It’s kind of pointless to write a review about a stand-up comedy special since the presentation doesn’t usually allow for analysis and the material is so subjective, but here I am on a Friday night wasting yours and my time. The reason for this is because I worship at the church of Louis CK… and I have an ego that allows me to think that someone might care what I have to say about CK’s sixth hour long comedy special. Can I convert you to The Church of the Schlubby Provocateur? Let’s find out.
Filmed at LA’s historic Comedy Store, Louis CK’s latest special — which is available exclusively through his website for $5 — follows the recent trend of small-scale specials like those offered up by Marc Maron, Sarah Silverman, and Wyatt Cenac to name a few. Hell, Maria Bamford shot a special in her parent’s living room — the point is that the stadium concerts and larger venues seems to be falling out of favor, especially for more cerebral acts.
For CK, this marks a major departure since his last special, the HBO produced Oh My God, was filmed in the round at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix with about 3,000 people in the audience. Main room capacity at the Comedy Store? 450. This may seem like a minor detail, but it seems as though the club atmosphere allows for more intimacy and the prospect of silence. And that’s something that CK uses as a weapon during the weirder moments of this hour, like when he purposely pushes his impression of a sex-starved housewife beyond the point of awkwardness, seemingly delighting in the crowd’s initial hesitancy. There’s just more give and take with a small room. The contrast between quiet (when people are listening) and laughter (when they’re reacting) is nice.
CK’s aim also seems smaller in this special. In Oh My God, CK covered our innate want to murder, relationships, aging, and death. But while aging was merely grazed here with a bit about re-assigned noises, death is tackled in a personal way, linking the death of a family pet to a story about the time he happily told a neighbor that everyone dies. Personal analogies serve as an entryway to a conversation about race and growing up in Boston as well, mixing nicely with CK’s favorite target: entitled assholes. Assholes on the train, assholes on a plane, etc.
Near the end of the special, CK takes bigger swings in the midst of a dizzying but enjoyable run that somehow jumps from a story about a bat attack, to a meditation on the durability of sexism by way of a story about rat fucking, and a clever comparison between terrible girlfriends and the war on terror before closing things up with a mostly flat bit about the Wizard of Oz. Though I’m pretty sure the point was in the execution, not where CK wound up.
Overall, Live at the Comedy Store is an easily digested hour that should enhance CK’s reputation as a fiercely smart comic with a penchant for taking us to uncomfortable places with his storytelling that, in the end, seem a lot more comfortable than we thought that they would be.
Is this as good as Chewed Up? No it is not, but for a comic with six specials since 2006 (for contrast’s sake, George Carlin did 14 in 31 years) and a constant presence in pop culture and on television, it’s impressive that CK is showing no real signs of slowing down and that most of us aren’t nearly tired of his shtick.
Louis CK Live At The Comedy Store is available now for purchase by clicking here.