Comedy & Tragedy: Louis C.K.

Comedy & Tragedy: Louis C.K.

“and I need her not to go with me just—please. -I don’t know anybody her age.-” Was that comical? tragic? or both? Answering that question requires context. Comedy and tragedy have always had an interesting relationship. Although the words comedy and tragedy have polar opposite connotations, they are in no way mutually exclusive. “Now that I’ve got a little bit of a career going, the Jews want me to stay in my weight and it might be unhealthy.” Numerous prominent philosophers have taken interest in this phenomenon. Many refer to this confusing relationship as the incongruity. Søren Kierkegaard regarded as the father of existentialism referred to it as the contradiction. Although Kierkegaard is most widely known as a great philosopher, on closer inspection many believe he was a great comic. In Søren Kierkegaard journal writings he laid out a comedic theory that suggested what makes something comical is a violation of our expectations. Kierkegaard believed this violation was also at the core of the tragic. He explained this using a story of a baker whose starving mother was asking him for foo d. A tragic story that was ironically funny because the mother of a Baker would be starving and begging in the first place. This sort of dark ironic humor lost itself in the United States to the birth of sitcoms in the late 1940s. With the introduction of the laugh track, early sitcoms were able to take advantage of a psychological phenomenon called informational social influence. It’s a phenomenon observed in both humans and our primate cousins where individuals assume the actions of others to reflect the correct socially accepted behavior. In other words gag humor became the norm because we thought we were supposed to find it funny–causing American television to avoid anything of substance for the next 20 or so years. Recently, a new form of laugh track free TV comedy has emerged, the sadcom. Louis CK was influential in setting the foundation for this trend in comedy television. CK’s show Louie captures the reality of being a single father with two young daughters and the craziness of it all. Although there are funny moments there’s no canned laughter to signal what to laugh at and much of the show is very real and sometimes disconcerting. “When you’re with me and then you’re with your mom and you talk about when you were with me. -You want us to lie to mom about Pamela..-” CK explore this format further with his show Horace and Pete, which is actually listed as a drama. The show constantly walks the line between comic and tragic-attempting to violate expectations of comedy at every turn. “The jokes that are in it are very funny -yeah they’re alright- but mostly it’s like Cheers if everyone there was depressed. -That’s right-.” Take the opening scene for example, where an obvious tension lingers in the air between Louis CK’s character Horus and Steve Buscemi who plays Pete. This scene can be humorous if I had a laugh track but without it it seems dark and unsettling. “I just don’t know why you left a big pile of rags right there. -I had to close and yeah, so there’s a pile of rags that I left and i’ll clean it up before we open. How’s this a mystery?- Pete the place is always perfect every time you close, so I thought you must have a reason. -So I didn’t.- okay.” “I just don’t know why you left a big pile of rags right there. -I had to close and yeah, so there’s a pile of rags that I left and i’ll clean it up before we open. How’s this a mystery?- Pete the place is always perfect every time you close, so I thought you must have a reason. -So I didn’t. Okay.” CK set the trend and other comedians have followed his lead. There’s Tig Notaros autobiographical sadcom, One Mississippi. The premise being the death of her mother. A sadcom Louis CK produced. “Just going to go ahead and disconnect the respirator. Any questions? -About death?-” Or Jill Salloways, Transparent. A story about a family unraveling from a lack of communication the premise being the discovery that the family patriarch is transgender. “Hi girls.” And my favorite, Baskets, a show created by Zach Galifianakis, Louie CK, and Jonathan Krisel-that follows the life and struggles of an aspiring clown. The big dreams of the lead character chip could be replaced with any larger-than-life aspirations. The most close to home for Louis CK and Zach Galifianakis, the process of becoming a comedian. It does a great job of capturing the obscurity and pain that comes with chasing a dream but it also imparts the rich intrinsic rewards that come with the journey and all the little victories along the way. ” How many bathrooms do you guys have her. -Three.- I’m gonna need two of them.” So in many ways sadcoms make tragedy more manegable. Comedy, the constantly evolving art form that it is-acts as a social, cultural, and even self mediator. In a nation disillusioned and suffocated by expectations-maybe in part because of the distortions of reality films and television have ceaselessly provided us-sadcomes provide a nice dose of reality. Putting forth the idea that life isn’t perfect and maybe it never should be. “This is love-missing her because she’s gone, wanting to die. You’re so lucky, you’re like a walking poem. Would you rather be some kind of a fantasy? some kind of a Disney ride? is that what you want??”

97 thoughts on “Comedy & Tragedy: Louis C.K.

  1. I don't think Horace and Pete quite qualifies as a comedy. It's listed as drama, but it belongs on a category all to itself: Suicidomedy.

