Monday, December 15, 2008

Preview: Louis C.K.'s Chewed Up

Any comic could mine a topic like “boxers versus briefs” for some easy, observational material. For Louis C.K., “boxers versus briefs” is a confession. It’s a chance for him to merrily reveal how his crotch “looks like a pig’s ass when I’m naked.” Which is not the worst of C.K.’s confessions from his brutally funny new special, Chewed Up, which is out on DVD and CD tomorrow.

Here’s a sample from that routine, “My Horrible Body.”

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The Newton native does not ease into uncomfortable subjects. The minute he hits the stage of the Berklee Performance Center, C.K. starts into a favorite topic of one of his idols, George Carlin, taking on three specific terms in “Offensive Words.” Here’s a clip from the bit, in which C.K. explains his hatred for “The ‘N’ Word.”

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There is an undeniable logic to even the most potentially offensive of C.K.’s thoughts that short circuits the immediate shock and leaves you saying, “Huh, that makes sense.” He looks at everything with a sort of dark wonderment, whether it’s the beautiful nonsense that his kids (and all kids) constantly spout (“A Three-Year-Old’s Secret”), his diet (“My Horrible Body”), or race (“I Enjoy Being White”).

When he goes to his doctor for a sore ankle, the 40-year-old C.K. is told there is no remedy, just painful stretching he’ll have to do from now on – “That’s just a new thing you do until you and your shitty ankle both die.” He sums up the history of race relations in a tidy hypothetical – as a white person, he could get into a time machine and go anywhere and know it would be all right.

As he notes in the bonus interview on the DVD, C.K. took a minimalist approach to the setting and lights, which has the effect of focusing attention on his comedy. (If that seems strangely obvious to you, compare Chewed Up to Bill Maher’s last special, The Decider, which was broadcast live and taped in the same venue. That was meant to seem more like an event, an approach C.K. purposefully eschewed).

Chewed Up is stand-up comedy stripped down to its bare essentials, something we can expect to see from Louis C.K. about once a year. C.K. (and also notably, Bill Burr) has committed to leaving his old material behind after every special and starting work on the new one immediately following, in the tradition of George Carlin (to whom this special is dedicated). The more C.K., the better.

BONUS: The DVD is of special interest to Boston comedy nerds. Besides the aforementioned facts that C.K. is from Newton and the special was taped at Berklee, C.K. speaks at length in the bonus interview about his time here, remembering Chance Langton’s open mic at Stitches, seeking inspiration from WBCN’s Friday Funnies, and playing Off the Wall Cinema.

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