Louis C.K made his return to the UK on Wednesday night to play two shows, one at the Apollo and the other at the o2 arena. His audience seemed to be made up of mostly digitally adept hipsters who must have become aware of his stand-ups and HBO show Louis from the Internet (it having not been broadcast in any form in the UK yet). I first discovered Louis through an hour long comedy special called Talking Funny that comprised of Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Louis systematically deconstructing comedy and stand-up. This feels apt in hindsight at this is what he is so good at onstage, albeit without saying it overtly.
The o2 has a capacity of 12,000 people and true to form as soon as Louis made it to the stage he highlighted the inherent absurdity of doing comedy in an enormous dome. The first ‘bit’ he then leads in to is a story about his New York apartment, which he admits half-way through isn’t actually true and then explains how he constructed the joke.
All of the classic themes of stand-up comics are there: sex and the differences between genders, observations about family dynamics, and anecdotes about drugs. The difference is that he also injects moments of philosophy – such as humans needing regret because without it we wouldn’t realized that we were smarter than an earlier version of ourselves doing stupid things – but without seeming preachy or without losing the pace of the comedy. Another great bit he does is about humans having ‘escaped the food chain’ and not having to worry about being chased by day-to-day predators. Smart and very funny.
A recurring theme of his is the lack of gratitude or appreciation we all feel towards new technology like smartphones and air travel. His playful rants about how we have no need for remembering phone numbers or how we life through camera phones work as it makes him seem like a stereotypical ‘cynic’ comic, as well as making the audience feel happy to be alive in such an amazing period of existence.
His final piece on Wednesday was a routine explaining the difference between what should be thought on a subject (of course) and what he really thinks (but maybe). For example, of course children allergic to nuts should be looked after and have access to appropriate medical treatment…but maybe “if touching a nut kills you – you’re supposed to die…” This bit felt so confident that only a comedy virgin wouldn’t have known that it was his big end routine. And it worked magically.
There were times that I was worried that his New York-centric comedy would be lost on a stadium full of Londoners but everything he said was delivered with such confidence and precision that the crowd were with him all the way.
Review by Ollie England who also blogs at Crispy Sharp Film.