ATTEY: Louis C.K. misses punch line in Netflix special
'2017' doesn't hold to high standard of former stand-up routines
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Comedy is subjective. This much is clear. However, that has not stopped stand-up comic Louis C.K. from rising to become one of the most popular comedians in the world.
Starting with “Shameless” in 2007, he put out one hour-long special a year, and delivered hit after hit. Not only was he releasing new material at a faster rate than most other comedians, but between “Hilarious, Live at the Beacon Theatre,” and “Oh My God,” all of them seemed like classics.
That’s why expectations were so high for his newest special, simply titled “2017.” The special marked his full-time return to stand-up comedy. In recent years, his fame and talent allowed him to expand his acting career and write and direct his own sitcom “Louie” on FX. But then he came back and fans wondered whether he would be able to pick up where he left off.
Unfortunately, while 2017 is still a must-see for comedy fans, it fails to deliver the huge laughs of his previous specials. It is still an interesting watch, but something just seems different. Fans of his previous work will have moments where they smile at a familiar cadence, and there are some nice laughs over the course of the many topics he touches on. But there is a noticeable difference, even if the viewer can’t put a finger on exactly what it is.
Sometimes, it’s his punchlines. In previous bits, they would come from subtle misdirection and C.K. mocking himself. This is true in his new special too, yet often he strays in a new direction, when one gets the sense that in a previous special he would’ve mined the joke deeper for a bigger laugh. And while no one would ever call C.K. a hack comedian, there are moments during 2017 where the punchline is simply a funny voice or loud shriek from C.K. These are probably the most disappointing moments.
Comedy is hard and maybe pointless to analyze, because no one knows what makes incredibly funny things so comical. But fans can still realize that whatever was there during older specials is not present in his newest material.
Some of it might simply be that this is a different C.K. Dressed in a suit rather than his signature plain black T-shirt, one can tell that this is C.K. after the success has hit. And while he is still as cynical and charmingly offensive as ever, touching on the hot-button issue of abortion in the first minutes, he doesn’t seem to have the personal frustration that characterized his older work.
He goes on to talk about the value of life, Christianity, parenting and Magic Mike. But the pace is choppy, and he never gets his energy level as high as it feels like he should. Maybe it is best to describe the special as possessing too many left turns. It doesn’t feel like the material ever peaks.
It is still worth checking out, because there are still flashes of what made comedy fans fall in love with C.K., but to expect 2017 to induce the same joy and laughter from his older catalog is probably asking for too much.
The biggest question going forward is where C.K. will go from here. He is under contract to deliver another special to Netflix within the next year. Fans can only hope that he will rediscover what made him so brilliant to begin with. I believe it’s still in there somewhere, and fans should hope so also. We could all use a good laugh.