Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Where does Louis C.K. go from here? ... by gimleteye

Huge fan of Louie C.K. Huuuge.

If you are new to Louie C.K., the great comic of his generation, I recommend listening to interviews with Terry Gross, "Fresh Air", and then Marc Maron's podcast. Quite a story Louie has to tell about his recent, sensational "Horace and Pete", a 10 episode drama/comedy only available through direct purchase on his website. This is from Wikipedia:

The series is set in a run-down bar called Horace and Pete's in Brooklyn, New York. The bar has been owned by the same family since 1916 and has been passed down through several generations, always with a Horace and a Pete in charge. The current owners are the 49-year-old Horace Wittel VIII and his 52-year-old cousin Pete. The bar is old fashioned and tradition bound; for example no mixed drinks are served and the only beer they sell is Budweiser on tap. Pricing is variable, depending on whether the customer is a regular or a hipster who is drinking there "ironically." For many years, the management has been watering down the drinks, even justifying it to themselves by saying their alcoholic regular customers would be dead by now if they were drinking full strength liquor.

The ensemble cast is spectacular. Jessica Lange and Alan Alda turn in bravura roles in their late careers. Steve Buscemi and Edie Falco. Steven Wright. Kurt Metzger.

The problem for famous comics is fame. The best retain and protect their inner core of pain; a process that is incredibly hard to achieve under the spotlight of wealth and attention. In other words, comics famously can't hide in plain sight of the 24/7 entertainment cycle.

"Horace and Pete" is a gutsy, self-funded effort by Louie, who freed himself from television broadcast conventions; the half-hour format arranged around 12 minute segments fit for commercials. It is difficult to summarize the result, except to say there is nothing boring in "Horace and Pete"; a set-up that looks at first glance like the bar scene of "Cheers". That's the only recognizable feature of the show.

Much of "Horace and Pete" feels more related to Eugene O'Neill, the American dramatist of the early 20th century.

"Horace and Pete" could be a three-act, American play for Broadway. If it were, Louie C.K. might be on his way to transition from a major comic talent to an American playwright of the first order. "Horace and Pete" has enough sparks to show it is possible, and if that happened, it would be unprecedented. (One could say that Woody Allen bridged both worlds, and in fact Allen emerged from the golden age of television comedy, but Louie C.K. has a much wider range; in particular, his understanding of and writing for women.)

There is the possibility that "Horace and Pete" will be a stand-alone. A work of idiosyncratic brilliance. A series of sketches that are entertaining and sometimes profoundly touching the way that best comedy can be; intersecting with tragedy then backing away. Louie C.K. can be more and should. On that point, time will tell.

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