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Louis C.K.: “Hilarious” Ain’t Half of It

Louis C.K.: “Hilarious” Ain’t Half of It (photo)

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If you’ve been watching Louis C.K.’s phenomenal new show “Louie,” which just wrapped an against-expectations successful season on FX, you might, on seeing the man live, feel a strong urge to give him a hug. He seems like he could use one. C.K., who brought his stand-up concert doc “Louis C.K.: Hilarious,” shot at a 2009 performance in Milwaukee, to NYC’s IFC Center last night and tonight, is a maestro of his own misery, using breathtakingly profane comedy to chronicle his recent divorce, his reentry into the dating scene, his experiences caring for his two daughters, aging, his looks and, overall, the ever-more-real threat of mortality. There have always been comics who’ve traded on failure and self-loathing, but there’s a warmth to “Louie” that belies its notably dark territory.

Whether being bullied by a teenager, discussing gay slurs over poker or looking up an old crush on Facebook, C.K. embodies a practically spiritual belief in the power of unswerving honesty. That inability to disassemble, seen in both the variation on himself he plays and in the characters he encounters, leads to excruciatingly awkward scenes (“Its easier to masturbate if I use this lubricant,” he explains to a TSA worker in episode five) but also moments of blindsiding humanity and connection that are all the more powerful for coming out of such unsentimental situations.

“Louis C.K.: Hilarious,” which had its premiere as the first stand-up concert film to screen at Sundance earlier this year, is, like “Louie,” written and directed by C.K. The film’s playing in eights cities before heading to a TV premiere on Epix on the 18th and, eventually, DVD. “Hilarious” differs from typical comedy specials by being shot up close and personal on the RED, with a jib and a Steadicam on stage — C.K. said in the Q&A after the screening that he was inspired by Led Zeppelin concert film “The Song Remains the Same.”

09092010_hilarious3.jpgThe results are mixed — there’s an intimacy that you can’t get from a camera mounted in the back of the room, but the relentless lean in can start to seem a little claustrophobic, skipping larger movement (a bit about taking the jerk-off gesture to its conclusion loses something when, initially, the gesture takes place out of frame) in favor of watching the sweat bead on C.K.’s forehead.

But it’s engrossing to see the progress of C.K.’s material, which he breaks down as evolving over about a year, starting with formative gigs in NYC comedy clubs, leading to first 20, then 45 minutes of material that becomes a headline tour show and ultimately a special or, this year, the series. “Hilarious” covers plenty of C.K.’s (and “Louie”‘s) favorite themes, and has some obvious through lines, from his compulsive solitary consumption of ice cream to being told by a doctor “you’re only cosmetically overweight” to a trip to a nightclub to a tale of childcare disaster and epiphany that echoes the final show in the series. Other segments are consistent in sentiment, from a bit on the “white person problems” Americans complain about (uncaring about the far more serious issues plenty of people in the rest of the world face) to hyperbole in word choice — “we go right to the top shelf with words these days” — leading to the film’s title.

Answering questions after the screening, C.K. addressed the show (FX doesn’t give notes until a full episode is delivered) and its renewal (called in for a meeting, he expected problems with the just finished “God” episode, and instead was told season two was a go). He also discussed last week’s drunken Twitter tirade, during which he took shots at Sarah Palin (who he described as “a beautiful villain”), only to end up guesting on “The Tonight Show” with her daughter Bristol the next day. “It was weird to sit next Hitler’s daughter, who’s famous for having a baby too young,” he noted, but in characteristic fashion, the anecdote ended with his realizing she was terrified and nervous, and telling her she’d done a good job: “She’s just a person.”

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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