Live Review: Louis C.K. at Balboa Theater, December 4, 2010

For a comedian, Louis C.K. tells very few jokes. Instead, the funnyman gets laughs with his dry, often exasperated observations and musings. But whereas comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Lewis Black have made names for themselves with observational humor and frazzled rants, respectively, Louis C.K. blends those elements into an amusing concoction made all the more palatable by his everyman charm.

It was that charm that enabled him to pack the Balboa Theater for two back-to-back shows on Saturday night. New Jersey-native Myq Kaplan opened with some reasonably funny jokes about Jews, gays, and poop. His most memorable bit was a rebuttal of the homophobic “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” catchphrase, during which he argued that the first couple was actually God and Adam, and that God’s insistence that Adam frolic around the Garden of Eden nude for his enjoyment was more than a little gay.

Whereas Kaplan exuded an awkward nervousness, Louis C.K. had a striking confidence that made his entire 90-minute set feel effortless. Fans of his excellent FX show Louie are by now familiar with his whip-smart pessimism, and the comedian touched upon his pet themes of family, mortality, and general world-weariness.

The content was frequently dark, but Louis C.K. displayed an uncanny ability to make even the bleakest sentiments seem hilarious. Topics like death (“statistically speaking, one of you won’t make it through the next year”), the racist elderly (a certain colloquial term for Brazil nuts), and entitled youths were all brought under his knife, and the bits’ underlying truths made them zing all the more. But as usual, his deadliest barbs were lobbed at himself, and self-effacing jokes about his terrible eating habits, gastrointestinal problems (“I am perpetually in a 48-hour window of diarrhea”), and the woman who hung herself two years after going down on him (“Do not blow me,” he warned the crowd) made the comic all the more endearing.

By the end of his show, Louis C.K. showed no signs of fatigue. The 43-year-old may complain about feeling tired and weak all the time, but you’d never know it from watching him perform. It’s a good thing that he’s starting to get more recognition — his comedy is refreshingly unpretentious and, unlike with other comedians, you actually feel a little wiser after seeing him perform. And when a comedian is as funny as Louis C.K., who needs jokes?

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