In his new Netflix standup special 2017, comedian Louis C.K. delivers what might be his most cohesive and intriguing set to date, offering unique perspectives on the topics of abortion, suicide, religion, parenthood, and love. These perspectives are at times dark and nihilistic, but are delivered in a way that is difficult not to accept and softened by C.K.’s expert use of humor. In this special, C.K. demonstrates that he is a master of observational comedy. He upholds the image as someone who studies humans and spends great amounts of time pondering the minutia and subtleties of everyday life and human nature.
Often underappreciated, show openings are critical to setting the scene for a comedy special. C.K. is a master at opening shows, never wasting any time with awkward introductions and pleasantries, instead always jumping headfirst into his material and delivering laughs within the first few seconds, immediately setting the tone for the rest of the show. This special is no different with C.K. opening by going straight into his thoughts on abortion. He then proceeds to offer up a refreshing take on the controversial subject. He points out the extreme dichotomy between abortion stances where one side sees it as merely “taking a shit” and the other sees it as killing a baby. While C.K. admits he is pro-choice, unlike most, he doesn’t deny that abortion is killing a baby, but believes women should be able to kill babies. He rejects the idea that life is important, and says it is a women’s job to determine who lives and who dies.
From here he segues into the topic of life and death, drawing our attention to the harsh realities of life. He calls on the audience to think of every shitty thing ever and then reminds us that they are all a part of life. He claims to only like life just enough that he has not killed himself but with a “razor-thin margin.”
He portrays suicide as something intriguing that we all contemplate at times. In an absurdist fashion, he claims there are no real obligations in life because you can just kill yourself—it will solve all your problems and even the world’s problems. Albeit, this is a one off solution. After making the case for suicide, C.K. points out that there must be something about life, because people often pick even the worst versions of it over death. By dishing out his brutally honest perspective on life and death, C.K. is giving us an against the grain take on the insignificance, rather than significance, of human life.
But C.K. does not stop at dismantling the value of life itself. He then goes after the conventional views of love with an equally brutal approach. When he first points out that every relationship deteriorates at some point and claims that everyone is either alone or in “a shitty thing” it may seem like an overly negative perspective coming from a jaded divorcee. But his message is wise and one we do not hear often enough in a world where half of all marriages fail. He admits that love is the best part of life, but warns that it is greedy to expect such a good thing to last. He points out the absurdity in thinking that such an intense feeling like love could last forever. He calls out the naivety and arrogance of young couples who think they have figured it out when so many before them have failed.
This theme is further expressed in a story he tells of an elderly couple who have spent their entire lives together, but the man dies years before the woman does. C.K. claims that after being in heaven for several years, the last thing the man would want to hear is that his wife is coming.
In a culture that glorifies love, C.K.’s harsh observations are refreshing and comforting in a way, making us realize that that the idea of everlasting love that everyone celebrates is not realistic and that we should just enjoy love in the moment and not be surprised when it inevitably dies.
C.K. is one of the most prolific comedians out there, releasing a new special nearly every year. He is also one of the most consistent, with all of them delivering in terms of humor. While this one is on par humor wise, it stands out a little above the rest in terms of wisdom and thought provocation. In this set, C.K. dug a little deeper, getting at some profound truths about human nature. He bombards us with the harsh realities of life, love, and death but with enough humor that we still walk away feeling good, but definitely wiser from having confronted the bleak and terrifying nature of our existence we usually try to ignore.
With this special, C.K. has further solidified himself as one of the greatest comedians of our time, offering a unique perspective and one that is beneficial to our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
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