In Jerusalem, Louis C.K. Spends Some Quality Time With 10,000 of His Best Friends

Even though I prefer to enjoy America's stand-up philosopher in the privacy of my home, Louis C.K. proves he can generate intimacy even with a full stadium.

Louis C.K. appears onstage at Comedy Central's "Night of Too Many Stars: America Comes Together for Autism Programs" at the Beacon Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 in New York.
Charles Sykes, AP

Earlier this month my esteemed friend and Haaretz colleague Michael Handelzalts published an article explaining why he wouldn’t see Louis C.K.’s show in Jerusalem. Handelzalts and I share a passionate love for C.K., and I was completely shaken by what he wrote.

Basically: Why share Louis with 10,000 people when you can enjoy intimacy with him in the privacy of your own home and imagine that only you truly understand him? But when duty calls to cover the show, it’s hard to refuse.

The detailed ticket, full of warnings and explanations, noted that the show would begin at 7 P.M. sharp. But at 7 P.M. the Payis Arena wasn’t even a third full, so it was hard not to focus on the warnings projected everywhere: No filming, No recording, Don’t be a douche.

It was clear that C.K. formulated this specific demand, and thus, when the show began there was a feeling of chumminess that Louis so easily created, a deceptive and even discomforting feeling at the arena. After all, in the privacy of your own home you can easily succumb to that illusion, but among his 10,000 other closest friends it's a bit undermined.

I recognized him from afar. Although I didn’t see his face, I knew it was C.K. by his movements as he stood and chatted with a Magen David Adom medic. When he went on stage, I was proved right.

In the orchestra, C.K. waited like the rest of us for the arena to fill. In a certain way it was fortunate that I was far from him, in one of the balconies, because the feeling that he was still my best friend would have made me leap at him and invite him to a beer, an act that surely would have embarrassed me for the rest of my life.

A seat in the sky

One of his gems that I’ve incorporated into my speech is a description of a traveler on a domestic American flight who learns at the beginning of the trip that for the first time there will be in-flight Wifi. But after the Wifi falters he complains in rage: “This is fucking bullshit.”

C.K. tongue-lashes a member of our generation who during an amazing journey in the sky and another miracle – internet in the sky – takes the abundance in which he lives so much for granted that he sees any delay or interruption as a bitter disappointment.

“This is fucking bullshit” I say sarcastically to myself if I catch myself annoyed when a movie isn’t streaming smoothly. “This is fucking bullshit” I say if I catch myself annoyed when the confirmation email doesn’t land the second after I buy something online. “This is fucking bullshit” I tell myself when I get annoyed by the delay in the show.

In any case, the show started fashionably late, and three stand-up comedians described as his good friends – Joe Machi, Rachel Feinstein and Joe List – preceded him. They weren’t bad, and they properly elevated C.K.

But when Louis finally got on stage, the crowd went wild. Applause, shouts and whistles received one of the most important philosophers to emerge from pop culture. He warmly responded to the excitement early in the show: “You aren’t bad in bed.”

C.K. opened his spiel talking about a run he took in Jerusalem’s Old City and everyone looked crazy to him. “That’s what we all think about you in the rest of the world,” he told the audience, which responded affectionately.

He said every place with problems seemed crazy from the outside, but when you get there you discover that it’s pretty normal. He said people say it’s not so crazy here, but everyone he spoke to in Jerusalem said it’s crazy to be here. C-R-A-Z-Y. He said he found that refreshing. The audience roared with laughter.

Jewish grandfather

From there, C.K. continued with the program that seemed a little longer than usual (his specials are normally an hour). He talked about his love for naps, suicide and the choice of life (he said we basically choose not to commit suicide). He talked about the Islamic State (he thinks they don’t like bald heads because they look less impressive when held up decapitated).

There was also one of his beloved recurring motifs – his daughters, public schools and Greek mythology. He told a long story full of tangents about Achilles, and his point was that children never appreciate enough what their parents have done for them. He talked about relationships, claiming that everyone is either alone or in a stinking relationship and telling the audience not to tell him they’re the exception.

He talked about transgender people and how much he’s jealous that they could find something to fix in themselves, wishing he could discover that he’s basically an owl needing only to sleep during the day and eat mice at night. He also discussed his repressed lust for actors Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum, describing himself as gay for premium products.

It’s still impossible to know (until a filmed version of his new special is uploaded) if his long routine at the end about the conversion of his Mexican father and the Judaism of his Hungarian grandfather was a special treat for the Israelis, who feted him with nonstop thunderous laughter. When he finished by saying that at least for this evening they didn’t want to commit suicide, he was met by a standing ovation, roars and shouts.

We went outside. I walked around the Payis Arena in the hope of running into C.K. smoking at one of the rear exits. But I hoped in vain. C.K. will continue to travel the world and supremely delude his fans that he’s a regular guy from the neighborhood and not a world-famous millionaire.

And I will wait for that filmed special to go online. I will compare notes from the live show and I continue to believe that we’re best friends, even though it’s fucking bullshit.