Louis C.K. has one of the most impressive and respected bodies of work in the comedy world. He's written for shows like Late Show with David Letterman, the terribly underrated The Dana Carvey Show, The Chris Rock. Show, Late Night With Conan O'Brien, and "TV Funhouse" segments for Saturday Night Live. He even had a short-lived series on HBO based loosely on his life titled Lucky Louie. Not only is he an impressive comedy writer, but he's one of the best stand-up comedians of the newer generation. I say "newer generation" with a bit of hesitation since I'm giving it a gray area of post-George Carlin and Richard Pryor, still within the realm of Jerry Seinfeld and Steven Wright, but not reaching into Zach Galifianakis or Demetri Martin territory. Got it? Good. So, why is it Louis CK isn't as well known as some of his peers? It's something I've never been able to figure out myself, but among comedians and those who know of his work, they are extremely grateful for his presence.
Chewed Up is the follow-up special to his successful 2007 special Shameless. Here we get a bare bones set that is just a stage with a black backdrop and a few stage lights, which is refreshing and complimentary to his style of standup. There are no flashy lights, loud music, or someone screaming his name as he comes out; it's just him, the man, Louis C.K. doing standup from his heart and gut. And that's exactly what Louis C.K.'s standup is, honest and true standup that comes straight from a man without it seeming manufactured or false. What we see and hear is what we get. It is often said in comedy that sometimes the truer things are and the more someone can identify, the better. Louis C.K. nails it and takes it even further.
Some will criticize this special for being extremely un-PC. But here's the thing, there are few comedians around who can discuss language, race, love, fear, parenthood, and just life in general in a smart, honest, and genuine way. That's because it comes from the heart and gut rather than it seeming like it's there purely for shock value. You have people like Louis C.K. or Dave Chappelle who just get it and can articulate it perfectly. Then you have people like Carlos Mencia who don't have a single clue how to approach it without it seeming like they're just spewing it for the sake of hearing themselves say "shocking" things. One subject people were upset about with Louis C.K. before was how he spoke about his children. He would call them assholes and idiots (as he does in this special), but it's in the delivery and the context that you see he does love his children; he's just verbalizing what a lot of parents think in their mind for those moments of agony. He says himself he loves and would die for his children; he's just expressing that frustration through an unfiltered comic view.
Another great thing about Louis C.K. is how he can take worn territory that we've seen standup comedians take millions of time and still make it seem fresh and genuine. Whether it's talking about his issues with weight and eating ("The meal is over when I hate myself"), being 40 and getting older, or sex and parenthood, it's his presentation, passion, and originality behind it that makes it seem like you're hearing jokes of this nature with fresh ears. His special is at its best during the halfway point when he starts discussing his family. When he talks about having to change diapers and clean a "tiny vagina" and why he would prefer that than to having to clean a son's diaper because of his experiences and fears with his nephews is just hilarious. Try your best not to laugh out loud as he describes his fear of falling asleep in a lawn chair with his nephews around.
The special features are extremely bare, but you get an interview with Louis C.K. in which he addresses the camera and answers what I assume to be fan questions. The sound is a bit poor, but he answers everything from why his special is named what it is (you'll know why by the last joke in the special), how he writes his material, what inspired the look of the special (with special nods to Pryor and Bill Cosby), why he does boxing training and how it relates to standup, and advice to people trying to do standup. The best part of it is when he discusses the philosophy of his comedy. I know it might sound a bit self indulgent, but it's not and it gives a lot of insight into why his comedy really is so rooted in more honest and truthful material. Overall, it makes the one little special feature worth it for fans of Louis C.K. or even standup comedy in general.
It's fitting that the special was dedicated to the memory of George Carlin. Carlin was a comic who cut through the bullshit and told it straight from his point of view and told it with sincerity and with conviction straight from the gut. It's a characteristic and philosophy you see very clearly with Louis C.K. I think Carlin would have approved. Fans of standup should certainly check out Louis C.K.: Chewed Up (as well as other his work).