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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

DVD+Digital: The comic genius of Louis C.K.

Posted by on Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 11:48 AM

  • Courtesy of FX

Too much good TV, that's the problem. It's impossible to keep up with all the quality series on television these days – Mad Men, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Homeland, Girls. Well, not impossible, but certainly tricky, and you have to give up things like family and daylight.

One show I never miss, though, is LOUIE, the verite-style situation comedy from veteran alt-comic Louis C.K. Season two of the hit FX show is out this week on DVD and Blu-ray, and it's a good opportunity to catch up with this genre-busting endeavor.

C.K. has long been known as a “comic's comic,” which in most cases is code for “not very popular.” But C.K. has proven the exception and has won legions of fans with his comedic style of brutally honest self examination.

In Louie, C.K. plays a fictionalized version of himself as a divorced father of two young girls, plying his comic trade in New York City and occasionally on the road. What's amazing/impossible about Louie is that C.K. has negotiated for near-complete creative control with this show. He writes, directs, produces and even edits each episode.

It's the auteur approach to situation comedy, and it pays off. As with Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm, the show is a remarkably pure distillation of one man's comic vision. Louie has a rhythm all its own, its indie-film vibe cut with the spontaneity of a stand-up routine.

The laughs in Louie come in the strangest places. C.K. sets the tone for season two in the first episode, “Pregnant,” in which Louie's expectant sister stops by for a visit that results in a trip to the hospital. The episode goes a long way for a very dumb gag. But the joke isn't really the payoff; it's the build-up and the aftermath which resonate.

The vignettes in Louie all proceed from comic premises, but C.K. often gets his best moments in the corner of the frame, as it were. He has an artist's eye for tragic absurdity. A character's wrenching emotional breakdown is followed by a throwaway sight gag involving 60 bananas, and somehow it's unbelievably funny.

As with season one, the 13 episodes of season two are peppered with occasional guest stars, including appearances from Bob Saget, Dane Cook, Steven Wright and Chris Rock. One particularly nervy episode features Joan Rivers (as herself) bitching about Betty White horning in on her territory, and bequeathing some hard won wisdom to Louie on the hard knocks of comedy.

The topics that Louie tackles tend to be specific to C.K.'s circumstances – how weird it is to make new friends in your 40s; how it's possible to love your kids and regret every decision that led to their birth. That's the deal he makes with his audience. He writes about what he knows, tells the truth, and makes it funny. The new season of Louie starts June 28 on FX.

Format: DVD and Blu-ray

Extras: Audio commentaries from C.K. on selected episodes.

Also New This Week:

It's all comedy, all the time! Fellow alt-comic Sarah Silverman had a decent run with her Comedy Central show THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM, out now in a 7-DVD set with soundtrack CD and generous extras.

A city couple retreat to a rural commune in WANDERLUST, starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd and directed by David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer).

Jason Segel and Ed Helms headline the indie comedy JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME.

Still more “found footage” nonsense in the extreme party teen comedy PROJECT X.

Plus: Drew Barrymore and cute whales in BIG MIRACLE, improbably fascinating math facts in the BBC doc THE CODE, and TV-on-DVD collections from FRANKLIN AND BASH, WILFRED and the very funny Lisa Kudrow project WEB THERAPY.

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