Louis C.K. at the Riverside Theater
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Fresh off the first season of his fantastic FX series Louie and a recurring role on Parks And Recreation, Louis C.K. arrived Saturday at the Riverside Theater as a man flush with professional, if not necessarily personal, success. It would be easy at this point for C.K. to rest on his laurels and amble through retellings of beloved bits, but for 90-plus minutes Saturday, he was clearly appreciative of his hard-fought status as one of today’s most respected working comics.
Coming out to Louie’s theme song, Hot Chocolate’s “Brother Louie,” C.K. wasted little time in unleashing a crude, no-holds barred and seemingly off-the-cuff set. Following a near-immediate mention of rape (which included his best rendition of an entire city—including a newborn baby—sexually assaulting someone’s mother), he turned his attention to the paying public: “Why the fuck would I ever go to Milwaukee in the middle of my life if I wasn’t getting 75 percent of 2,200 people-worth of ticket money?” he asked.
You probably won’t be seeing that line in local tourism ads. But as C.K. continued with his rambling performance, he proved he was worth every penny. Topics touched on everything from dolphin-safe tuna, the stupidity of civic pride, America’s collective impatience, all the way to a nightmare he once had where Gene Hackman made him put rocks in a bag. Most of his act, though, focused on the familiar Louis mainstays of marriage (and subsequent divorce), fatherhood, racism, sex, and middle age. “That kid was a bad idea,” he said in reference to his own 5-year-old daughter. “I love her a lot, but I regret her existence.”
At one point, during a rant about pornography, he even incorporated physical comedy into his act. Groaning and splashing bottled water onto the stage, he shamelessly simulated himself ejaculating—then took a sip from the bottle—to the delight of onlookers. Somehow, during a set strewn with recounts of things like “kneading down a boner”, stealing tampons, showing his penis to a girl with down syndrome as a kid, and being taken out for Big Macs by the neighborhood molester, C.K. remained the relatable everyman. In many ways, the lumpy, morally flawed realist was the exaggerated and vocalized version of everyone in that packed venue, except much funnier.