Good Laughs, Bad Laughs

Netflix’s “Louis C.K. 2017” review

1:14

TV-MA

2.5/4

Louis C.K.: entertainer, groaner, father. This balding, middle-aged cynic has wormed his way into my heart once again with his stand-up comedy act in Washington D.C. recorded for Netflix in the spring of this year. I can’t quite say there’s something for everyone, but regardless of content, there’s a little bit of natural charm in Louis that can win you over — if you’re willing to give him the time of day.

As a comedian, Louis’s style is blunt in a way that adds and detracts from the overall enjoyment. His age shows: he’s a world-weary guy with two young’uns, and he doesn’t shy away from observing all the nitty-gritty bullshit that comes with daily life. The perspective he comes from is genuine, too experienced to come off as jaded whining. Unlike a lot of comedians, Louis is at his best when he’s at his quietest, killing the audience softly following minutes of buildup.

The double-edged sword of his type of humor is that he tends to rely on shock value as a crutch perhaps one moment too many. Hell, the opener was a dubiously tactful take on abortion. There might be something to be said about the generation gap between humor before and after the advent of social justice movements, but I’m not here to preach. C.K. is an adult performer with an adult audience; if he wants to preserve that image, I think invoking harsh subjects as jokes better have some damn good setup to justify their usage. That’s not a blanket statement though; not every approach to the unspeakables is haphazard, depression and suicide being among the exceptions. You needn’t worry about the act crossing “very special episode” territory that kills the mood once it hits that point — it’s just C.K. humorously musing on enduring human nature, not crossing any lines it doesn’t have to for garnering laughs.

With any given stand-up comedy, you go in with the same goal as going out and getting wasted: to distract from the burdens of your own life. But what separates decent stand-up from great stand-up is memorability, and besides a smidge of immaturity and a few bits that drag on for longer than needed, Louis CK’s latest act will stick with me as an hour well spent one lonely Saturday night.