Louis C.K. is the Radiohead of Comedy.

Okay, bear with me for a bit with this one. I know you’re saying, ‘Louis C.K. and Radiohead are nothing alike, what the hell are you talking about?’ Well, if you’d shut up for a second and let me explain, I’ll tell you what they have in common.  (Besides people who’ve never been in Cliff Claven’s kitchen.)

CAREERS:

Radiohead has arguably been the best band in the world for many moons now, and some sunsets, hurricanes, and late night awkward love-making sessions.

But people forget that they perfected their art over time. Although Radiohead was popular with Pablo Honey and the Bends, it wasn’t until their third album, OK Computer, that they reached the ‘holy shit, these guys must be aliens from the Planet of Melancholy Rock and although they’re depressing the shit out of me, I really like it’ realm of music-making and heart-tugging.

In the last few years, and especially since his totally original, totally amazing FX show Louie, Louis C.K. has been considered the top comedian in the game.

He’s climbed the mountain of jokes and stabbed his funny flag into the frozen carcasses of comedians who were mean to their Sherpas, so said Sherpas said, Let them die of a lack of audience laughter,’ and so they did, just abandoned them in the cold, and then Louis stabbed his funny flag into them. But it took him a couple of years (or, like, twenty) to get to the mountaintop.

I know, it’s a pretty tenuous connection. They both improved over time. Many artists share that similarity. Like, all of them. Anyway, I had to start somewhere.

Let’s just keep going…

SOULS:

Yes. Louis C.K. and Radiohead have the same soul. They share it, like a Brotherhood of Traveling Pants sort of thing.

It’s just when Louis is wearing it, it looks completely different then when Radiohead puts it on. But it’s the same pair of soul-pants.

If you’ll allow me…

From Creep

You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
You’re so fucking special
But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.

Now take those last two lines: What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here. Now picture Louis C.K. saying those two sentences. Picture his voice. His mannerisms. That look of confusion and disbelief he adopts when delivering a joke.

If you think about it, (but not too hard) it’s pretty much the punchline of 50% of his material. How awkward and out-of-place having a body in this crazy modern world feels. It’s confusing fucking shit being alive. Having desires. Emotions. All that. That’s the essence of Radiohead’s lyrics and Louis C.K’s humor.

The ending of the very first episode of Louie.

For those of you who don’t know how to use a link, Louie is on a date with a younger girl. It’s not going well. She’s not picking up anything he’s putting down — as we used to say in the 90’s. (I’m old)

They’re sitting out by the river and he finally snaps and tells her that he’s just not good on dates, but he’s a good father and that counts for something.  “Why am I trying to impress you? Why don’t you tell me about your goddamn life and try to impress me? Why aren’t you nervous to be with me?”

Louie then goes in for an uncoordinated, clumsy, cringe-inducing, super-caucasoidal (yes, I made that word up) attempt for a kiss only for the young girl to bolt suddenly for a helicopter that is waiting on the banks of the river, with its blades going, ready to lift the poor damsel away from the hideous monster that is Louie.

Of course, Louie (the character and comedian) is not a monster, but that’s how  he sees and portrays himself. For our laughter and enjoyment, of course. Thank you for that — for the record, Louis, if you’re wondering (I know you’re not), I bought your 5$ standup special on the Internet. I also paid $5 Internet bucks to Radiohead for In Rainbows. But that all comes later…

Dissatisfaction. Unease. Eternal Questioning. Modern Malaise. White Guilt. Loneliness. Nervousness. Despair. Vulnerability. Unleashed and Leashed Anger. Longing. Frustration. Confusion.

Louis C.K. and Radiohead specialize in the same themes, but in very different ways. Think about it (just slightly). Thom Yorke’s lyrics are an impressionistic collage of angst. Louie is a series of disconnected/sometimes connected vignettes about a neurotic divorcee who just can’t seem to find any comfort.

What I like about Radiohead, and what I noticed in Louie, is the ability for these artists to make a statement without words, by operating in empty space. The slight nervous ticks and silence that Louie often employs instead of dialogue. Just his looks and letting the awkwardness of a situation play out. Aaron Sorkin he is not. Sometimes a look is more than enough. And Radiohead has the ability to let the music speak when Thom Yorke isn’t. Kid A was a beautiful, fairly minimalist album.  Sometimes saying nothing is saying a lot.

