There’s something different about comedian Louis CK. He talks about the usual fare, chewing on topics like marital relations, raising a family and the sad truth of aging. But soon his show takes a different turn, one most people don’t expect. He starts talking about race and suddenly everything gets a little uncomfortable.
There’s something different about comedian Louis CK.
He talks about the usual fare, chewing on topics like marital relations, raising a family and the sad truth of aging.
But soon his show takes a different turn, one most people don’t expect. He starts talking about race and suddenly everything gets a little uncomfortable.
He’s not racist, nor is he following in the frantic footsteps of Chris Rock. CK, who was raised in Newton, is a 49-year-old, balding Caucasian male who nonchalantly brings up some of the most sensitive issues in culture, and somehow gets the audience to laugh with him.
“I don’t do any of this stuff to offend people,” explains CK. “I’m aware that I’m offending some people. But I’m finding there are enough people enjoying it that it’s worth offending the few…or maybe the many.”
CK (which helps people pronounce his real last name of “Szekely”) is returning to his home state for a show that will be taped for an upcoming HBO special “Louis CK: Chewed Up” at the Berklee Performance Center from Feb. 29-March 1. His first HBO special was called “Shameless.”
“That was a very rough special,” says CK. “It was scattered and I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t as deliberate as I will be this time. I said f*** almost every other word and when I look at it now, it was born out of a lot of nervous energy. But this time, I’m using words that are really not OK for a 49-year-old white guy to use.”
These are words that are rarely uttered in public and if they are, it’s usually done with a whisper or said in code (think “See you next Tuesday”).
It’s strange to find that shock still exists, especially in a culture where celebrities find new lows in human depravity and reality shows pry into private lives of the general public.
But CK pulls it off, with a level of honesty in his voice that somehow makes it OK. Some may remember his comedic technique on his short-lived HBO sitcom “Lucky Louie,” which depicted a dark side (or some might say realistic side) of raising a family. The show was set in Boston and tackled issues like sex and race so fearlessly that it caused Barbara Walters to declare it a sexist and racist show (CK defended it on “The View”).
In one show, Louie’s wife looks bored during sex. In another, their 4-year-old daughter declares that she doesn’t want “the Black Barbie.” Louie also finds a way out of the incessant “Why?” questions from his daughter by replying “Because God is dead and we’re alone.”
That’s CK’s brand of comedy. He doesn’t set you up for a joke nor does he do impressions. He produces an atmosphere of honesty on stage that is both frightening and comical. But how did he become so comfortable with things most people wouldn’t dare say?
“Once you’re 40, married and with children, you’re really locked in,” says CK. “Pretty much, the next thing you’re gonna do is die. I think you earn the right to say what you want. My big thing was to try to do material in this special that no one wants to hear me do, but by the time they’re done with it, everybody, old ladies, Christians, everybody will like it.”
Audiences for CK’s show are varied. They can be liberal college students shifting uncomfortably in their seats at his political incorrectness or older people shaking their head at his sexual material.
And yet, by some miracle of trust between performer and audience, CK brings people with him despite his harsh material.
“I think it’s because I’m being honest,” says CK. “I’m not trying to be a [jerk] and say ‘ha-ha’ I made you laugh at a certain word. I get them all to a place where they are all laughing at the same stuff. And that’s a great thing to be able to do that. Because, well, I grew up in Newton and everyone’s nice in Newton. It’s a nice town. I’m a nice guy. But I have a black, ugly heart.”
Perhaps his skewed sense of humor developed from being a sort of outsider in Newton. After living in Mexico during his younger years (his dad is Mexican), CK moved to Newton, “near the Mass. Turnpike by the lake, which was where the people who mowed the lawns of the big houses in Newton Centre lived.”
He says he flunked every class he took at Newton North High School and was one of the only kids who “got high, dropped acid and listened to punk rock.”“I was a really bad kid, back in the day,” admits CK.
But today that former bad kid has found a way bring up the kinds of subjects that could get a bad kid kicked out of school.
“I don’t think I could talk [seriously] about any of this stuff,” says CK. “I think it would make people too uncomfortable.”Louis CK
Berklee Performance Center, Boston Feb. 29 and March 1 Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Tickets: $30 Call 617-747-2261