Barely Conscious Podcast Episode #24 – feat. Tony J. Selimi
Tony’s got heart.
In this episode, Justin talks to Tony J. Selimi about going from a Yugoslavian refugee, barely surviving as a homeless man on the streets of London, to a best selling author. Also, Justin laments his impossible dream : to meet a girl who likes the band Intervals as much as he does.
I’ve been a huge fan of Louie CK for the better part of the last decade. I saw him a few years back in Chicago and it was maybe the hardest I’ve ever laughed in my life. I couldn’t even hear everything he was saying at the end of his jokes because he was slaying me so hard. I saw him again live last year, and it wasn’t so much fall down funny as it was thoughtful and provocative. In his latest Netflix comedy special “Louis C.K. 2017”, Louie demonstrates why he continues to be the best stand up comedian of all time. What makes him so good is the way he can take the most taboo and controversial topics imaginable, and reframe them in a perspective that results in uncontrollable laughter. For example, in “2017” he leads with “So here’s what I think of abortion…You should only get an abortion if you need to”. I challenge anyone to figure out a way to finish that bit in front of a capacity crowd, and not get crickets or a chorus of boos for a response. In his SNL monologue, he went with a joke about how child molesting must feel really great if someone is willing to risk getting caught doing it. Now if you’ve never watched Louie CK, you might be scratching your head right now trying to figure out how this guy could possibly be both funny and popular. This is the level of genius we are dealing with.
Sometimes I imagine Louie just sits around making lists of the most painful and horrifying moments in life. He then takes that list, and attempts to delicately construct a joke to put each topic in just the right perspective. A point of view and carefully selected word choice where the audience can feel okay about laughing about things like Sept. 11th, Racism, AIDS, and ISIS beheadings. Not only is it an amazing accomplishment to find a hearty laugh in a beehive of controversial hazardous materials, but when he does make us laugh, it’s therapeutic. When most people’s news feeds and conversations center around pain, stress, and bureaucracy, it’s a wonderful release to be able to somehow laugh about it every once in a while. This is what makes Louie so valuable to so many people.
He perfectly articulates how absurd human beings are. And like the great comics before him, he does it through brutally honest self-deprecation. The guy is capable of doing an impression of how disgusting he must look when he is in missionary position with a woman where his chest that looks like that of a profusely sweating pregnant dog. He talks about how awful we are to each other and our children. He digs deep to try to excavate the most embarrassing thoughts that most people would be mortified to reveal to their therapist, much less on national television. Like how he obsesses over Matthew McConaughey’s sexy character in Magic Mike, and how he could imagine enjoying sucking his dick. Or how he likes to walk around his house using incredibly racist character voices with his kids because they are just too funny not to.
The MacGyver of jokes
His FX TV show “Louie” is also a testament to his clever writing and acting ability. He pushes artistic boundaries by tossing out the rulebook on what is supposed to happen in a half hour of a television show. He has episodes where he starts out on a heartfelt journey to reconnect with his family, and ends up stealing a jet ski in Boston Harbor and getting involved in a straight-up action sequence. It’s literally the most unpredictable show I’ve ever seen. “Louie” the TV show is less straight jokes, and more just brave and bizarre entertainment. While this isn’t Louie’s funniest comedy special or endeavor, it’s still fantastic and well worth watching. Unlike a lot of musicians, Louie seems to continue to tap into his fountain of creativity and raw artistry even as he enters his 50s. Just go watch it and you’ll have a slightly better day.