Louie, Louis: The Fictional, Stage, and Auteur Personas of Louis C.K. in Louie
Keywords:persona, stand-up comedy, self-performance, Louis C.K., Louie
This paper examines stand-up comedy in light of the persona studies idea of the proliferation of the public self to consider the ways comedians are represented and self-presented. Stand-up comedy as a performance mode deploys a literal version of Goffman’s front-stage and back-stage personas, raising questions about who comedians “really” are. Where the simultaneous observation of the on- and off-stage personas of comedy performers was previously only afforded in representational fiction, the diversification of what constitutes on-stage space for comedians has provided opportunities for comedians to perform versions of their back-stage selves in a broader variety of public, front-stage spaces. In the case of American comedian Louis C.K., his television series, Louie, has proven to be a liminal entity that operates in the spirit of presentational media, while produced, constructed, and distributed as representational media. This paper uses Louie to examine the front-stage and back-stage personas of personal, confessional comedians like C.K. who present aspects of their private lives in their public work. In addition, I look at how C.K. asserts his public persona as a self-presentational meta-presence within the representational depiction of his fictionalised self on television. The result is a step toward understanding the nature of self-performance in the front- and back-stage personas of stand-up comedians and how representational media with a distinct authorial voice can act in the spirit of presentational media.
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