  2. this is an extremely interesting topic that I haven't seen covered before, this is a great video really showcasing how the art of comedy is more than just laughs. These sadcoms really resonate with me because i feel that life is neither a dramaticized depressive journey nor a sitcom and this really rides that line very well. Amazing job, keep up the work!!

  3. Dude, I just discovered your channel, and I'm glad .. thank you for your content I enjoyed it very much. can't wait for more, and also what do you think about comics from other countries ( jim jefferies for example) and what do they add to the scene in terms of perspective and content ?!

  4. please continue, these are so well done. i have never seen comedy gone into with so much thought. its my favorite form of entertainment. you stand out on youtube which is hard to do

  5. AMAZING videos dude. Well produced, well thought out. When I scrolled down I expected to see a couple hundred thousand views! I mean holy crap these are really good haha… You have my sub

  6. Your video about Burr popped up in my surggestions, and now i have watched the others. I can say i have never been more hopeful for the future content of a channel than i am now.

  7. Awesome stuff, man! You're definitely onto a great start! Please don't stop making content like this. You'll definitely have my support, as well as thousands of others =)
    Stay awesome!!!

  8. You are killing it my man. What are your thoughts about Larry David moving from laugh track with Seinfeld to no laugh track with Curb Your Enthusiasm?

  9. i finished watching this video thinking that it was undoubtedly watched by hundreds of thousand of ppl, im glad i came to this channel while its still young lol, you will grow my freind, you'll be making bank

  10. I was so happy that Louis CK got rid of the laugh track in "Louie". I knew that it was done on purpose.

    PS: I'm happy that I discovered this channel so early. I'm pretty sure that this is gonna reach a lot of people if you keep making good quality content like this.

  11. Great job with the video. Awesome content and neatly presented. Love the video. Keep posting more and as an advice sir/mam, get the channel certified for credibility.

  12. In my opinion Louie is the modern day Larry David meaning he's revolutionizing the current format for what is funny and much how you guys pointed out, that at one point networks just wanted to control the idea of something being funny and forcing you to laugh at a punchline regardless if it's good or not whereas with the "sadcom" you're challenged with the premiss of the joke, the context of how it's being presented and ultimately your view on the subject.

  13. Great content mate you've gained a new sub, i'm seeing a lot of these types of channels popping up and i really enjoy them. You're doing a great job!

  14. Why would the mother of a baker be starving and begging in the first place? Surely you meant to say that she "wouldn't" be starving and begging? he has bread, he's a baker
    I will be watching Baskets ASAP

  15. Your raw content alone deserves much more popularity, but the fact that you spend time really producing your videos rather than shitting them out every week like a vloger is awesome and truly appreciated. One final thought: could you do some sort of video on why the absurd, narcissistic humor of a show like 'It's always Sunny' hits home on so many levels.


  16. Awesome video! Baskets is also my favourite sadcom and really hope it'll get the praise it deserves

  17. I gave baskets a shot  … watched like 2 episodes  … months ago  … havent got back since  … duuno why  … now a days with netflix , roku and cable… I have way to many options  … and if a show doesn't  grab my attention quick like  … its hard to go back and try it again  … peace…and one more thing  … ONE DOES NOT TRULY UNDERSTAD TRAGEDY UNTIL IT HAPPENS TO YOU  … and only then you can appreciate how comical it can be  … when it happens to others.  ( like getting hit in the nuts by a baseball)

  18. What about the Sopranos? Or any gangster flick or show for that matter? Though listed as drama, they are practically sadcoms in their absurdities and humor.

  19. My friends think I'm sick because I prefer dark humor, I think its my way of accepting how dark our world is and getting a laugh out of it instead of creating a false utopia.

  20. The "sadcom" as you call it has been a staple of Irish and british television and cinema for decades. Louie CK's influence as you say is limited to American television.

  21. 4k subs? That's the real tragedy. I bet you won't stay there for long. Keep killing it, this was an amazing video essay and I look forward to your next.

  22. I just feel like you're giving too much credit to CK in regards to the so called "sadcom" genre. Starting with "Office" and on into the past, there were many recent examples from which Louis himself undoubtedly learned a lot. Had he the vision you speak of, his "Lucky Louis" would have been a perfect Guinea pig for a laughtrackless show.

  23. I really dig this video. I would mess with your sound levels/effects a bit. At some points its hard to hear you over the music.

  24. Charlie "Chaplin", not "Chaplain"

    I'm not correcting it to be one of those YT dicks who correct spelling; I'm just saying, it seems like you're serious about making these videos, and so it's worth double checking all that kind of stuff, because little mistakes can really take a viewer out of it. Just some constructive criticism 😀

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