In Which We Discuss the importance of sincerity and hate
Disclaimer: This is a long post, made up mostly of writing and words. If you do not like reading or standup comedy, it is not for you. That is ok. I accept you AS IS.
OK SO: I have been wanting to do this for awhile--write about standup comedians that I really like. I was really into standup in high school, then forgot about it in college while trying really hard to be super smart (Delueze you motherfu#&ers! Friggin' Deluze!). Then, after college, I got okay with being dumb again, and so well the standup comedy stuff returned. I am not saying standup is dumb, just that I stopped being a dick.
ALSO OK: my stepson home-schooled for awhile and one of things he wanted to study, no joke, was standup. So for a semester he and I spent every Wed. watching standup and then talking about it. We went from Abbot and Costello up through about Seinfeld, at which historical point, because the semester was over, we basically kind of stopped.
BUT SO, it got me thinking about standup and wanting to continue talking about it, especially the post-Seinfeld Catch-A-Rising-Star standup (about which, if you got the reference: nerd).
So first: Louis CK. Here, watch something. It's from his HBO special Shameless
I love Louis CK's delivery. He is doing some relatively straight forward slice of life standup, but he NAILS it. Slice of life comedy probably starts with Lenny Bruce - someone talking on stage about something that actually happened in their life as opposed to someone just talking about something they simply wrote down in a joke format. When Lenny Bruce first got up on stage and started going about race and religion and his legal troubles, it was an incredibly shocking and refreshing break from the shiny veneer most showbiz had at that point.
But so, the problem with slice of life stuff, though, is that most people's lives are boring and so comedy based on that life tends to be general platitudes about crap like dating or their parents. This is where you get those comedians being like, "Women just hate it when I leave the toilet seat up!" This kind of comedy makes me want to break windows and chairs.
Louis CK talks about his boring life, but his stories avoid inane generalizations; there is sincerity in his jokes. That's important. Seinfeld succeeded because his observations about life were so incredibly witty. But they were also a little cold. Louis CK succeeds because he actually believes his observations and stories; he is truthful on stage. (Watch, e.g., this bit about being a parent)
In the above video from Shameless, for instance, I truly believe that he hates those people in the post office; just like I actually truly hate those people in the post office. But, if that was it--if it was just an observation about lines in post offices ("Who here has been to the post office? What about that line? Am I right?")--then I don't think it would work. Where this works for me is how Louis up and starts meta-hating. He starts as a member of the hating group but then he starts hating the hating group. This is extremely truthful. It's not simply an observation about what it's like to be in the post office . It's like this truthful admission of how much he just hates people and maybe, also, how much you hate people too.
OH, BUT ABOUT HIS DELIVERY: from a purely technical, rhythm and beats sort of stand point? Amazing. E.g.: "Fuucckking, Duude."