Shameless (2007)

Starring: Louis C.K.
Grade: A

Shameless is Louis C.K.’s first-ever hour long special, and it’s an early foreshadowing of the star he would become.


After talking about his drive to the theater in which he’s performing at and seeing a bumper sticker on another car that essentially implies the driver fucked someone’s girlfriend (“Tell Your Girlfriend I Said “Thanks”), Louis C.K. goes right into his routine of making up funny hypotheticals. It starts with him talking about how he was at a bar but admits that it doesn’t matter which one because he’s lying. This leads to a scenario in which he was waiting for the bathroom and another guy bangs on the door for him and leaves and how this is just strange behavior to encounter like him going to some sandwich place and asking for the guy to make a sandwich and he just does without asking what type he would want. Following this, Louis brings up how he saw duck vaginas on sale in Chinatown and how he didn’t buy any because he wouldn’t want to know if he loved them, his friend constantly texting him arbitrary shit to the point where Louis wished for his friend’s plane to crash and doubled down on it, and his friend asking him what he would do if he had a time machine. A lot of Louis C.K.’s genius in his routine is talking about the real feelings you get from these types of people you encounter in your life and being ruthlessly honest about it when describing this on stage. This is one of those examples, as everyone has the one friend who brings up a fantastical scenario like this when you know it’s just leading to him saying what he would do. Of course, this leads to his friend saying he would kill Adolph Hitler. In classic Louis C.K. fashion, he says he would rape him instead because he feels like this would be enough to stop Hitler from pursuing anything further.

After this, he talks about the new generation on the West Coast and their coffee shops and how he doesn’t mix well with them because he’s from Boston where people fight for no reason. Sometimes, you need that. To prove his point, he brings up how he was on Venice Beach once and there was a guy in a thong rollerblading by him without a care in the world and it pissed him off so much he had to stop in his tracks.

Hey, I get it.

Before going back to the coffee shop bit, he goes a little further with the people you can’t stand in public, using the bank as a PERFECT example. When I say that every observation in this bit is on point, I absolutely mean it. Louis talks about how in our own heads, we just pick people to hate for no reason just because whatever they’re doing is inconvenient. The accuracy is undeniable. There’s also the one person who tries to be smart by suggesting “They should open another window”, the lady with the story (“I was here on Wednesday and the line was just as long”), and everyone else in line being agitated when you ask for something additional like stamps because it just elongates the wait. Finally, he goes back to the coffee shop story and talks about how he had this kitschy t-shirt that says, “Awesome Opossum”. When he saw a kid at the coffee shop, he tried to engage in conversation by pointing out that they have the same shirt, but he gets offended the kid brushes him off. This is when he realizes he’s not even wearing the shirt and he just looked like some weirdo. After this, he goes on about a stranger telling him to “suck a bag of dicks”, what led to the guy telling him that (he cut him off in traffic and they ran into a stoplight together), what a bag of dicks looks like, the action of it, and how he’s never sucked a dick in his life but it’s possible he’s never seen the right one yet. Then, he talks about how mad people get at gays for existing, which he hilariously quips, “You don’t have to go to the wedding”. He segues into talking about the stereotypical gays that do exist that make him laugh because how they act is funny to him and how he would blow Ewan McGregor.

Next, he brings up how skinny people don’t understand fat people problems, and it’s evidenced by the simple but very realistic example of him struggling to avoid eating a donut. A typical skinny person doesn’t understand this, and most would just say, “Just have a donut” like it’s easy to walk away from as Louis C.K. describes it. He ends this with one of my favorite jokes of the special when he talks about how this would lead to a complete downward spiral where he’s killing hookers, and he doesn’t even remember what happened.

Using this, he transitions into another hysterical and realistic scenario about being at a party as an older person and cookies being readily available and how you have to find ways to avoid eating all the cookies in one sitting like some sort of fat slob even though that’s all you want to do. Next, he talks about his gut, getting tits for the first time and how this is the one thing he has in common with a 12 year old girl, how he doesn’t care now that he’s married, how he was someone’s lowest point after having sex with a hot girl years ago, getting a handjob in high school, and his discovery of masturbation at the age of 11 and how much he loved it. This leads to an odd story where he talks about how he used to “compare notes” with his friend Jeff on how they masturbated. Since Jeff liked extra pressure on his privates, Louis would sit on Jeff’s ass as he jerked off. Now that he’s grown, he wonders aloud if this was gay or if he was just being a good friend.

