Louis C.K. makes outsider comedy mainstream

Paul Smirl

In a culture where comedy is often equated to fart gags and dick jokes, Louis C.K. is a bit of an outsider. True, the first episode of his widely heralded show “Louie” ended with possibly the most drawn-out fart gag in television history. His stand-up often leans on masturbatory conquests and sexual forays, but believe me, Mr. C.K. is much more dynamic than whatever Jonah Hill movie you’ve been watching lately.

So, how has C.K.’s “Louie” drawn the tremendous critical acclaim that it has while being different than the comedy norm? The answer simply is “Louie.”

C.K. is the writer, director, editor and star of the FX program, owning complete control of the show’s artistic vision — a vision that — unlike its television competitors — is indeed artistic. Sculpted with unfamiliar camera angles, frighteningly familiar personalities and uniquely dark color palette that is brought out in both the visuals and humor of the show, Louis’ one-man act is a refreshingly provocative cure to TV’s two-and-a-half-man disease.

This past week, C.K. sat down with The Onion’s AV Club for a detailed look into each episode in “Louie” second season. At first, I questioned C.K.’s motives for such an interview: Why does an artist need to explain his work?

While Louis never fully answers this question, he does provide incredible insight to the writing and production of the show, a process that he is never scared to distort, break and recreate. Without ruining the art itself, C.K. explains his flexibility as a writer, noting that, “Nothing has any obligation to be any length or to continue being in the show. So as long as it’s feeling right, I keep writing it. Any scene.”

Focused on an overall feeling rather than a number of laughs, it’s hard not to like television’s new comedy king.

However, it is not C.K. the artist that is the main proprietor of “Louie” success, but rather the fictional, on-screen Louie that viewers grow to empathize with and love. Amidst a flurry of jerk-off jokes and bar-room banter, Louie steps away from the normal guise of modern comedy to develop a character dealing with the unstable life of single fatherhood and middle-age woes. Throughout the second season of “Louie,” Louie encounters the defeats of love, a suicidal friend, a racist aunt and meets America’s troops. He takes his kids to school, tries to buy a house and deals with a feuding colleague.

“Louie” not only proves that modern comedy can go beyond testicles and feces, but that it doesn’t always have to be funny. In a mainstream dominated by shock humor and one-liners, C.K. is showing that the struggles of a single dad can create memorable, meaningful comedy.