Friday, June 24, 2011

Love and Hate

Louis CK is a genius because he is pissed off and trying to figure it out, without allowing his rage to become his schtick.  He deals in taboos (chief among them both loving and hating your kids, loving and hating your friends, loving and hating the whole damn world really), but he does not seem like he is conspicuously pushing buttons just to go blue.  His new TV show, Louie, on FX Thursday nights at 10:30, is a revelation.  Low-budget (the network made a deal with him to give him minimal money upfront for each episode promising no network-exec notes), fidgety and full of feeling, Louie feels like a cinema-verite 1970s movie with a long haired Al Pacino or Dustin Hoffman sauntering somewhere around in the background.  Louis CK basically plays himself, and in the episode I saw the whole thing was a slice of his weird, boring life done so stylishly drab it felt like art.  Intermingled with the scenes of domestic "bliss" (like his daughter bitching because she doesn't get a Popsicle like his other daughter did, or his middle aged pregnant sister farting in the ER) are bits from his hilarious standup.  Louis CK is the 21st Century Jerry Seinfeld in the standup gigs:  foulmouthed but genuinely interested in real life, finding laughs in banality but also miffed that reality is so stupidly funny and banal.  "Performance art" is one of those pretentious terms we often slap onto whatever seems smugly self-contained and well just plain obtuse.  I'd say Louis CK is a "performance artist"  let out of the constraints of that trope:  he brings new insight into what performance means, while creating a small, sharp TV show that's reinventing what "TV shows" can do and be.