LOUIE, Stand-Up, and The Art of Comedy

We like LOUIE because it pours reality down our throats and makes us think as well as laugh about it while we’re swallowing. This isn’t exactly a common experience, which got Matt Zoller Seitz digging into some whys and wherefores:

Why Is Louie Such a Remarkable TV Show? Because It Makes Stand-Up Comedy Cinematic – by Matt Zoller Seitz

Why is Louie such a remarkable show? I don’t think it’s the content, which is alternately funny, sweet, and mortifying, sometimes all three. It’s the form, which is revolutionary.

TV history is filled with sitcoms driven by stand-up comics who have creative control, but without exception, they’ve all chosen a particular format and tone, and more or less stuck with them over the long haul. The Bob Newhart Show,The Cosby Show, and Everybody Loves Raymond, to name three durable sitcoms, were pretty much the same at the end as they were at the start. Others — such as Roseanne and Seinfeld — evolved, becoming faster or slower, or more or less farcical, but without losing touch with their essence. You might look, for example, at a late-season Seinfeld episode and think, This feels different than season two or three or I liked the show better when it was slower and subtler,but there’s virtually no chance that you’d think, This feels like the same actors in a different show.

Louie is an altogether different animal. It’s not enough to say that it takes its cues from the short story or anthology show or personal blog, though all three assertions are true. Saying the series takes place inside the mind of creator-star Louis C.K. doesn’t help, either, because it’s self-evident. In some sense, every creative work takes place inside the mind of whoever drives it. That’s why a work can be said to have a personality, a worldview — and in works that are perhaps more figurative than “realistic,” this comes through most strongly. You know when you’re watching How I Met Your Mother or Californication or Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 or Curb Your Enthusiasm that you aren’t seeing reality, but somebody’s subjectively warped version of reality. All comedy, indeed all art, is subjective. What sitcom isn’t a projection of the inside of someone’s mind?

No, Louie is unique for one reason, and it has to do with the execution of a vision — i.e., with style.

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Keep going for the truly awesome analysis. For our money, Seitz is right on.