The Art Feature

Louis CK’s Stand-Up Special, “Chewed Up”


Sunflower seeds, sticks of gum, tobacco, and long unwanted, sometimes deformed wedges of human fingernail are a small collection of the things that come to mind when I think of the term “chewed up.” We all feel like gum, tobacco and seeds from time to time as well. When we’re disappointed, depressed, hurt, broke, crying, and just helpless, life has a way of turning into a mouth of conniving shark teeth, making us feel “chewed up”, spit out, and left alone like a piece of litter. That “chewed up” feeling is not only the title but the underlying tone of Louis CK’s most recent Stand-Up Special. He brought his all too famous “chewed up” mentality and “chewed up” style of humor to life like never before as he stammered and shouted through 65 straight minutes of hilarious new material. Like that of an Adele or Mary J. Blige, the conviction behind Louis CK’s pain sold his brand in a big way.

Spinning from the lead of Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s classic poem Solitude, J. M. Linsner once said: “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and the world laughs at you.” That’s exactly what everyone who bought a ticket to “Chewed Up” did. They laughed at a man while he cried. He cried about his age. He cried about his horrible body. He cried about his kids. He cried about his sex life; and by the time the show was over, I was crying in laughter. “Comedy is taking people to places of fear and embarrassment and making them laugh about it,” said Louis CK when asked about his material.

Since the days of Pryor, Murphy and Cosby, comedians have been known to say things on stage that we say in our head every day. They have always played a vital part in our lives because in a way, they allow us to vent. Even though they may be venting for themselves, by doing so, they vent on the behalf of everyone who’s been down the same road and traveled the same journey. Blacks and whites may be different, but human beings are the same. When Richard Pryor made wise cracks at the white man, black people everywhere felt like they made a crack at the white man by laughing at it. Laughing at a joke usually means, “I’ve been there. I understand. I approve of your perspective. We’re on the same page.” Comedians are painfully honest people most of the time, and we laugh because we know what they say is true.

If misery loves company, I’m sure Louis CK’s depression loved the sold out house full of wailing people. Although the comedian plays the role of a pathetic individual, that wasn’t the only role he was acting. He also acted the role of someone who was simply human. It didn’t feel like I was watching someone on stage to make money or some wealthy entertainer who thought he was better than me. I felt like I was watching someone who needed help; and while many of his issues were unique, many others were very relatable. He’s not the only one who thinks he’s fat, hates his kids, and has a midlife crisis. I hate my niece half the time. Some of my friends could try a salad; and my Mom gave me a second hand midlife crisis a few years ago. Not only does his humor make people laugh, it makes them feel like they aren’t alone.

“I find that when people laugh really hard, it’s usually because they’re connecting and identifying in a way they hadn’t considered,” says Louis CK. His life may not be enviable, but his talent most definitely is; and I wouldn’t rather have anyone else fall apart for my amusement. I’m really glad Louis CK is all “chewed up.”

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