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Greg A. Rice
Louis C.K. performed at UW's Meany Hall on Thursday, November 5.
It must be a satisfying thrill for a left-leaning, touring stand-up

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Last Night: Louis C.K. on Obama, Dr. Seuss at UW

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Greg A. Rice
Louis C.K. performed at UW's Meany Hall on Thursday, November 5.
It must be a satisfying thrill for a left-leaning, touring stand-up comedian to play to a sold-out, West Coast college crowd. You have a captive audience populated by committed and forgiving fans--the sort of thing one dreams of after years of toiling in the thankless and reliably brutal (if talent-building) context of the club circuit. This is particularly true if you are New York-based comic Louis C.K., a hard-working, slow-burning success story who recently got the green light from FX for Louie, a new series based on his experiences of raising two daughters in NYC. This is a heartening comeback just two years after having his promising and wildly under-appreciated HBO series, Lucky Louie, cancelled after just one season.

Sauntering on stage a mere 15 fashionably minutes late, draped in a faded and vaguely blouson black t-shirt and baggie jeans, C.K. was flip about his success, but obviously appreciative of the affection being showered his way. "I'm going to do the best show I can, but I don't have to," he asserted. "You've already paid!" Luckily for us, he proceed to offer up almost two full hours of material, much of it road-tested and discreetly polished, some of it bravely unproven and raw.

Starting with a handful of classic topics (the trials and tribulations of travel, East vs. West coast culture schisms and the pitfalls and perks of child-rearing), his easy mix of material straight enough for PG-13 hours segued seamlessly into harder riffs on class and sexuality. C.K.'s strength as a comedian is a combination of unwillingness to base his work strictly on insults or easy targets, while somehow making his political undertones on point without being preachy. A good portion of the set's closing loop was based on his assertion that "being successful in America basically means you're a piece of shit on some level," an analysis he happily put himself at the center of ("I witness human suffering all the time and I still just go out and party afterwords") without sounding like someone about to drown in their own liberal guilt.

When the audibly enthusiastic audience roused him for an encore, he ran through a medley of effective bits on the weakening and misappropriation of language ("hilarious", "amazing" and "genius" were all deserving citations), the unfairness of women not being able to see men's genitalia until it's "too late" ("He could be a perfectly gorgeous guy with a horrible, twisted, Dr. Seuss penis underneath!"), his abject willingness to felatiate President Obama, and an obviously unfinished piece ("This is just me talking now; I'm just throwing things on the fire,") about his daughter finding feces on the floor of her grade school. Strangely charming stuff, even in its rough stages.

It's always a joy to see someone who's worked so hard (and been stepped upon in so many ways) hit a level of success like C.K.'s and watch them handle it with equal parts humility and triumphant nonchalance. Even if the FX series doesn't have legs in the end, C.K. clearly has a stand-up fanbase that's not going anywhere.

 
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