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Review: Louis C.K. unites crowd with divisive jokes in Portland

Around the same time Portland police were launching tear gas grenades toward anti-Donald Trump protesters near Pioneer Courthouse Square, comedian Louis C.K. was preparing to make the Moda Center’s Theater of the Clouds audience cry from laughter in the second night of three consecutive sold-out performances.

In a city known for its progressive and politically correct stances, the entire crowd of roughly 6,500 people was unable to stop laughing as C.K. continuously stretched his material to the limits of what is acceptable at a comedy show. Ultimately, that’s what makes him great.

Dressed in his new standard stage attire of a black suit, tie and dress pants, C.K. stood in front of a purple and blue-lit backdrop and admitted that he arrived with a premeditated hatred for Portland’s unique variety of self-created weirdness.

“This city is so… this,” he said, unable to find the proper word. But once he arrived and began walking around town, his perception quickly morphed from anger to appreciation. “The sewer grates have roses on them. What is this place?”

Much of the first half of his set revolved around the highly controversial topics of abortion and suicide. He plowed through this material with gusto, arguing that the best argument for abortion is that in many places, it’s legal to kill a person who invades your home. With that logic, why should a women have to host an invader in her body for nine months?

C.K. has never been afraid to blatantly ask the tough questions no one else will touch. For example, during a short encore where he tried some new material, he asked the crowd to ponder, “How many people have fucked your mom?” He seemed genuinely curious, and suggested asking at the next Thanksgiving feast.

Although it was inauguration day for the 45th President of the United States, C.K. left the political talk almost completely out of Friday night’s set. He was a proud supporter of Hillary Clinton and has written some rather unflattering comments about Trump, but he instead chose to focus on uniting the audience, acknowledging the power of words and racially biased character voices in his act.

“Here’s the thing: Stereotypes hurt,” he said before pausing, deep in thought. “But the voices are funny. I’m not giving them up.”

The difference between C.K. and an average comedian is that he doesn’t have to be provocative to force a laugh; rather, he is so disarmingly funny that it’s impossible not to chuckle. It’s a theme that has always been present in C.K.’s best work: If the joke is funny, he will tell it, no matter who might be offended.

Up and coming New York comedian Emma Willmann opened the night with a brief set, but she quickly proved her worth. She admitted that up until recently, she didn’t know the difference between fracking and sharting.

Comedy veteran Todd Glass followed with a takedown of dirty K-Marts, and house-hunting TV programs. Next, Joe List described the disappointment of asking his girlfriend if he is sexy, and hearing, “You’re punctual” in return.

With Friday’s performance, C.K. and co. proved that no matter how contentious a situation may be, laughter can always be a uniting force for good — just leave the jokes about masturbating to Jesus’ crucifixion to the pros.

Following Thursday’s performance, C.K. and Glass surprised the open mic crowd at the Ground Kontrol bar-arcade with short stand up routines. It cost $3, and apparently, C.K. paid the cover fee too.

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Craig Wright

Craig Wright

Craig is the senior arts and culture editor for the Emerald. He is from West Linn, Oregon, and is a senior majoring in journalism at the UO. He has made Nick Frost laugh and has been deemed to be "f---ed up in the head" by legendary thrash-metal band Slayer.