Louis C.K. and a Genius Grant

Maybe I’m late to the party, but I’ve been spending a lot of time lately watching the FX comedy series Louie. I’m a big fan of the show, and a large supporter of Louis CK’s stand-up  He’s crass but grounded enough to avoid being offensive, he’s self-critical without being depressing and reflective on society without ever seeming condescending.  It’s a tough act to pull off, but CK does it better than most.

On-stage Louis gives off the impression of deeper emotions. The indication is never in the punch line but rather in the silence just before and in the subtle smirks he allows himself just after delivery. The show Louie expands on that silence and, quite frankly, speaks louder than most television shows ever have.

I just finished watching the two-part episode ‘Duckling’, which takes Louie out of his natural New York City environment and drops him in the middle of Afghanistan. Armed with nothing more than his honest sense of humor and a baby duckling – compliments of his youngest daughter – Louie navigates between the constant danger of his surroundings and his task of bringing a small bit of humor to an entirely humorless situation.  It’s clear from the production and cinematography that CK is entirely aware of his role; he’s not the star or some sort of savior, just a clown in the middle of a war… with a duck in his bookbag.

Part 2 especially of the ‘Duckling’ sage epitomizes what Louie, the show, is all about. It’s not really a comedy vis-à-vis life, but rather an honest show about life as told by a comedian. Sure, when necessary CK cracks a joke to lighten the mood, but you’re not really watching for the jokes, you’re watching for the silence, and all of the thoughts caught up in it. It’s a thoughtful, gentle, and open investigation into what it all means.

All of this is a long way of saying that I’m excited to see what else Louis CK will create in the years to come.  In fact, I’m so excited, that I think he should be considered for a MacArthur ‘Genius’ grant.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Genius grant is a no-strings-attached award given to 20 – 40 Americans annually who “show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work.” Louis has promise in spades and would really do some amazing things with the grant. And even if he didn’t make much out of the grant, I’m sure the stories he’d tell about coming short, would be worth the investment alone.

So if you haven’t seen the show, you owe it to yourself to rent a season or two. It’s an experience you’ll be grateful for. But after you watch, look around yourself and realize that you’re living in the same world that both Louie and Louis CK are. That’s the real reward.

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