Louis CK Review 'A masterclass from a comedic hard-puncher at the height of his powers'
Louis CK. 3Arena, Dublin
Louis CK is the undisputed heavyweight champion of nihilistic stand-up and his sell-out Dublin performance proved a masterclass from a comedic hard-puncher at the height of his powers.
He strode on in a charcoal suit that foreshadowed the midnight-black humour to follow. Without ever quite losing that snaggletooth grin, the 48-year-old Bostonian slalomed through a series of pummelling monologues on age, death, religion, sex, parenthood and racism – in other words, all human life.
The gags were strikingly close to the bone from a superstar with his own merchandise range and prime time show (the currently on-hiatus Louie). He wondered why anyone would have wished to rub vinegar in Jesus’s face mid-crucifixion (because it was kinky) and squeezed guilty laughs from a devastating portrait of a loving old couple trudging in lockstep towards the grave, only for the husband to die first and have the time of his life as a singleton in heaven.
CK has been touring the same set in the UK (tonight’s attendance of 10,000 by far the largest of his visit). However, fears he might simply go through the motions before catching the next flight back to the US were quickly put to rest.
The comedian arrived with a broad smile and plunged into a sequence of off-the-cuff musings on Ireland and Irishness. These were mostly a hodgepodge of insults and stereotypes - but much too funny to take offence at. "I'm 25 per cent Irish," he said. "So I'm 25 per cent delighted to be here."
This was a springboard for an hour or so of torrid anecdotes and glitteringly glum asides. The father of two daughters, CK is especially insightful on the challenges of raising children, though his scattershot observations on death, religion and power-napping (in reality carefully crafted gags) likewise had the tang of toxic truths delivered in a sugar-coated pill.
Away from stand-up, CK has tried to establish himself as a serious film-maker with this summer’s Horace and Pete, a self-funded and largely joke-free drama about an embittered bar-owning family (he has denied reports that the project, paid for out of his own pocket, has left him broke). Some of that ennui crept in here and it's easy to imagine the Joe Duffy/Late Late Show demographic whipped into outrage by his riffs on suicide and the soul-flensing rigours of parenthood.
But CK was careful to backlight the pitiless comedy with bearish brio and hardscrabble wit. He was the archetypal funny guy, hilarious even when simply huffing into the mic or cracking up at his own quips. Rather than submit to shock or indignation, the reflex was to sit forward and bask in the scuzzy glow of his genius.