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Louis C.K. FX

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#1 Gavin Breeden

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 09:25 PM

Is anyone else watching this show? At first I found it incredibly dark and uncomfortable, but the more I watch it, the funnier it gets.

It's sort of like a very dark spin on Seinfeld. The show alternates between stand-up segments and little vignettes from Louie's life showing how the latter influences the former.

Taking inspiration from C.K.'s own life, the show chronicles a recently divorced father/comedian trying to make sense of getting older and returning to the single life.

It's pretty hilarious...but still dark and uncomfortable.



#2 M. Leary

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 03:46 PM

I was going to start a topic on this yesterday, as it is such an odd show.

It is intensely vulgar, as Louis C.K.'s stand-up comedy depends on one part self-humiliation and two parts mind-numbing obscenity. But the actual show itself is pretty gripping. I am not sure why, but I find these vignettes of Louis just walking around and relating to the world in his hamstrung way very comforting. The most recent episode involved him pleading with a high school kid not to beat him up (his date then deciding the whole situation was a big turn-off). Louis follows the kid home, and ends up talking to his dad on the front step about life and children.

I seldom see anything so honest and vulnerable on TV, but I recommend fast-forwarding through the stand-up interludes.

#3 Gavin Breeden

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 11:21 PM

M.Leary, I'm starting to think that our DVRs look really similar.

I agree with you. I much prefer the "story" parts over the stand-up parts. My only experience with Louis C.K.'s stand-up has been what I see in this show and it's occasionally funny, but I find myself doing other things until the stories come on.

I, too, really appreciate how honest and vulnerable some of those segments are. One of the early moments of the show that really attracted me was the scene in which Louie and several of fellow comedians are playing poker and they begin talking about the use of the word "fag" in their routines. One of the comedians present happens to be a homosexual and they ask him how it makes him feel when they say that word and whether they should say use in their jokes. The scene begins light and funny but shifts to a somewhat serious tone by its end. I was impressed at how well the scene transitioned into a meaningful discussion without losing sight of the humor or turning into a preachy monologue.

The show makes shifts like that all the time, like in the scene you mentioned, M.Leary. The teen threatens Louie and it's awkward, then his date admits that it turned her off and it becomes funny, then he follows the kid home and the show had me expecting something awkward/funny at the end, but instead it ends with two men talking about the difficulties of fatherhood. Where else can you find a story line like that?

Ultimately, it seems the show is about finding comedy in life, even (or especially) in its difficult moments. We all get into those terrible situations where we think, "I'll look back on this someday and laugh about it." Those are the moments that often make up Louie. Then there are episodes like the one in which Ricky Gervais plays Louie's wacky doctor and those are just plain funny.

But this is definitely not a show I'd recommend to everyone due to its content and its really dark sense of humor. Many of my friends would hate it, I think.

Edited by Gavin Breeden, 19 August 2010 - 11:26 PM.


#4 M. Leary

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 09:46 AM

Great thoughts.

I think I like this show also as an alternative to the nihilism of Seinfeld, and even the only loosely ironic self-absorption of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Both of these shows involve comedians doing comic things, but in Louie, the comedian aspect is simply an incidental part of his biography. Just as we see characters in The Office (UK) going to work and doing funny/poignant things, we see Louie going to work and then doing poignant things. He could just as easily be a UPS driver that says funny stuff to co-workers on the dispatch radio.

In essence, it turns out that Seinfeld is a sad show, because it can quickly become that empty, shallow thing people climb into when they need to escape from all the stuff Louie is dealing with: divorce, loneliness, kids, etc... In one of the earlier episodes, Louie castigates a heckler after the show because she robbed his audience of that one time during their week that they could have had a laugh, a brief vacation from their day to day grind. I think the heart of his argument is not that real comedy is a quick and cheap fix, but that authentic and therapeutic comedy is extremely hard to come by - and she had stolen this opportunity from Louie's listeners that night. Louie is a stand-in for audiences that have seen the gloss of TV for what it is, and are now immune to it. What we get instead are realist vignettes that show us why Louie the single 42 year old male feels the way he does.

And this is why the show is so vulnerable, Louie seems to want us to see what he is really like inside, and it is pathetic. But, this also makes it funny because: Louie is us.

