In a promo for his upcoming gig on "Saturday Night Live," Louis C.K. announces he's hosting this week's show – prompting Keenan Thompson to declare, "I love that character!"
C.K. turns with his trademark half-hangdog, half-annoyed expression and replies, "I'm not doing a character... It's just me. I'm being a person."
The bit offered perhaps the truest statement ever uttered by C.K., whose comedy is fueled by unvarnished honesty that spares no one, least of all himself (“The meal is not over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself”).
C.K. has been largely absent from the small screen for nearly a year, proving a strong character actor in modest, but key supporting roles in "Blue Jasmine" and "American Hustle." Now his "SNL" appearance offers a long-overdue reminder that C.K. is at his best when playing his cynical, blunt self.
His HBO special, “Louis C.K.” Oh My God,” which aired last April, marked the comic force’s last major TV effort. Echoing his FX show, he showed signs of becoming more of a storyteller than a joke teller, as he obsessed even more than usual over human interactions and mortality.
His autobiographical anti-sitcom comedy, "Louie," finally returns in May, nearly 20 months after the bizarre and brilliant Season 3 finale took him on an impromptu New Years trip to China where he ate dinner with a family he just met. Perhaps the jaunt marked a real-life sign he needed to get away – C.K. took a chance by taking an extended break to recharge his creative battery for the show he stars in, writes, direct and edits.
“Louie” is his ongoing masterwork and possibly what he'll be best remembered for, thanks to awkward flights of fancy and defining lines like, “I know too much about life to have any optimism.” Still, for all the Emmys and critical acclaim reaped by the show and his stand-up routines, C.K. gets more mass exposure elsewhere – including the movies and "SNL," where his first hosting stint in November 2012, in the wake of Sandy, proved a highlight of that season.
His most memorable sketch went viral: "Lincoln," a mash-up of the movie and C.K.'s show, which ended up more “Louie” than Abe (“One thing I’m tired of is arguing with slave owners as if they just aren’t f-----g a------s”).
Even when tackling the presidential history, C.K. excels when just being himself. As we await C.K.'s latest "SNL" appearance, go here to revisit his take on "Lincoln."
Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.