You can’t imagine Louis CK being any younger than he is now. Somehow you just assume that the standup comedian went through his whole childhood and adolescence looking like the balding middle-aged man he is now, with the same wry exhausted sense of humor.

That’s why it’s so jarring to watch this old footage of him at age 21, way back in 1998, just getting started in the standup scene on The Cable Comedy Show. It resurfaced on YouTube recently.

CK talks about sign language, his douchebag uncle, and being a lonely, horny weirdo – so the usual material, really, but without the experience, innovation, and gross parenting jokes that we associate with him, in the video.

Louis CK tried stand-up for the first time in 1985 and it went so horribly he didn’t do it again for two years. He moved to New York in 1989 but didn’t have his first 30-minute stand-up special until 1996.

As Boston’s comedy scene grew, C.K. gradually achieved success, performing alongside acts such as Denis Leary and Lenny Clarke, and eventually he moved up to paid gigs, opening for Jerry Seinfeld and hosting comedy clubs until he moved to Manhattan in 1989. He performed his act on many televised programs, including Evening at the Improv and Star Search. In 1993, he unsuccessfully auditioned for Saturday Night Live, and most of the comedy clubs in New York City closed. In 1996, HBO released his first half-hour comedy special.

C.K. has performed his stand-up frequently on shows such as Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Lopez Tonight, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. In August 2005, C.K. starred in a half-hour HBO special as part of the stand-up series One Night Stand.

Inspired by the work ethic of fellow comedian George Carlin, who had committed to dropping all of his existing material and starting over every year, C.K. launched his first hour-long special, Shameless, in 2007, which aired on HBO and was later released on DVD. In March 2008, he recorded a second hour-long special, Chewed Up, which premiered on Showtime Network on October 4, 2008, and went on to be nominated for an Emmy for “Outstanding Writing in a Comedy or Variety Special”. C.K. has said that “failure is the road to becoming a great comedian.”

C.K. is the first comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden three times in a single tour.

Here’s the full clip if you can’t get enough of outdated 80s comedy.