Honestly, he probably should have kept this one to himself, at least for Jeff’s sake.

Louis moves on to talking about his sexless marriage, how you give a blowjob to a date and not a husband, and the saddest handjob he received at the hands of his wife in his daughter’s room, which he argues is fine because he pays the rend and he’ll shit on the bed if he wants to. His wife is unenthusiastic to the whole thing, so it’s not going well. What makes things worse is Louis suggesting for her to lick her palm, but he says it in a low voice, and it sounds like he’s telling her that she looks like her mom. Sadly, he has to use his own hands to help her jerk him off and he ends it by saying she might as well have been dead. Lastly, he talks about his kids, not knowing his baby, day-to-day baby stuff and almost killing her by leaving her in her stroller in front of the exhaust pipe of his car, her other daughter being unpredictable and hard to deal with, the bliss of taking a shit when he just has time to himself and how it should be called “Number 1” instead of “Number 2”, and how single people’s problems don’t matter, literally saying “If they die, no one cares” and how he can’t die because of his family. To finish things off, he goes into the audience and shakes people’s hands.

My Thoughts:

Early Louis C.K. was hilarious, and Shameless is no different. With his expert observational humor that is so on the money, you’re surprised no one else has talked about the same topics in such an amusing manner to hilarious insight into his personality and approach to everyday life, Shameless is a very funny hour that deservedly put C.K. on the map. Sprinkling in some darker humor right when you least expect it, Louis keeps the audience on their toes. Is it mostly because you’re expecting something different because of the way he looks? It’s possible, especially before he became such a big name in the world of comedy. At first glance, Louis C.K. does look like the middle-aged dad who doesn’t give a shit. However, he’s so much more than this type of comedy. He thrives on the uncomfortable and his storytelling abilities in getting us there are second to none.

Sure, bits about the bank and his family are hilariously relatable like where he flips out on his daughter when she refuses to tell him a story and how he’s got cooler stories anyway and was just being nice, but he throws in enough of a twist to stop it from being “dad humor”, despite the way he looks and the stage of life he’s in. As soon as he starts talking about his baby daughter, you’re thinking, “Here we go. We’ve heard this before”. Instead, one of the first things he points out is that he barely knows her because she’s a baby. She doesn’t talk yet, so who knows who she is with him remarking, “What if she hates Jews?”. He does this a lot in the second half of the special when it becomes more and more about married life, always finding a way to make a regular topic fresh from his perspective. Because of this, Shameless is never boring. In fact, it’s far from it. Arguably, some of it will have you a bit disgusted if anything. The unenthusiastic handjob from his wife that ends with him helping her leads to him admitting she “might as well have been dead”, and he would’ve gotten the same result. Another bit was about how uncontrollable his daughter is and how he walked into his house to see his daughter on the ground naked in a spread-eagle position and him having to act normal about it because he didn’t want her to freak out. I definitely didn’t need a mental image in my head of that, but that’s what you’re going to get with someone like Louis. For every topic that may seem mundane on the surface, he twists it and gets so brutally honest about it, you get moments that will either have you laugh out loud or think to yourself, “Man, I wish I didn’t know that”.

I bet his family wasn’t too happy about him talking about these private stories being brought to life either. We don’t know what happened in the C.K. household towards the end there, but he did get divorced a year later. In hindsight, you can’t help but think that him detailing so many of these moments on stage didn’t help his situation.

Speaking of hindsight and Louis C.K.’s admittance to sexual misconduct years later, he talks about masturbation a lot in this special. When he talks about his bizarre experiences at the age of 11, everything starts making a lot more sense as to who he would become. With that being said, his argument of men just needing to cum as a release, “…so we won’t murder people” had me cackling with laughter. There’s this and how he refers to his 5-year-old daughter as an asshole because she won’t put on her shoes to go and how if an older man did the same thing, the opinion would be the same. Think about it, if they couldn’t go somewhere because some dude refused to put on his shoes for no reason, he would be an asshole, right? Louis C.K. just baited us with one joke into agreeing that his unknown daughter is in fact an asshole. It’s genius. Regardless of how you may think of the comedian as a human being, Shameless is as pure as stand-up comedy gets.

Louis C.K.’s Shameless is filled to the brim with prime observational humor, it’s consistently funny with no dead spots, relatable, great from a storytelling perspective, quirky, and at times strange. This is how you create a fanbase.

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