Louis C.K. doesn’t need an opener. “Fuck it,” he said, soon after he stepped onstage at the St. George Theatre on Staten Island on Nov. 11, as part of the New York Comedy Festival. “What’s the point?”
The same sentiment can applied to the entirety of Louis’s worldview. Known for his gallows humor, the veteran comic has gained steam over the past decade. His fame, though, has exploded in the last few years, aided by YouTube-ready appearances on late night talk shows, many of which, like his bit about how “everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy”—a diatribe against people not appreciating the amazing technological advances of modern day—have gone viral. With the help of the equal parts brilliant, uncomfortable and poignant show Louie, he has earned himself more than a few superfans. The seats at the Staten Island show were filled with preppy high school kids, locals in hoodies, middle-aged couples and lots and lots of dudes with beards and their girlfriends.
After a stilted start during which people were still trickling in and a joke about how hard it is to erase one’s Facebook profile fell a bit flat, both the crowd and Louis relaxed. He has some of the best stage presence of any working comedian. Though remarkably well-honed, his act is loose and personal, a hilarious, albeit very angry friend telling an insane tale over dinner.
A story about how boring it is to have kids segued into how much he hates a guy who says “hi” to him on the elevator and how Louis fantasizes about squirting him in the eye with semen from a squirt bottle. Speaking of semen, Louis has an astonishing (enviable?) talent for injecting the substance into nearly every bit. The elevator guy story was a total non sequitur, as was a directionless joke about a well-hung baby, but both still worked, if only because of their absurdity.
Though Louis is arguably becoming mainstream, his bits are often still filthy and meant to push the envelope. When discussing how he would tell his wife their kids were eaten by bears, he mentioned that two of the bears “shared the little one,” at which point a middle-aged man behind us chuckled and remarked “how can you say that about your own kid!?”
A few highlights included Louis discussing his hatred of a six-year-old classmate of his daughter’s (“I hate him like I hate a grown-up”) and the elaborate lengths he would go to in order to punish the kid; a routine about the environment and how angry god would be if he came back and found the state of the world (“God: Who spilled that? Man: I, uh, the economy. God: What the fuck is that? Man: Uh, it’s like jobs… God: But I left you everything you need, I left you food. Look, there is food right by your foot!”); how Louis has values, he just doesn’t live by them. He always fantasizes about offering his first-class seat on an airplane (“Yea, that’s right, I’m not like you!”) to a soldier, but never actually does. The thought alone, though, makes him feel like a good person.
He ended with a signature self-loathing discussion of sex. According to Louis, men are big oafish Neanderthals who can’t please their women. He resents his own persistently perverted thoughts and dismisses women who dare to compete (“You’re just a visitor here, I’m a prisoner”). He earned ear-piercing laughter and cheers when he said women seem so needy after sex because men have done absolutely nothing for them. If you’re actually good at sex, “women will leave you alone.”
Yes, these tropes are familiar, but Louis’s clever phrasing and ease of delivery make his one of the best stand-up shows on the planet.
After walking off stage to a crushing level of applause, Louis returned for an encore. Before launching into a bit about his sloth and eating in front of the fridge, he surprised the audience with an uncharacteristic moment of earnestness. He told the Staten Island crowd they were his favorite on this tour.
As a career self-deprecationalist (let’s pretend that’s a real word), he was quick to add that the show was not one of his best. True or not, for these fans, many of whom excitedly recounted each joke on their walk back to the Staten Island Ferry, it was a night of funny they won’t soon forget. As one told his friend: “That will go down in history as one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.”