We know we don't have to sell you on the talents of Louis C.K. or at least we shouldn't have to. His comedic tenacity is only rivaled by his substantial body of work -- he's been everything from a standup comedian, actor, writer, and director.
And though he's been busy, his rise to prominence didn't happen overnight. For every successful venture (like his Emmy Award for writing on a variety in 1999 or successful HBO comedy specials), there have been some lesser known and significantly less successful jobs. Before you go out and snatch up tickets for his "Word" tour performance at The Fillmore on December 10, check out some of his short-lived comedic ventures, which provide early glimpses into his brilliance.
1. The Dana Carvey Show
A veteran late night TV writer, Louis wrote for David Letterman and Chris Rock, and he was the original head writer for Late Night with Conan O'Brien, helping establish the show's trademark absurdist slant. Dana Carvey, who was developing a prime-time sketch show for NBC, hired Louis, as well as Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert, Robert Smigel of TV Funhouse fame, and iconoclastic screenwriter Charlie Kauffman.
With this collection of talent, Carvey sought to create a sketch show far off from Saturday Night Live's beaten path. In the below Louis C.K.-penned sketch, which was the first on the premier episode, Carvey takes a standard in comedy (portraying an empathetic President Clinton) and literalized it to an extreme degree. As the nation's "caretaker" Clinton breastfeeds babies and animals with his cat-like nipples. What was meant to establish the show as different only served to isolate the prime-time ABC audience and The Dana Carvey Show was canceled after seven episodes.
2. Pootie Tang
Though it may not be readily apparent, Louis C.K. penned and helmed this notorious ode to Blacksploitation films. Evolving from a Chris Rock Show sketch, Pootie Tang told the story of one man's quest to get back his stolen "ass-whuppin' belt," while speaking in an unintelligible dialect throughout the film. Critically maligned, Louis has denounced the film, explaining that it was wrestled away from him in the editing process. There are moments of hilarity, often thanks to Wanda Sykes's portrayal of Biggie Shortie.
3. I Think I Love My Wife
When thinking of potential Chris Rock and Louis C.K. collaborations, a remake of French auteur Eric Rohmer's marriage drama isn't the first thing to spring to mind. But that is precisely what they did with 2007's I Think I Love My Wife. Rock plays against type as a mild mannered family man who contemplates an affair when the opportunity arises. While the remake goes for laughs more often then the Rohmer original, it is far from the broad laugh riot its Viagra-mishap fixated promotion portrayed it as. It is a thoughtful, sweet film that wrestled with the burdens of married life, a common theme in both C.K.'s and Rock's comedy.
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4. Short Films
One of the more unique aspects of the C.K.'s FX show Louie is that it's non-serialized, self-contained stories essentially allowing Louis an opportunity to showcase his skills as a short filmmaker. Louis has worked with the format since the early 1990s, his oeuvre easily accessible from YoutTbe. In this extremely NSFW short announcing the commissioning of his TV show, Louis explores the depths he would go to provide stability for his family. The humor, drawn from the increasingly vulgar acts Louis considers doing on film, is amplified by his reaction. As opposed to outrage or disgust with having to perform lewd sex acts, C.K. instead displays hopelessness in rationalizing what must be done.
Louis C.K.'s Word tour lands at the Fillmore (1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach) at 8 p.m. Friday, December 10th. Tickets start at $47 at livenation.com.