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September 13, 2017

Silence and Analysis: The Non-Verbal Struggle of ‘Louie’

Frustration and failure often dwell in the silences of Louie.

Stand-up comedy has a tangential (and sometimes symbiotic) relationship with film and TV, seen in things like The King of Comedy, Funny People, Man on the Moon, Obvious Child, The Big Sick, I’m Dying Up Here, and Crashing. The exploration of inner life through intense idolatry and ego is a common tactic taken by films that don’t star people joking about themselves for a living. When the comic is central, the tropes of the career typically express themselves through narrative and style.

Louis CK is one of the most prolific and experimental comics to pass to and fro between the semi-permeable barrier of entertainment media. While Pootie Tang remains perhaps his most divisive creation, multiple TV shows have allowed him to play with form in a way most comics shy away from. Louie breaks down communication like his stand-up breaks down social convention. The examination is slow, focused, and deeply funny, but the most interesting aspect of it is its delivery.

As Luís Azevedo explains in his video essay, the world of Louie dismantles the things that fill a comic’s head: line deliveries, diction, tone, and facial expressions. His is a world in which a man that speaks for a living fails to find the right words. His non-verbal communications (and what they say about him) bolster a comic premise that could otherwise be played out, adding depth through silence and reaction.

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