Those who subscribe to the notion that deconstructing a joke ruins it may consider making an exception for the Nerdwriter (aka Evan Puschak).
His careful parsing of Louis CK’s Monopoly joke, above, takes rhythm, word choice, and the importance of a clearly stated premise into account.
Delivering the 207-word joke at the Beacon Theater, CK is characteristically nonchalant, but Puschak argues that there’s nothing unrehearsed about his performance.
Take the way he ramps up a scenario that will be familiar to any parent—the six-year-old who is emotionally unequipped to handle losing at games. CK gets at an even deeper truth about the howling injustice of being six, by saying that his younger daughter is “not emotionally developed enough to handle her inevitable loss in every game of Monopoly.”
Oh, the humanity.
Puschak also singles out CK’s acting ability. The way he speaks to his daughter, placing her in the first row of the audience, sharpens the comedy by helping the audience to fully visualize the scenario he’s set up:
I play Monopoly with my kids, that’s really fun. My nine year old, she can totally do Monopoly. The six year old totally gets how the game works but she’s not emotionally developed enough to handle her inevitable loss in every game of Monopoly because a monopoly loss is dark. It’s heavy. It’s not like when you lose at Candyland ‘Oh you got stuck in the fudgy-thing, baby! Oh well you’re in the gummy twirly-o’s! You didn’t get to win!’ But when she loses at Monopoly, I gotta look at her little face and go ‘Ok, so here’s what’s gonna happen now, ok? All your property, everything you have, all your railroads and houses, and all your money…that’s mine now. Gotta give it all to me. Give it to me, that’s right. And no no, you can’t play anymore because, you see, even though you’re giving me all of that, it doesn’t even touch how you owe me. Doesn’t even touch it, baby. You’re going down hard, it’s really bad. All you’ve been working for all day, I’m gonna take it now and I’m gonna use it to destroy your sister. I mean I’m gonna ruin her! It is just mayhem on this board for her now.
You can view the Nerdwriter’s other videos essays on his website or subscribe to his YouTube channel where a new video is published every Wednesday.
How the Great George Carlin Showed Louis CK the Way to Success (NSFW)
20-Year-Old Louis CK Performs Stand Up (1987)
Louis CK Ridicules Avant-Garde Art on 1990s MTV Show
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her play Zamboni Godot is opening in New York City in March 2017. Follow her @AyunHalliday.
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