A bit further on that: I think Louie may appeal to men more than women because he is very specifically tapped into that wandery, shell-shocked feeling that attends middle aged men trying to figure out why they are where they are.

Also:

In what other "comic" TV show do you see a 25 minute episode broken up by 4 minutes worth of the overweight lead following a teenager through the subway, on the Staten Island Ferry, all the way to his suburban home? (And this is after two blocks of 3 minute medium camera shot conversation between Louie and his date.) There was something actually Dardennesque about that scene. I was captivated, because I was seeing actual cinema realism on TV. In the service of what? I couldn't tell. And then, it turns out, this sequence leads to a startlingly honest discussion between two fathers. When I now think of how effective television can be, I will now think of this episode.

And then from a theological perspective:

This show is basically a data-mine for contemporary pastoral theology. Louie articulates almost every feeling that men around his age feel on a daily basis. It basically hands us the ethos of a healthy percentage of church attenders on a platter. I think it is a show that needs to be watched, dissected, and ultimately used as a tool to engage a specific segment of our society.

Sorry for the tangled heap of thoughts here, but apparently, I had more to say about this show than I thought I did. If anyone hasn't watched this show, I recommend at least watching the last episode.

Edited by M. Leary, 21 August 2010 - 08:08 AM.


#5 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 25 August 2010 - 01:45 PM

I'm watching it. I've been a fan ever since Drew Magary recommended him on a sports website that I read a year ago. Although, I agree that this show has some of the most uncomfortable moments I've ever seen on television. It's really good, but pretty difficult to watch.

Jeff Garlin argued that Brian Regan is the funniest comedian in America right now, because he gets big laughs while managing to work clean, which isn't easy. I'll happily grant him that. Brian Regan is a brilliant comic ... But what Louis CK does is twice as difficult. It may be hard to make a clean joke about Pop Tarts funny. But in the end, it's still a joke about Pop Tarts. You haven't risked anything by telling that joke. What Louis CK is doing right now is similar to what made Richard Pryor so special back in the 1970's, or what Howard Stern did when he began on the radio. Pryor was upfront about all of his personal shortcomings: his drug use, his troubles with women, his suicide attempt. He hid nothing. He kept nothing for himself. When you watched him, there was both humor and a constant sense of unease as to his mental well-being.

Something like that goes beyond mere comedy. That sort of emotional nakedness elevates the performance into something else entirely. It's performance art. Louis CK will tell you that's a faggot term, but it's true. At its very best, art is someone giving you a piece of their soul. And that's what Louis CK does when he performs. There's no fear. And I'm not talking about being willing to take your shirt off in front the audience or something. I mean that he has no fear ... He's willing to ignore all the potential emotional consequences of what he says just for the sake of laughter. It's an intensely personal, intimate form of comedy. You feel like you're sitting in on a therapy session. And that, of course is exactly what great comedy is: a form of therapy. That's why Louis CK is the best around.


Edited by Persiflage, 25 August 2010 - 01:45 PM.


#6 M. Leary

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Posted 27 August 2010 - 09:33 AM

Well, I am starting to think that the episode I really liked may be the high water mark for this show. The rest of it has just isn't appealing.

#7 Gavin Breeden

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 07:36 PM

Those were some very good comments above, M.Leary. However, it was pretty funny that the week after we wrote about the poignancy and depth that this show is capable of, Louie gave us one of its shallowest, crassest episodes in the "Dentist/Grocery Girl" episode. There were some funny moments and the show still turned some of my expectations against me, but it certainly didn't compare with the one discussed above.

I'll continue to watch because it's still very different from the other comedies I watch.

