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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Louis CK Is the Heavyweight Champion of Comedy

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 8:00 AM


Whether you realize it or not, we are living in a special time for stand-up comedy. It doesn't happen that often. But right now, the most talked about comedian in America is also acknowledged by comics as one of, if not the, best comedian in America: Louis CK.

And if you didn't know that, you have just officially learned that you are out of the loop.

Louis won the title with the release of his new comedy special for the clearance bin price of five measly bucks. That's right! Five bucks and you can digitally download your own HD copy of Louis CK: Live at The Beacon Theater. And the crazy thing is that it wasn't his critically acclaimed hit TV show, Louie, that cinched it. It was his illogical, seemingly business non-savvy release of his DIY DVD. Which means that Louis won the title of best comic in the country during the offseason. This is like Lebron James winning the NBA Most Valuable Player Award during training camp.

Louis has been featured on all the traditional stand-up places:, Rolling Stone, The Tonight Show. But then he hit the next echelon of media attention: The New York Times, GQ, Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Now it's getting crazy. He was on Nightline? This morning I heard him on an ESPN podcast?! He's one step away from the weird, heavily Photoshopped, oversmiling picture on the cover of Parade magazine. At some point somebody is going to have to create an app so it's easier keep up with all of Louis' accolades.

The last several years the media's favorite comics have not been people who would be described as that holiest of titles... A COMIC'S COMIC! Larry the Cable Guy, Dane Cook, Carlos Mencia, Jeff Dunham, Katt Williams. None of them were regarded by comics as the best comedian when they had the title. The only times those two converge is whenever Chris Rock has a special out. I'm already nostalgic for the golden age years ago when Rock and Dave Chappelle would just pass the title back and forth. Watch the throne indeed.

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Back in the day, the most celebrated comedian in the country was regularly a back-of-the-room act. Lenny Bruce, Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams. Then things get a little muddy. Was Eddie Murphy a comic's comic? Depends who you ask. What about Seinfeld? Maybe. Gallagher? No. Well at this point, the title holder is also the comedy nerd's choice. And Louis has done it in a way no one could have predicted, and I'm not sure most of us comics can even repeat.

And I remember how not that long ago Louis was solely a comic's comic. I was as at a show at the old Cobb's Comedy Club on a Thursday when there must have 30 people there. But 30 people who wanted to see Louis. At that point he was known strictly as an absurdist. And after the show I hung out while he talked about how he had taken his act for granted and how he wasn't going to do that anymore. Sure ... sounds good, I thought. A couple of years later I got to work with him when he was comedically digging deeper and beginning to sell out the Punch Line regularly. That night, he said the words every comic wants to hear from the comic's comic, "You are really funny." Unfortunately, he was talking to Jasper Redd, who was standing right next to me. I took it as a challenge to dig deeper myself.

So congratulations, Louis, You are the current heavyweight champion of stand-up comedy. But be careful. I hear Kevin Hart wants a title shot.


Kamau's Komedy Korner is an occasional blog column about San Francisco comedy and culture by W. Kamau Bell. He will be appearing at The Phoenix Theatre in San Francisco Dec. 29, 30, and 31,

Follow W. Kamau Bell on Twitter at @wkamaubell, SF Weekly's Exhibitionist blog @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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