Louis CK walked out onstage for his second set at the Meyerhoff amazingly enough, at about a half-hour past door time, and just started talking.
No opener, no introduction, no whatever: in his words, "I just wanted to start." A shock rippled through the crowd, as if the person everyone expected to ride in on an elephant like a pasha had instead used the side door and said, 'What's Up.'
He was wearing his usual uniform: black t-shirt, jeans, New Balance running shoes, and appeared healthier and more lively than "Louie," the sitcom on FX that he writes, produces, edits and stars in. He seemed to revel in the element of surprise, and this buoyed the entire evening: a real feeling of spontaneity. That, and a gift for following the unexpected into its dark burrow.
He started out revealing he would be performing much of the same material for an upcoming taping, so he asked the crowd to not put him on YouTube or yell things out during his set. And yet, this is the second Louis CK sit-down-fancy-place performance witnessed by this writer containing audience members A. in close proximity to said writer and who B. were in direct violation of CK's request.
You can take the comedy club to the opera house, but you can't take the dude out of the guy. At one point, a joke about bears caused an audience member to remark to nobody in particular "Amen! F***' bears!" as if he had been waiting for someone to validate previously held assurances about the awesomeness of ursine mammals.
But who cares. Louis CK engages an audience by grasping at the underbelly of the mundane, the worst possible thing ever, stemming directly as a consequence of the most boring regular thing ever. People go see comedy because it reflects both their experience and, simultaneously, all the awful, bizarre, supernaturally disgusting things they would never tell their family or friends or possibly even a doctor if it came right down to it.
Louis CK's role as deliverer of real-world homily on topics like God, raising kids and first memories and conduit of hyperbolic perversion is greatly appreciated, whether or not his hypothetical approach to situational development is recognized as such by audience members like The Guy Sitting Next to Me who yelled a gay slur after hearing an obviously imaginary revenge parable.
Demographically speaking the crowd consisted largely of schlub-type every-males in earth-toned gear (pick one: suit jacket, hooded sweatshirt, nondescript parka). The amount of diversity apparent in the crowd was genuinely surprising and reassuring, with a healthy dose of over and under 35-ers (including at least one actual child), women of a variety of life-stripes and a fairly broad cultural cross-section of the Baltimore population.
Still, waiting in line for a plastic cup of $7 Shiraz felt like being in some weird 1970s frat Canada, and the half-dozen thirsty impatient dudes joking about a cocktail called "Diabetes" for nearly twenty minutes before complaining about the line at an opera house mini-bar did not help to alleviate the sensation.
Under a microscope, the dude-humor and commitment to stupidity can be difficult to overlook. Prefacing a routine with the statement, "I'm kind of a sh*** guy" provides an entry point, a default setting and a means of excuse all at the same time. Maybe someone has already told CK that Bonobo monkeys have intercourse facing each other, and maybe he's decided that knowing that makes part of his routine less funny and maybe its funnier just to do the thing and remark as an aside, "I didn't look this up." And it is funny.
CK is lightning fast and ready to go where the laziest, spookiest, ugliest parts of the psyche; his willingness to fall on the sword first makes any awkwardness and oversharing a joyous relief. Except for that moment when he segued from a bit about sex in the animal kingdom to something akin to "We love our kids, though don't we;" that moment hung in the air, waiting for another joke and fast.
It remains to be seen how Louis CK will evolve as he raises the two daughters he so often uses as routine fodder. There is no easy resolution to Louis CK's humor. While I may never be able to erase the image of his red-faced humping of the comedy stage stool with a water bottle on it from my mind (regardless of how hilarious his commentary on men's lack of sexual finesse may have been) I will also never forget that a momentary non sequitur about different types of babies caused him to reflect briefly upon his own words as "the worst thing I ever said...[and it was] kind of comforting."
As the Guy Sitting Next To Me remarked, so very inappropriately, "Amen."
Lexie Mountain is a musician in Baltimore. She tweets here. Erik Maza edited this post.