#8 Russ

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 09:11 AM

I'm so ambivalent about this show. After the donut shop/Long Island stalking episode, I was as high on it as you guys were. Ali's had some trouble letting go of the crassness of Louie's "maybe we shouldn't single out pedophiles" intro from a few episodes back, but that's the thing with these guys who are known for having no self-editor; anybody who might object to something they say is just a pawn of the repressed. I watched the Catholic school episode last night and was underwhelmed by where it went. Perhaps it's just foolishness on my part, but Tom Noonan's doctor's description of the scourging was as affecting, for me, as anything in Mad Max's movie. But the show's view of its characters wasn't big enough to let the nun have any sort of nuanced reaction to Louie's actions (his reaction to the lecture was predictable, but still poignant). Notice how the show is double-casting Amy Landecker--last seen as the Bathsheba with cigarette mouth in A Serious Man--first as Louie's disappointed date, then as his weary, earnest single mom? I'll skip the obvious psychoanalysis, but isn't it something how the absence of makeup and flat hair can really transform somebody? The show resists the sort of affirming resolutions that you get from other sitcoms (even in the popular subgenre of slob protagonist sitcoms), so it's not as if I expected Louie's mom to find a way to nicey-nice our role in the fall of man and the redemptive crucifixion. And maybe there's something to be said for the show's honesty about the way in which parents don't know what to want for their kids, except for it to be "different." Louie's mom thinks he might want to "have religion" when he's older, maybe as some sort of grounding or consolation, but she can't or doesn't know that the grounding and consolation come only after a lot of uncomfortable moments.

It would be hard to stop watching the show if for no other reason than the show's so formally interesting in its plot-minimalism, but it's tough to watch.

Edited by Russ, 03 September 2010 - 09:14 AM.


#9 Russ

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 09:17 AM

Oh, and as a comparison touchstone, the show feels to me less like a cousin to Seinfeld than a spin-off from Apatow's Funny People, which is also all about how what makes comedians funny is also what makes them miserable.

#10 Gavin Breeden

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 10:21 AM

I was also a little underwhelmed by the "God" episode. Tom Noonan was terrifically creepy in that scene in the church and the opening scene in the bathroom made me chuckle. Other than that, I didn't feel like the show said anything that hasn't already been said elsewhere (Catholic guilt, misunderstanding of crucifixion, religion is useless, etc).

And the pedophile stand-up section from a few episodes back has definitely been the most cringe-worthy moment of the show, for my money.

#11 Gavin Breeden

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 01:02 PM

I thought the Louie finale (I'm referring to "Night Out," not "Gym," which aside from the return of Ricky Gervais as Dr. Ben didn't do much for me) did a great job of summing up the tone of the entire first season. A woman rejects Louie. He experiences great awkwardness returning to the social scene as a 42-year old single man. And finally he finds a little happiness on stage (even in a crappy little venue where no one seems to be paying attention) and then at an early morning breakfast with his daughters. Louie's final speech about how his only talents in life are "jacking off" and loving his daughters at first struck me as a beautiful moment ruined by dirty humor, but that little speech kind of sums up the show. He's a single father and a dirty comedian. So, I appreciate it sort of staying true to the humor of the show instead of creating what might have felt like a false moment. After all, he was giving that speech during a comedy routine.

I enjoyed the "finality" (for lack of a better word) of the final shot, a pan from the diner window across a darkened street and ending on the eastern sky brightening at dawn. Perhaps it represents Louie's acceptance of this new chapter in life and that bright days lie ahead? Could this mean that season 2 (which may start as early as April 2011) will show a happy Louie embracing his new life with confidence and determination? I highly doubt it. But I'll definitely tune in to find out.

#12 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 03:51 PM

I thought the Louie finale ... did a great job of summing up the tone of the entire first season. A woman rejects Louie. He experiences great awkwardness returning to the social scene as a 42-year old single man ...

I'm over 10 years younger than him, but I still found the scene in the night club laugh-out-loud hilarious, uncomfortable, and very sad that I actually identified with it. The getting physically dragged around by the cool crowd, the mystical ability for everyone to talk and apparently hold normal conversations while I can't hear a single thing, being surrounded by a hundred different attractive girls along with the seeming impossibility of actually talking to a single one of them in that atmosphere - yep, I can identify with all of it - and it's both simultaneously very very sad and very very funny. By far one of the funniest scenes of the first season.

#13 M. Leary

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 01:28 PM

Yeah, interesting end. This show sure is consistent.

#14 M. Leary

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Posted 04 August 2011 - 08:38 AM

Fantastic article on Louie as auteur at Slant. Sums up everything I like about the show.

