Review: Louie C.K.’s ‘Horace and Pete’ deserves more attention

Louis C.K.

Louie C.K. has again reinvented comedy by finding laughs in the darkest, most obscure places.

In his newest show “Horace and Pete,” C.K. stars as Horace, the inherited owner of a 100-year-old Brooklyn dive bar.

“Horace and Pete” was a solo-project, meaning it was written and funded completely by C.K. without the help of any major networks, a detail that he is quite proud of and mildly in debt from.

Because the show isn’t funded by any major network, it is only available to watch through C.K.’s website, although he may sell it in the future, he said in a recent podcast interview with Bill Simmons. Viewers can buy the show by the episode, or purchase the whole series for $31. Many say this is too much to pay for a few hours of television, but C.K. aims to demonstrate how much TV actually costs to produce, and he produces a product well worth the money.

The entire series is only one season consisting of 10 episodes. The finale was released on April 2. This isn’t because the show was canceled, but rather because it comes to an end, said C.K. in that same interview.

“Horace and Pete,” first premiering on his site in January, is what can only be described as a comedy-drama. The show is filmed like a sitcom, but with no laugh track, as not to interrupt the natural flow of a realistic conversation. The majority of the show takes place on one of two sets, and there are no more than five different camera angles used. Most of the episodes have two to three long scenes, and span between 35 and 60 minutes long.

Taking some qualities of the sitcom and not others makes for an interesting viewing experience. Without a laugh track, the viewer doesn’t feel compelled to laugh at every joke. The effect this has on the audience is that no one is quite sure he or she should be laughing in the first place. This brand of comedy is comparable to his show “Louie.” Laughs are not present in every line – they’re actually few and far between. But when the laughs do come around they are accompanied with comedy so dry and entangled into dark histories that it becomes both uncomfortable and irresistible to watch.

Behind these dense character backgrounds and high-running emotions are some very big names. Steve Buscemi, Jessica Lange, Alan Alda, and Edie Falco, with an original theme song written by Paul Simon, just to name a few. How was C.K. able to convince these big names to participate in his potentially non-profitable show? By pitching his show as a piece of art rather than a product of television, he said during an interview with Howard Stern last month.

These actors and actresses are artists above all else. It makes me pleased to see celebrities taking stock in this show because of its artistic potential and not for its monetary value. I have upmost respect for those willing to sacrifice their expensive time for the sake of creating timeless art.

For me, this show is exactly what I’ve been looking for. It is made up of intense emotional tsunamis – racial, political and religious comedy that often turns in on itself, sex jokes that turn into shameful and taboo fantasies, and lines of brilliant, jaw-dropping dialogue that won’t soon be forgotten. The dozens of themes and motifs throughout make social commentaries on deep-seated societal beliefs, and inherent human struggles. “Horace and Pete” is not a show where the viewer is wondering what will happen next, but rather spending their time during the ending credits, listening to Simon’s beautiful songwriting, and unpacking what they just witnessed.

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