And when it comes to love, they both come up empty.

Louie is constantly encountering situations where lonely people are emotionally intruding upon his personal space, or else he’s chasing women and they’re rejecting him. Either way, Louie never does find love. His universe just doesn’t allow it.

In the two-part episode ‘Louie’s Girlfriend,’ the first episode he’s in a bookstore and falls for a stunning, helpful young worker whom agrees to a date after a brazenly honest speech by Louie.

In the second episode we come to learn she’s a possible alcoholic/mental case who’s possibly pathological/suicidal.

It’s like the opposite of Yin and Yang — where nothing ever works out.

Shit and Slop.

But it’s not any sunnier on Radiohead’s island either. (Ah! That’s another one. They both live on islands. England and Manhattan… Okay, I know. I know. That’s stretching it. )

But think about it, name me a Radiohead song you would put on at a party.

Right. None. Unless it’s a heroin party.

Both Radiohead and Louie are total bummers. Entertaining bummers, but still brilliantly morbid and depressing.

For the life of me, I tried to recall one Radiohead love song and came up short. In fact, I googled RADIOHEAD LOVE SONG (in caps like that because I like to scream at the little hamster that works the Google wheel) to see what comes up and this was one of the top offerings: a good song, but certainly not one I’d play to get laid…

All I need from In Rainbows.

I am a moth
Who just wants to share your light
I’m just an insect
Trying to get out of the night

I only stick with you
Because there are no others

You are all I need.
I’m in the middle of your picture
Lying in the leaves

It’s all wrong
It’s all right
It’s all wrong

Blue Ball City with that one…

My point, however wandering, is that their creative leanings lean the same way, except their different crafts allow them to express the same things in vastly different ways. The frustration and loneliness of the modern world. Not connecting with the culture, other people. Being lost. Hopeless. Struggling with being human and afraid all the time.

And that’s pretty cool. Well, not all that sad stuff, but that you can see how a band and a comedian can ride the same train of thought, but on remarkably different tracks.

And that brings me to my last point.

INTERNET DISTRIBUTION:

Radiohead did it first. In 2007 they put their album In Rainbows on the Internet and said, ‘Pay us what you want. We don’t give a shit. We’re rich.’ (I’m paraphrasing) And guess what? They made plenty of money.

Like I said before, I paid five bucks for it. When you think about it, five bucks is the perfect price for an album… and a Subway 12-inch.

Then last year Louis C.K. filmed a standup special that he sold over the Internet for the magic price of five dolla’ also, and he, too, made plenty of cash.

They’re both sincere artists who care more about their art than the lucre. And completely respect their audience. And are trying to use their success to make their industries better. And have never been in my kitchen.

They do this by opening their souls and finding all the awkward, difficult parts and pulling them out for us to laugh at or be moved by. Both tender and crude.

Shit and Slop.

 

So yeah, if you look at Radiohead and you look at Louis C.K. and you look back at Radiohead, and you do this quickly a few times, back and forth, back and forth, and you squint a little bit, sniff some glue, stand on your head, and really use your imagination, you can see how Louis C.K is the Radiohead of Comedy.

I think so, at least.

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4 thoughts on “Louis C.K. is the Radiohead of Comedy.

  1. You’re onto something, but missing an important point. What about artistic integrity? The biggest thing I see in common with Radiohead and Louie is that they take risks and they get praised up and down by critics and fans alike, but not because they’re actually god among men. Because they’re doing what every artist should do but is afraid to. Just because you have a ‘hit sound’ going as Radiohead arguably had with Pablo Honey, Creep doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to play it safe and reproduce. Just because you have a successful material doesn’t mean that it’s the wisest career move in the long run to repeat it endlessly even though you know it works. They both follow their whims and have been rewarded tenfold in praise and admiration. Not because they’re delivering perfection. But because they’re delivering a great product while also following their vision above all else. Instead of catering to the previously pleased audiences they constantly jump in new territory progressively. Same sensibility.

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