Louis C.K. - Hilarious (Cover Artwork)

Louis C.K.

Hilarious (2011)

Comedy Central Records

A lot of great art, from literature to music to movies finds humor in anger and frustration caused by the shortcomings of people. Like his other comedy albums, Louis C.K.'s Hilarious does exactly that, offering a cathartic experience for many who will relate to his disappointment and disgust at flaws he perceives in both himself and society.

Divorced at 41, C.K. declares that one of the biggest differences between himself and young singles is his pessimism: "I know too much to be single[...]You gotta be optimistic to be single![...]You have to be stupid![...]That's what 'optimistic' means[...]An optimist is somebody who goes, 'Hey, maybe something nice will happen!' Why the fuck would anything nice *ever* happen?" There's a loose, playful quality to the early part of the set, as C.K. mocks subjects like singles, his brain's weird logic leaps and currency, without ever seeming to get too worked up.

C.K. only starts to sound seriously appalled when his attention shifts to the current generation of Americans. "Cell Phones and Flying" is a rant about spoiled and ungrateful people who bitch that modern technology is "too slow". A chat with Conan O'Brien about this subject became a viral video called "Everything's Amazing & Nobody's Happy," which intrigued everyone from online anti-establishment groups who eagerly interpreted it as a searing indictment of capitalism, to the band Candy Hearts, who considered it the perfect title for an album about "that feeling of having everything you thought you wanted, yet something is still missing or it's just not enough."

"The Way We Talk (Hilarious)" further slams the way Americans express themselves these days, asserting that laziness has drained the spark from their conversations. As an example, he helpfully provides gut-busting impressions of mumbling, slurring fat guys and shrill, flaky girls he once overheard. Big laughs come from the fact that these people are almost completely incomprehensible, except when they exclaim "I know!", "Obama!" and "Stephanie!" The impressions precede a tirade against people who misuse words like "amazing" and "hilarious," and a maniacal fantasy about dropping someone off a cliff for the heinous crime of undeservedly being called "hilarious."

C.K. saves his harshest resentment for negligent parents who corrupt their children with excess television, fast food and hitting. He hates child abuse and how society's laws enable it, but can also see the ridiculousness of that--"If you hit a dog...they fuckin' will put you in jail for that shit! You can't hit a person unless you can prove that they were trying to kill you! But a little tiny person[...]who trusts you implicitly--fuck 'em! Who gives a shit?" Modestly, C.K. suggests that what keeps him from hitting his kids is success, not being "better" than anyone. He has money and works "two hours a week, sometimes," unlike his poor single mother, who hit him after backbreaking 15-hour shifts left her with little patience.

The album winds down with one of C.K.'s most fruitful subjects for stand-up comedy fodder--raising children as a single parent. His key point about this topic is the importance of keeping one's ego in check when parenting. Two stories illustrate that point. In one, a wild pony bites his eldest daughter, because he was too busy praising himself as "the best father" (for introducing her to wild ponies) to consider how dangerous they might be. In the other, he and his younger daughter have a bitter and thoroughly unnecessary dispute over Fig Newtons, because his ego blinds him to the futility of arguing with a three-year-old.

Another signature characteristic of C.K.'s comedy is his affinity for scatological/body fluid humor, and it takes center stage near the end of the set. After a hyperbolic, wildly graphic story about his three-year-old taking a monstrous shit, C.K. compares himself to younger singles again, this time more favorably. While younger men are freaked out by women's bodies because of things like periods, C.K. proclaims that he's so happy just to be out among single women (after years of often sexless marriage), he'd gladly "drink the blood" if it would get him laid.

I wish I could give due credit to all the material on Hilarious, but to borrow a phrase from one of its funniest stories, that would take "at least forever." I've already said plenty about it, but the set has countless other transcendentally funny moments that I haven't even touched on. I leave them to be discovered by anyone who listens to (or watches the DVD of) this treasure trove of incisive observations about the strange people and perspectives that pervade modern society.

If you're wondering why I wrote about a stand-up comedy album for this site, my logic is simple: if we can have reviews for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles album and a Third Eye Blind album, why the hell can't we have one of these? I hope your reaction to that explanation is at worst similar to one C.K. imagined having if his three-year-old had been a bit more polite during the heated Fig Newton debate--"a little cunt-y, but acceptable...I could deal with that."