You know you’re a good stand-up comedian when you can open a comedy special with a joke about abortion and have your audience laughing within five minutes. Legendary stand-up comedian Louis C.K. returned to the stage this week with a new Netflix special filled with his trademark self-deprecating, gloomy and daring humor.
His new set treads into delicate waters with topics such as suicide, ISIS and LGBTQ at the forefront. All are handled with his expert writing and confidence in his position, no matter how darkly twisted it is for the sake of comedy.
With such hot-button issues taking up most of the runtime, there will always be viewers who find room to get offended. What’s so brilliant about C.K. is his ability to find something everyone can agree on about a loaded topic and focus on that. He breaks down issues to their bare bones and finds humor by approaching them with a warped worldview. By addressing these issues with comedy, it allows us to focus on the common ground — not what divides us.
In the midst of all this, C.K. is never predictable. There’s not one mention of President Donald J. Trump, which has become a safety line available to comedians today to immediately gain audience sympathy. Instead, C.K. approaches the issues in the most non-political way possible. He finds his own spin that asks the audience to follow him down the rabbit hole to understand his twisted view on the matter.
In explaining why he’s pro-choice at the start of the special, C.K. doesn’t give the traditional, partisan response. Instead, he jokes about how he “likes” life, but doesn’t love it — it’s overrated. “[Life’s] okay,” he says. By giving such an unexpected defense of his position, the audience can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of his logic, regardless of their personal beliefs. That caliber of writing permeates the whole show, creating an atmosphere where viewers are laughing at issues with which a lesser comedian would fail.
It may not be C.K.’s best special ever, but it’s a strong return to the spotlight. From explaining how the Christians “won” religion and what heaven’s really like, to his hilarious observations about parenting and marriage, C.K.’s set includes a collection of smart, well-written and delivered jokes that should have viewers laughing throughout. “Louis C.K. 2017” is now available to stream on Netflix.