Deconstructing How Louis CK Writes a Joke

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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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