Adam Wilson in the LA Review of Books:
LOUIS C.K. EMERGES from the subway station: sullen, sweating. His balding crown of carrot colored hair is slightly brighter than his ruddy, freckled skin. The man is overweight but solid, like a fullback long past glory, in love with French fries, who still hits the gym. He’s got broad shoulders, thick arms, A-cup man breasts, and a sizable gut that hangs over his beltline. His black t-shirt is half a size too small, constricting his movements, and adding to the general impression of physical discomfort.
C.K. makes it up the subway steps and arrives at street level, exhaling as if he’s crested some unprecedented summit. He marches into a pizza joint, scarfs most of a giant slice in three bites, then disgusted, throws what remains in the garbage. To watch him eat is akin to watching a junkie shoot heroin; one can trace the convergence of shame and sublimity. All the while there’s music playing, the syncopated up beat of seventies funk. The singer repeats: “Louie, Louie, you’re gonna die.” The camera cuts to another set of stairs, this time a declension, C.K. hustling down to a door marked “Comedy Cellar.” The juxtaposition is stark: here lies humor, at the intersection of pathos and indigestion. We must armor ourselves with laughter.
So begins each episode of Louie, C.K.’s brainchild, currently in its third season on the cable channel FX. Cicero said that to be a philosopher is to learn how to die. Flaubert thought an artist must have a religion of despair. Accordingly, C.K. may be television’s true first in both categories.