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August 31, 2014

Learning From 'Louie': A Victory for Comedy Everywhere

by Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously), posted Jul 27th 2010 4:00PM
Louie CKWith so many hack Hollywood funnymen getting their own shows (Jim Belushi, Charlie Sheen, Ice-T), it's encouraging to see Louis C.K. finally get his due.

After the mediocre 'Lucky Louie' on HBO, and an underrated stint on NBC's 'Parks and Recreation,' the best working comedian in the world has finally found his vehicle, and this "vehicle" is boss: with a spoiler, a HEMI, cupholders, and everything!

'Louie' (Tuesdays, 11PM on FX) is written and created by Louie himself, and the show's concept is based largely on the germ of the idea that gave us 'Seinfeld,' and we all know what happened with that germ: it gave us puss-filled boils of laughter and a pretty nasty case of giggle-rickets.

The difference is, 'Louie' adheres more closely to the original 'Seinfeld' concept of "let's see how a comedian's life and material intertwine," and Louie has the added luxury of being a combination of both Jerry and George -- the lead funnyman and the hapless loser.

What really separates the two shows, however, is the material itself. Seinfeld's observational style of comedy is conducive to a more '90s style of comedy: light, situational and catch-phraselicious, while C.K.'s more topical, edgy, irreverent self-deprecation make for a show that is overtly "about something," in our current social climate, following in the footsteps of shows like 'It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia,' 'The Boondocks' and 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' in the HBO era.

Whether it be political, racial, sexual, or whatever, 'Louie' has something to say, something to offer to public discourse. 'Seinfeld' had a healthy amount of social commentary as well, but it didn't feel like the show's primary objective was to generate an open debate about politics.

For me, 'Louie' crossed over from just another half-hour comedy to one of the most important shows on television with one scene, the episode two opener:



The scene is reminiscent of the late 'Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn' on Comedy Central which was nothing more than a forum for comedians to engage in debates about everything from race to the best flavor of lube. 'Louie' does so much more with this opportunity. As I watched the scene for the first time, my emotions went from schoolgirl giggling to tears rolling down my face.

It has always been my contention that we can learn the most from the things we take for granted: comedy, television, movies, and I have built a "career" based on that principle. 'Louie' is just another example of this theory in action. I don't know that I've seen a more entertaining and or enlightening discussion of sexual preference and politics in my life, with both sides being heard and considered ... and this is during a time when sexual equality is a major issue in our society, when literally, everyone is talking about it. Every. Single. Person.

Leave it to the comedian to put it all into perspective when the pundits, the scholars, and the left and the right just bitch and moan each other to death. I would argue that you can get more out of this scene from 'Louie' than any lecture or journal article about the same topic. Why? Because it's funny ... and everyone listens to funny.

'Louie' is just another small victory for comedy everywhere. It dismantles the preconceived notion that if something is funny, it is without value. C.K. doesn't just limit his pointed opinions to sexuality, however, as he continues to tackle many of our culture's taboos (cancer, rape, race, gender, sex) with an odd sort of disturbed levity.

This is where comedy is headed. Comedians (yes, even Katt Williams) are the philosophers of our time. It helps that most comedians are less concerned with what you believe than they are with questioning why you believe it. They want us to think and laugh. That's it... and maybe buy a t-shirt or give them sexual favors behind a Dunkin' Donuts after their show. 'Louie' is no different, and that makes all the difference in the world.


Dr. Vaughan teaches English/Media/Humor courses at Binghamton University in upstate New York, and exercised once. You can also check out his blog at drvtv.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/pages/Ryan-Vaughan/21931402981

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Tony DIMeo

couldn't have said it better myself I've always thought that the sitcoms of today have a lot to teach us. and LOUIE is a perfect example I loved the episode with Nick Dipaulo

July 27 2010 at 11:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously)

Yeah, just a joke. Even if only one person out there got it, it was worth it.

July 27 2010 at 11:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously)

Look up the word "irony."

July 27 2010 at 10:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously)'s comment
Miles

You would've had to say the same thing to me. I didn't know where you were going with that one.

July 27 2010 at 10:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LW

Funnyman Ice-T? On what f'n planet???? What ever you have to say about the talented Louis CK is marred by your ignorant open paragraph. Or do you describe "Law & Order SVU" as a comedy riotfest full of laughs galore?

July 27 2010 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
R-Bro

The show has occasional moments of brilliance (the poker game, the fight with his buddy) mixed with weird, awkward, unfunny bits. And what's with that minute-plus opening sequence where he's just walking through the streets? Too long, not funny, pointless.

July 27 2010 at 5:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Melanie

Enh. This show sucks. And I say that as someone who liked his first show and loves his stand-up. This show is just way too uneven for me. It will have a great opener and then follow it up with 15 minutes of pure, deadly unfunny crap.

July 27 2010 at 4:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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