Live Review: Louis CK and Special Guests
Nobody inside the Just for Laughs camp seemed to know who the special guests appearing with Louis CK at his show Saturday night at the Chicago Theatre might be. Turns out, nobody was supposed to know. The producers at Just for Laughs asked CK to joins this year's fest, but having just performed in Chicago last October CK was worried he'd spread himself too thin so he had an idea: Curate a top-secret show in which he brought out the legends who inspired him as a young comic. Great idea.
But first, CK performed about 20 minutes of stand-up including a priceless yarn about our fascination with mean people. Why do we treat them like celebrities, he asked. For example, CK recalled a woman running to catch a train on a crowded New York subway and a man behind him in his car yelling, "Run bitch" at her. CK said he was impressed and went on to describe how we're in awe of their audacity and how he had to turn around to see this guy. I love it when CK digs at the darker, yet commonplace feelings all humans have. He also waxed about what a good person he believed himself to be for wanting to give up his seat in first class for people in the armed services, even though he's never actually done that. But just knowing that he'd considered such a selfless act felt noble. So true.
CK's first comedian was Jake Johannsen. This guy has been around for a long time, although this was the first time I've seen him live I think. Johannsen mostly poked fun at middle age and fatherhood including bits about going to bed fine and waking up with an "athletic-type injury" in the morning. He described child-rearing as, "Giving up your own hopes and dreams so you can create a tiny version of yourself and launch it into the world" and talked about how fascinating it was for him to watch his wife and toddler daughter fight.
I think we were all surprised that the second comic for the night was Richard Lewis. I love Lewis and have seen him before. At 64, he still delivers jokes in in the same neurotic, rapid-fire succession, this time launching into diatribes about getting older, "I have eight sperm left. My doctor even named them," religion, "I thought Dianetics was a Kosher cookbook," and sexuality. "The seahorse has no penis, no vagina yet it's shooting out babies. That's why it's shaped like a question mark." Lewis also noted that he was entering his 41st year as a comic and that Chicago was the city that made him although I wish he'd expounded on this a little more.
Everyone was thrilled that CK's third and final special guest was the legendary Steven Wright who received a standing ovation from a good chunk of the crowd. I don't know how that guy holds so many one-liners in his head, but I scribbled some of my favorites here:
"When I was born, I wish the first thing I said was quote so when I died I could say unquote."
"When I was young I remember being told that the President was married to the First Lady. All I could think was, 'Wow, I wonder if she saw any dinosaurs.'"
"Jesus, stop turning water into wine, I'm trying to take a shower."
"They should call it the Old Testament and the most recent testament."
"The universe is expanding. That should ease traffic."
"My nephew has HD ADD. He can't pay attention, but when he does it's really vivid."
"I bought a new camera. It's so advanced you don't even need it."
Surprisingly, when CK returned to the stage, he delivered another solid 30-45 minutes of material launching first into reading Tom Sawyer to his daughters and trying to explain the use of the 'n' word. He slammed Clifford the Big Red Dog, "Is he really big? Maybe he was just drawn closer to the page." He spun an awesome yarn about getting high in Kansas City (a town he hates), talked about thinking nasty thoughts about women and also showing his penis to a girl with Down Syndrome when he was eight. The only time CK disappoints is when drops in a dick joke without it being connected to a larger point. I think that's the stuff of lesser comics, but I otherwise had no complaints.