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Louis C.K.’s show, Louie, is structured similarly to other sitcoms of its kind: It’s an ethnography of the life of a comedian, wherein the plots of his jokes are dramatized and reified every so often in clips of Louis performing the material for an audience. But amid the many sitcoms adapted from stand-up acts, Louis’ stands apart for its fatalism. The Seinfeld gang comprised energetic, single, not-yet-middle-aged friends whose gaffes never seemed to have any meaningful consequences. By contrast, Louis is a sardonic, lonely onanist and a reluctant father with a deteriorating body and a dissolved marriage whose every gaffe brings him deeper into an abyss of resignation. He makes an effort to meet single women at a club, and is taken for a pervert. He buys a dog to stave off loneliness, and the dog dies. These storylines are funny, but they are hardly whimsical. Louis’ stand-up, in his show and elsewhere, suggests that the stage is the only place where he feels comfortable and in control. In a way, Louie is a kindred spirit to the film Funny People, in that it paints a portrait of the comedian as a tragic figure whose brushes with gladness are as fleeting as a punchline. Fortunately, his punchlines are some of the best in the business.
LOUIS CK PERFORMS AT 7:30 AND 10:00 P.M. AT THE WARNER THEATRE, 1299 PENNSYLVANIA AVE. NW. $35. (202) 783-4000.