Frank Chimero on the Shame in Louis C.K.'s Comedy


Sat, Dec 31st, 2011 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

As he examines the comedy of Louis C.K., Frank Chimero opines that Louis' success is a result of a "subterranean undercurrent of emotion" based entirely on shame.

It's a pretty shallow insight to say that a comedian who has a special named Shameless creates his comedy about shame, but I never noticed. Louis CK has jokes because he is ashamed of his body, ashamed of his thoughts, his culture, his whiteness, whatever. Every joke seems to be about shame in some way. Ashamed of the things he doesn't do that he knows he should. Ashamed of the things that he does do that he knows he shouldn't. Ashamed of his privilege, and ashamed of how he doesn't do anything to help others who don't have it. All of these things are about the way Louis lives his life (or the stories he tells about how he does), but they're also about the lines we draw, the tension of those meeting points of acceptable, common, and desirable behavior, and when our thoughts or actions only meet a couple of those qualifications. For instance, in his newest special, Louis talks about how mind-numbingly boring it is to play board games with his daughter and how much he wants to yell at her for it. Common impulse? Yes. Desirable? Probably, on a very base level to diffuse frustration. Acceptable? Nope. So, we're ashamed by the those dark thoughts, and Louis is there to give the shameful inclinations credence through his routine. We laugh because we know, and we hear others laugh, so we can hear how we are not alone. The thought gets aired, so there's less shame to feel.



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