One of the most anticipated movies this summer is Universal Pictures’ The Secret Life of Pets, a 3-D animated feature that’s about, well, exactly what it sounds like. A product of Illumination Entertainment (the ones who brought us Despicable Me and Groo’s adorable Minions), the film provides a solid helping of animation goodness that, while not the tastiest dish on this year’s menu, provides some comfort food for the cinematic soul. Moviegoers are lapping it up.
It came without promotions. It came without ads. It came without packages, boxes or bags. One morning it was just there, announcing its existence to millions of mailing list subscribers through a tantalizingly sparse subject line: “A brand new thing from Louis C.K.”
Chris Farley, when I take stock of my youthful memories, occupies a space right next to Big Bird and Yogi Bear. It has everything to do with how Farley would completely lose himself in a character. There’d be ill-fitting clothes, the seemingly enormous body (though in fact he wasn’t tall) and, finally, the masks: the taut yet jowly face of Bennett Brauer (the air quotes guy), the demure then violent interviewer at war with himself during “The Chris Farley Show,” the good guy trying really hard to be a Chippendales dancer. Each character, no matter how different, was ultimately a vehicle for Farley to do his thing.
Early on in Louis C.K.’s career, back when parenthood was just a word and smartphone wasn’t, he wrote and directed a six-minute film featuring Ron Lynch and two little-known New York actors, Amy Poehler (pre-SNL) and J.B. Smoove (pre-Curb). Shot in Manhattan in an afternoon, “Ugly Revenge” opens in typical Western style—whistling wind, crackling gunshots and empty landscapes—but in place of mesas and tumbleweeds it’s the shuttered warehouses and windblown trash of the Meatpacking District. A cowboy appears, dressed in something out of a Halloween pop-up shop, and C.K.’s drawly voiceover begins: “One tahm in th’ big city, a stranger came…t’reap his ugly revenge.” He gets it—shoots his man square in the belly—then disappears amidst plaintive Mariachi trumpets and the late-afternoon glare of the West Side Highway.
“Why can’t I…harass you? …just so I can go through the day without pretending,” Patrice O’Neal pleads in what has come to be known as the “Harassment Day” bit from his 2011 Comedy Central special Elephant in the Room. It’s biting, it’s cynical, it’s the essence of his entire act. Throughout the set, there’s a palpable exhaustion—not in the performance of O’Neal, who’s full of life, sharp beyond belief, the best he’d ever been from what I can tell, but an exhaustion with the way we tread fearfully through our lives.
Marc Maron and Louis C.K. go back a long way. The two became best buds when they first got started in comedy, but things eventually went awry. There was jealousy and someone stopped calling and someone else neglected to return the other’s emails. Since the initial falling-out both became first less and then more famous, and in the past few years they’ve been rehashing this baggage—for the sake of their relationship and for our entertainment—on C.K.’s unconventional sitcom, Louie, and Maron’s WTF podcasts and TV show Maron.