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Louis C.K.: Hilarious DVD Review

Louis C.K.: Hilarious (2010) DVD cover art -- click to buy the DVD from Amazon.com Louis C.K.: Hilarious
Movie & DVD Details

Theatrical Release: September 8, 2010 / Running Time: 84 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Writer/Director/Star: Louis C.K. / Executive Producers: Dave Becky, Louis C.K., David Bernath, Cheryl Jenowitz / TV Premiere: January 9, 2011

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English), PCM Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: January 11, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $16.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase

Buy Louis C.K.: Hilarious on DVD from Amazon.com Buy the concert CD album

Short of movie stardom, Louis C.K. is currently enjoying practically all the success that a comedian can.
He has almost complete creative control over his semi-autobiographical FX series "Louie", which he writes, directs, executive-produces, and edits. The well-received "Curb Your Enthusiasm"-esque comedy was renewed halfway into its first season. C.K. hasn't been limited to television either. He's had supporting roles or cameos in Role Models, Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins, and Ricky Gervais' The Invention of Lying, distancing himself somewhat from his panned earlier behind-the-camera film work (having a hand in the scripts of Down to Earth and I Think I Love My Wife and writing/directing Pootie Tang, all starring Chris Rock).

In spite of these recent gigs (and a recurring stint on "Parks and Recreation"), nothing about C.K. screams "leading man" or even "actor." And yet, the balding, goateed 43-year-old redhead has gotten his own feature film in Louis C.K.: Hilarious. On the surface, Hilarious might look like a stand-up TV special; it even bears Comedy Central branding. But, in case the 84-minute runtime doesn't make it clear, the DVD cover identifies it as both a "Feature-Length Concert Film" and an official selection of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Hilarious became the first of its kind accepted into Sundance.

Despite that prestige and a warm reception there, the movie didn't stand to make a killing at the box office. Concert films, especially stand-up comedy ones, rarely enter general release and this one was no exception. Hilarious played for a week at the IFC Center in New York's Greenwich Village and for a single night in seven other cities. Shortly after that, the film aired on the premium channel Epix and could be freely streamed. This Sunday, Hilarious makes its basic cable debut on Comedy Central. Two days later, it comes to DVD. With all that going on, it certainly doesn't seem like the best time for Mr. C.K.'s official website to be down.

Having not seen C.K.'s past HBO, Showtime, and Comedy Central TV specials, I can't say how Hilarious compares to them. But I have seen enough of his late night TV appearances to be familiar with C.K.'s dry, deadpan stand-up persona. There is little to establish this as a film rather than a special. C.K., taking sole credit for writing, directing, and editing here, keeps the presentation lean and efficient. He arrives at the venue (Milwaukee's Pabst Theater), steps out on stage, and the jokes immediately begin. The audience remains largely out of sight throughout, with nary an encouraging reaction shot.

Disbelief is one of the emotions most commonly expressed in Louis C.K.'s stand-up comedy concert film "Hilarious."

C.K. isn't as pessimistic and vulgar as some of his fellow comics. Still, he opens with a reminder to his audience that their life is but a blink of the eye compared to how long they will be dead. And before the film is done, he'll have cracked a couple of pedophiliac necrophilia jokes and engaged in a prolonged masturbatory pantomime. Few might find those bits to be in good taste, but fortunately, there's a wealth of more amusing material found here.

Like Jerry Seinfeld and many a less famous stand-up, C.K. seems to be at his funniest when he's tackling familiar situations, like flying on an airplane. In the midst of the heightened TSA protocols, the comedian's musings on an elderly wheelchair-bound man enduring security checks border on stale (though this filmed concert occurred April 18, 2009). His remarks on people complaining about aspects of commercial flight are far sharper and that's coming from someone acutely aware of leg room woes. Questioning those who overlook the marvel of flying while lamenting runway delays is part of the amusing social commentary that runs through the film: people today like to complain, be it over a momentary lapse in cell phone service or how best to deal with a biting pony. C.K.'s observational humor is both funny and on-point, a reminder of how good life is in America, where citizens are left to whine about "white people problems."

C.K. is candid and personal throughout the film, discussing his fresh divorce at length without wanting sympathy or pity. He voices his fears of re-entering the dating scene and how his perspective on women has changed with age. He goes into unexpected detail on the state of his genitals, bizarrely personifying them in a seemingly genuine display of self-doubt.

The other big topic of strong interest to C.K. is fatherhood, which prevents him from enjoying Girls Gone Wild as intended (part of his early self-gratification confessions) and also finds him tripping up when trying to answer his 7-year-old daughter's questions. C.K. seems seriously enraged on the topic of child abuse (also fast food, television, and video games), which is a bit odd considering some of his colorful material. He closes with some of that, describing the madness of a parent's life with an outrageous school day morning anecdote.

Louis C.K. angrily objects to overuse of certain strong adjectives.

Such material makes C.K. feel a bit like an R-rated contemporary Bill Cosby. While C.K. repeatedly jokes about how stupid he is, one deduces the opposite from his keen ability to get laughs from sobering modern-day realities and prevalent lack of perspective.

The title Hilarious isn't as confident and egotistical as it may sound; it is taken from C.K.'s rant on an overheard coffee house conversation, in which he questions the participants' definition of the word, as well as other widely accepted hyperbole. The rant heads to dark, nasty places, but as with everything else coming out of C.K.'s mouth, there is some truth and wit to it.

While the movie is unrated, the MPAA would definitely give it an R. (It's earned 18A classification from Canadian Home Video.)
Hilarious will certainly have to be extensively edited to air on Comedy Central (where it's only given a one-hour timeslot), but far lewder content has been produced with intentions of airing on basic cable, like the network's roasts, for instance.


A stand-up comedy concert film almost entirely limited to a single stage is not destined for picture surprises and inconsistencies. Most likely, it will either look good or not. Hilarious looks good. The 1.78:1 widescreen visuals appear to have been shot on high-grade high-def cameras and deliver completely pleasing sharpness and clarity.

The audio is offered in both Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and, an unexpected default, PCM Stereo 2.0. I listened to the former and was satisfied by the crisp, even mix, which distributes audience response to the side and rear channels while keeping C.K.'s central microphone audio rich and clean. Unfortunately par for a Comedy Central DVD, no subtitles are offered. The film is at least equipped with closed captioning.

The only scene of the film not fixated on the stage, the opening credits for "Louis C.K.: Hilarious" show the stand-up comedian arriving at Milwaukee's Pabst Theater.


No bonus features of any kind are offered here. Over the central cover image,
the main menu plays audio of the audience's warm welcome once. There are no inserts inside the now-standard black Eco-Box keepcase.


Louis C.K.: Hilarious doesn't live up to the titular adjective as the comic defines it ("it's just so funny that it almost ruined your life"), but it is far more deserving of that description than the encounter that inspired the anecdotal rant. While I can't claim to be connoisseur of current comedy, C.K. is one of the more appealing stand-ups I've seen working today. I can't imagine any adult not finding something in this film to laugh about, although how many of the jokes land well for you will vary. If you're staunchly opposed to profanity and the possibility of being offended, you won't enjoy this. Otherwise, this might be worth a rental or, less preferably, a viewing on Comedy Central, where it will be cleaned up and cut in half beginning this weekend.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed January 7, 2011.

Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 Circus King Productions, Art & Industry, 2011 Comedy Central Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment.
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