I plagiarized the crap out of Louis C.K. to win over my last girlfriend. In the early parts of our courtship, I’d ruthlessly crib bits of his stand-up, delivering them to her note-for-note, pretending they were my own. I did this mostly out of nervousness; I wanted, very desperately, to impress her. And, boy howdy, did I ever. She ate that shit right up (especially that “awesome possum” joke). Even when she inevitably found out I was living a dastardly lie — this was about six years ago, just as Louis was blowing up — she was already too smitten to be angry with me. We had a good thing going. Great, even.
Until quite recently, when it all fell apart like a Chipotle burrito.
So, going into C.K’s sold-out stand-up gig at the Air Canada Centre last night, I was a little anxious. Part of me worried just the sight of Louis — my own personal, unwitting Hitch (who, incidentally, even dressed the part by donning a full suit for once) — would dredge up icky, unresolved, achy, breaky feelings in my heart. The things he said certainly didn’t help either: of all the provocative topics America’s Defeatist-in-Chief took us deep into (see: abortion, suicide, his dad’s penis), the most noteworthy (to me, anyway) was love. Or rather, the futility of it all.
“Everyone here is in a shitty thing with a person…or alone,” C.K. told the audience, who responded with equal parts chortles and gasps. “I know there are young couples here who are like, [in a valley girl voice] ‘Actually, nooo. Not us! We’re super in love.’ That’s just like when you watch a horror movie and in the first minute you go, ‘I think everyone’s going to be fine.’”
C.K. spent a large chunk of his set insisting that all relationships are doomed. (“Love + Time – Distance = HATE” was his exact logic.) Of course, his cynical view of romance is nothing new — those first few specials that made him famous were centered on his dreadful marriage; his hit FX show is largely about being divorced. Hell, in one bit, he goes as far as saying getting divorced is the best part of marriage. That awkwardly candid, slightly painful pessimism occasionally draws the ire of critics, some arguing C.K.’s nothing more than a “sociopath with a microphone.”
And yet, I didn’t find C.K’s riffs on the hopelessness of love depressing in the least. Rather, I found them cathartic as fuck. While C.K. went to great lengths to convince us that all relationships have an expiry date (“You love, it shits the bed, and then you move on. That’s how it works.”), his underlying message was that this is okay. (“Love is still worth it,” he eventually conceded.) Sure, about half of marriages end in divorce, and that may be because we’re not biologically wired to stay together and that we now simply live long enough to grow sick of one another, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. So what if it doesn’t last forever? As C.K. pointed out, spending all of eternity in heaven with your spouse can get real torturous real fast: “She’s the love of my life; she doesn’t have to be the love of my death, motherfucker!”
Somehow, over the course of the show, Louis C.K. became my own personal Dr. Phil. Dude healed me.
All pseudo-therapy aside, though, it also helped that his performance was just ludicrously, inordinately, kick-the-seat-in-front-of-you side-splitting. That’s the beauty of the guy: he shows you that no matter how awful and hollow and dystopian life can get, it’s still fucking funny. C.K.’s the grandmaster of wringing hilarity — and wisdom — out of despair. And at 49, he’s only getting more masterful at it.
Which is all good news for me; it means I’ll have no shortage of material to use on the next lucky lady that saunters into my life.