Splitsider: ‘SNL’ Recap: Louis C.K. Saves New York

In this week’s SNL recap on Splitsider, I discuss how comedian Louis C.K.’s New Yorker instincts guided him in a show that is a product of its home city.


Despite reaching televisions across the country, SNL is at its heart a New York show. The Mayor Bloomberg bits, the subway jokes, and the references to the Dr. Zizmor ads resonate more with the studio audience in 8H than the millions of viewers watching at home, some of us on a three-hour delay in different time zones. Bill Hader’s Stefon character is largely inspired by the city’s seedy underground club scene, and the writers — many of them staples of New York’s stand-up and improv community — share an on-edge, claustrophobia-induced comedic language.

Louis C.K. speaks this language. As a comedian who honed his craft in New York clubs like Caroline’s and the Comedy Cellar, C.K., along with his show on FX, has been praised for his acute observations of city life. Hours before SNL went live last Saturday, he posted an email to his fans describing his feelings about hosting the show in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, and what it was like shooting exterior shots (probably for the amazing Lincoln short) in powerless Greenwich Village:

Its pretty impossible to describe walking through these city streets in total darkness. It can’t even be called a trip through time, because as long as new york has lived, its been lit. By electricity, gas lamps, candlelight, kerosene. But this was pitch black, street after street, corner round corner. And for me, the village being the very place that made me into a comedian and a man, to walk through the heart of it and feel like, in a way, it was dead. I can’t tell you how that felt. And you also had a palpable sense that inside each dark window was a family or a student or an artist or an old woman living alone, just being int he dark and waiting for the day to come back. Like we were all having one big sleep over, but not so much fun as that.

This is how a lot of the city is still. I know people in queens, brooklyn, Staten Island, new jersey, all over, are not normal yet. And not normal is hard.

And here at 30 rock, these folks are working so hard this week. There are kids in the studio every day, because members of the crew and staff had to bring them to work. Many people are sharing lodging. Everyone is tired. But there’s this feeling here that we’ve got to put on a great show. I’m sure it feels like that here every week. But wow. I feel really lucky to be sharing this time with these particular good folks here at SNL.

This sense of urgency to provide comfort to a devastated New York echoed the first episode after 9/11, when Rudy Giuliani stood on the SNL stage with city relief workers, Lorne Michaels asked for permission to be funny again, and Giuliani famously quipped: “Why start now?” It’s nice to see New Yorkers come together in the wake of tragedy, and SNL was emblematic of that unity. Louis C.K.’s naturalistic, straight-man style may have put him at odds with a show fueled by big characters and punchy one-liners, but his deep connection with the city of New York made him right at home.

Read the full post on Splitsider.com.

About eavoss
Erik Voss is a writer, actor and improv comedian in Los Angeles. Please subscribe!

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