Friday, June 29, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: Louie

As always with FTT O-T, it's a big wide Web, so much so that it might even be worldly in nature. When you see the Off-Topic label, this isn't going to be sports, and you get to move along if you aren't here to watch me dance in a new place. On with it.

 In the Internet age, where everything is fragmented and no one watches everything, very few people are watching just what you are watching; everything is cult and niche and small beer.

And yet, there's still the feeling that you are being hack when you say the obvious thing, or hype the thing that it feels like everyone knows about. For me, right now, that's "Louie", the labor of love from top-drawer sad-sack comedian Louis CK.

If you aren't actually familiar with Louie's work, you need to be, and with a quickness, and there's really no reason why you aren't. There's ample clips on YouTube, lots of appearances on talk shows, any number of DVDs and instant access stuff on Netflix, and so on, and so on.

And while all of that is well and good, his series is actually the best thing he's done, and probably the least funny.

Louie's schtick is self-doubt and self-hate, all kinds of poor choices and bad ideas... but it's not jokey, or hack. Widely described as a comedian's comedian, I'm still not sure how he became as popular as he is right now, and I'm kind of looking forward to five to ten years from now, when he's gone back to the shadows where he's far more comfortable.

When you catch interviews with the guy, it doesn't seem like any kind of an act. It would be hard to take if it weren't so honest, so heartfelt, and so frequently universal. The man has done more for the cause of honest parental humor than anyone since, well, maybe Bill Cosby back when the man wasn't a borderline corporation of smug.

"Louie", the FX show, has the feeling of a more or less cinema verite documentary of his life, even when it's dreamlike or silly or over-the-top. Louie himself is a much better comic and dramatic actor than he'll ever give himself credit for being, but part of that is that he's really not stretching too far for this; much of the show is just the clear extrapolation of his stand-up act, but with solid actors and A-level friends.

In season 2, now available on Netflix Instant and more or less inhaled by me this week, you get Joan Rivers, Doug Stanhope, Chris Rock, Jim Norton, Todd Barry and more, and none of it seems forced or staged. Also, I kind of love his kids, because they are so true to life, both in their moments of kindness and their moments of manipulation.

It just rings true, and right, and meaningful. This isn't to say that this is all fun to watch, or that there aren't strong moments and scenes of drama mixed with the stand-up appearances and set pieces. It's also not something I'm going to show to a kid, no matter how much they might want to see it. (I'm kind of amazed this runs on basic cable, rather than a pay channel.)

But the plain and simple fact of it is that very funny people can also be very good dramatic actors, and when you couple that with the raging intellect and desire to make something that hasn't ever been made before, you could just have something great.

And that's Louie. Just great.

Season 3 just started, and the first two seasons are widely available. Go watch it.

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