#15 Darren H

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Posted 04 August 2011 - 08:44 AM

Yep, Jaime kills it in that essay. I'm late to LOUIS and have been catching up with it as season 2 and random season 1 episodes appear on my DVR. Whatever through-line the show might have (does it?) is lost on me given my shotgun approach. I absolutely love the strangeness and distinct voice of the show. I mean, the opening sequence in "Subway/Pamela" -- the violinist and homeless man -- is just a brilliant piece of filmmaking.

#16 M. Leary

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Posted 04 August 2011 - 09:02 AM

Have you seen the episode with the extended, wordless sequence where he follows a kid all the way to Long Island via the Staten Island Ferry? Brilliant stuff.

And there really is no through-line at all. You could take the episodes and mix them up like a deck of cards with no negative effect. The through line is just... aging.

#17 Russ

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 03:51 PM

I just watched last night the one with the pregnant sister. Good episode, but the intro in particular was just a deep cut. The child actor who plays Louie's daughter delivered those lines with just the sort of apple-cheeked, sorta-innocent frankness that would just lay you low. And while Louie's always playing those monologues straight, and you can sympathize with his view that divorce lets kids out from under the stress of hateful relationships, the two-household model introduces all that extra toil along with the insecurity that comes when your kids aren't with you. But you've got to tell yourself that it's better than an unhappy marriage, or else you've replaced one unsatisfying arrangement with another.

#18 Gavin Breeden

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Posted 11 August 2011 - 08:54 PM

So, by the way, I'm loving season 2. So much so, that I'm finding myself in agreement with Chuck Klosterman, a writer who typically makes me want to gag on an obscure pop culture reference (especially one that most people think is not cool, but really is cool and only a few people like Klosterman are able to "get it").

Anyway, Klosterman on season 2 of Louie:


This fall marks the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind, so lots of folks are talking and writing about how life-changing the release of that record was. But in 1991, Nevermind was not unilaterally appreciated — people argued about its merits constantly, and a lot of people hated it. We generally agree it’s awesome now, but that agreement is retrospective. Louie is not like that. Right now, Louie is like the Beatles in ’66, or maybe Joe DiMaggio in ’41. These half-hour explorations are not just deftly written, but formally inventive — the episode in which his racist aunt dies is structured unlike any American situation comedy ever produced. The episode from two weeks ago (when Louie explains why he needs to tell the person he loves that he loves her, even though he knows she can’t reciprocate) offhandedly illuminated a paradox I’ve unsuccessfully thought about for more than 20 years. I don’t have kids, but — if I did — I feel like Louie would resonate so deeply I’d almost be afraid of it. The level of insight and weirdness C.K. is jamming into these shows is flat-out unimpeachable, and I somehow get the sense that his entire audience is having the same experience as me. It’s a shared recognition of perfection, happening in the present tense. And this is not a situation like 2003, when everyone just sort of temporarily agreed that "Hey Ya!" was a terrific single; this is different. This is someone working on the most radical edge of mainstream culture and succeeding brilliantly without ever doing the same thing twice. There is no antecedent.




Klosterman clearly overstates things here (as he is wont to do), but he is right about this being some mighty fine television and I don't think it's absurd to at least make mention of Louie in a discussion of the greatest TV comedies. Another season or two like this one and it will easily be among the greatest.

(Sidenote: the website on which this article was posted, Grantland, is pretty terrific. It's a Sports + Pop Culture website created by Bill Simmons, that's much better than I would've guessed it could be.)

#19 Darren H

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Posted 13 August 2011 - 07:25 AM

Have any of you listened to Marc Maron's epic interview with Louis CK? If you're a fan, it's a must, especially after this week's episode, "Eddie." I'm sure Doug Stanhope's character in that episode is based on a lot of comics Louis's known over the years (including Stanhope, obviously), but my favorite parts of "Eddie" echo parts of the conversation with Maron, which was recorded several months ago when Louis was writing season 2.

#20 Russ

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 04:43 PM

After all of the bittersweet, unconventionally-poignant moments Louis's real/TV daughters have played in the show, I smiled-- involuntarily and broadly-- at the story credit he threw his daughter for the duckling episode.





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