal, he certainly proves worthy of the accolades – even if he is a big, fat hypocrite. Who is he to tell us to quit griping when that that’s the very bread and butter of stand-up, including his own?

But the very premise of his set is that he’s an arrogant, selfish jerk, just like the rest of us. Only he’s better – because he can explain our terrible behaviour with hilarious eloquence.

He’s not an aggressive or wilfully bad person, nor would he celebrate that, it’s just that selfishness, complacency and a sense of entitlement have made him casually evil. Like everyone else, he bemoans the state of the world, but does nothing about it. Sure, he could trade down his flashy car, saving fuel and releasing several thousand dollars, which he could use to save hundreds of lives. But he doesn’t, and neither do we.

But at least he can be coruscatingly funny with it. This is no idealistic political rant – in fact, the very routine gives tacit approval to such Western decadence. Not only do we do nothing for our fellow humans that are dying from their abject poverty, we have a good old chortle at our fatal indifference. What a state we’re in.

If it sounds tragic, 41-year-old Louis CK – the surname being an anglicised corruption of his real surname,, Szekely – has the rare gift of being able to make the appalling funny. A dog’s death, a thug brutally killing a pensioner with a hammer, the tears of children – this is the stuff of which his routines are made.

There are topics, too, that you might consider old hat, yet even on a topic as exhausted as air travel, he finds something new. The observations on which it is based may be obvious, but time and again he gives it fresh impetus, spinning the routine to highlight the stupidity we are all capable of, and proving the adage that there is no such thing as a hack subject, only a hack comedian.

While most of his material ostensibly scrutinises the behaviour of others, touching on his own divorce and the petty arguments he has with his there-year-old daughter which his competitive streak just won’t let him lose add a dash of his own personality.

But essentially he represents us all; the less appealing side of the benign Everyman, providing his comedy with that rare combination of accessibility and edginess.

Review date: 27 Jul 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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