Comedian Louis CK’s fifth stand-up special, Oh My God premiered on HBO last weekend. I highly recommend checking it out. Always funny, occasionally hilarious, Oh My God is a master class in comedy performance. His delivery is pitch perfect. Every joke is nearly faultless in it’s construction. Individual sentences are structured with surgical precision. Oh My God will mostly likely be the best stand-up special of 2013.
But watching this special really pissed me off.
In comedy circles, Louis CK is infamous for developing and recording a new hour of material every year. Each special is inventive and funny, but ultimately forgettable. Oh My God was really, really good, but it wasn’t extraordinary. This may sound harsh, but few if any Louis CK fans can quote one of his jokes from the past five years. And that’s a shame.
So what’s the Rich Fix?
Right now, Louie is writing and performing at a level most comedians will never achieve. But he is capable of something extraordinary - creating an iconic stand-up special that lives on forever. A pop culture event. Jokes that become part of our language.
In the last thirty years, there have only been five specials that have attained that rarified status. They are the gold standard by which all other comedy is judged:
- Bill Cosby: Himself
- Chris Rock: Bring the Pain
- Eddie Murphy: Delirious
- George Carlin: Carlin at Carnegie
- Jerry Seinfeld: Stand-Up Confidential
Louie CK is the only comic alive today who could crack the top five. But to create that iconic special, Louis CK needs to start thinking long-term. Louie could still create a new hour of material each year and tour with it, but he needs to bank that comedy without filming. Then, three years from now, take the best material and create an uber-special for HBO. Sixty minutes of the funniest material collected from three years of Louie being at the height of his powers.
(Just imagine if Louie had just done my suggestion. If his new special was the very best chunks of his last three specials, Hilarious, Live at the Beacon Theater, and Oh My God. It would have been un-for-get-able.)
Yes, Louie will not make as much money with my suggestion. But this isn’t about short-term cash. This is about legacy.
Louie, if you’re reading this (you probably have a Google Alert with your own name), do this for your fans. Do it for your kids. Do it for America. We need another groundbreaking comedy special that unites us, if just for a moment. You've been taking chances your whole career, but now is the time to really swing for the fences. You’re probably the only comic working today who can do it. So do it!