I'm with TCD, Zw, and Love Machine on this for the most part. If I missed giving anyone else kudos, I'm sorry, I'm whacked out on codeine because apparently the universe hates me and wants me to die from either the flu or pneumonia, the diagnosis of which was indeterminable thanks to the one doctor who was standing in for my regular MD.
Anyway, yeah. I loved Hicks when I was about 20-21 and we were still in the throes of the Bush II: Bush Harder administration - all of his critiques seemed relevant, what with the resurgence of Saddam Hussein as a political enemy and the rampant insanity of the GOP - likewise, when the Democrats crunched that one midterm election, I blasted "The Elephant Is Dead" so many times that people probably thought I was leading some sort of tribal ritual whereupon we all sacrificed shitty voters for the well-being of mankind. But then all of my political fervor subsided, all of my anger at the stupidity of mainstream America subsided, and I was kinda left at an impasse in my comedy fandom.
The first time I listened to "Chewed Up", I totally did not find it funny. I completely, profoundly missed the point.
Then I gave myself a few years. I went through a harsh break-up of a five-year relationship with a woman I genuinely loved (and still do on some level), but we just had too many differences and I had grown apart from her in a lot of ways (both good and bad), and then had to suck up the monotony of a day-to-day that I hated but still stuck with because it paid well, then moved to a new place (still in L.A., though) where my life changed drastically and I suddenly had to mold an entirely new social life along with the added challenge of dating after feeling like I had spent five years in cryogenic freeze as well as learning to use parentheses a lot less...so I ended up meeting a lot of people and steadily getting into stand-up. I had a little bit of fun with it, but the problem with L.A. comedy is that generally, it's full of people who are just doing that to get their break in the entertainment biz. They go onstage, do their 5 to 7-minute bit that they've done a billion times, and go off. It's boring. Almost sterile. So I got really, deeply, profoundly bored with that, and just started following other comics.
That's where Louis CK came in. I decided to go back and give "Chewed Up" a shot, and was positively DYING with laughter. I found the guy incredibly funny on a base level - not just when he was onstage, but just in his observations. He hit home for me way more often than he had that six or seven years prior. He was prolific. Writing an ENTIRE FUCKING HOUR OF SOLID COMEDY PER YEAR on top of working on a show/etc. blew my mind. So now I'm totally a fan. His brand of humor just hits better with me, because it's not as caustic and angry as Hicks's stuff was, and also I'm not as caustic and angry as I was at that time in my life. Maybe that'll change. Maybe I'll look at Louis CK in five years and be like "Pfft shit give me the crafty comedic stylings of Dane Cook to be the salve for my emotional wounds and my midlife crisis", but I don't think so. It's not just the dead thing, though I'd be endlessly interested in seeing where Hicks would be had he survived, but it's the level of delivery, the relatability, and as was mentioned before, the shifting perspective of new media ventures. I do think podcasts are on the way out in a way - sure, there are a lot of them, but at the same time they're wearing out their welcome in a massive way because EVERYFUCKINGBODY has one. I got sick of Marc Maron's daddy issues, I got bored with the routine-ness of Nerdist, etc. etc. But even if LCK doesn't stay all the way on top of his game, he's likely got enough perspective to say "Screw it", and take a bow before he ends up being irrelevant.
I think we all end up outgrowing comics in a way. We can still appreciate them for their contributions, but the name of the game itself immediately relegates people to a certain point in history. Jokes date themselves the moment that they exit your mouth. Or your fingers, if you're one of them newfangled "Twitter Funny People". Look at Eddie Murphy or Sam Kinison - in a way they still kill it, but the rampant homophobia and the other bullshit just makes it that much more unbearable in a day and age when people are generally more tolerant of "alternative lifestyles" (whatever that means, since that implies that there's a benchmark for normal lifestyles) and we look at (and down upon) dumb mega-macho conservative assholes to make faggot jokes, because that's practically all they have now. Comedy is inherently progressive, in a lot of ways. Comics spend their entire lives flinging poop at culture's ivory towers, because that's what makes the horrible shit that much more tolerable - that we can joke about rich white male dickheads telling women what to do with their bodies, that we can thumb our noses at the fact that multi-millionaires piss and moan about taxation, that we can just shake our heads at privileged white men treating immigrants like shit...because if you don't laugh at this nonsense sometimes, you will literally tear your own hair out and scream until you die from a lack of oxygen.
I don't know where I'm going with this at this point, I'm just rambling and this turned into something bigger than I was mentally willing to take on at 10:something in the morning with a head full of Robitussin and codeine. But yeah, Team Louie at this point.
EDIT: Also relevant - look at Hicks's popularity during the huge late 80s-early 90s surge of popularity in stand-up. These days, half of the people that got popular during that time would be fucking drawn and quartered for being hacks, and rightfully so. He managed to stand out amongst that crowd, which is a big deal in and of itself, but I also can't help but wonder how much of his popularity may have been bolstered by that cultural phenomenon alone.
Edited by Jake - 2/18/12 at 11:13am