This episode was screened in class after we were told only the name of the show, the title of the episode, and the fact that it was written, produced, and strictly overseen by Louis CK in all creative departments.
My expectations were pretty simple. I have seen very little of Louis CK’s work, but I know his basic reputation via internet osmosis and eavesdropping on friends’ and strangers’ conversations. Because that’s what I do.
Like most standup comedians these days, Louis CK is extremely crude and often profane. But I’ve heard it said from various sources (that cannot be cited due to lack of documentation) that he also has a unique way of infusing his comedy with pathos that the crudity and frankness somehow enhance.
And after seeing the episode, I have to agree. It’s refreshing to see a gruff, pizza-munching man’s man talk openly about how much he passionately loves his kids, but with brutal honesty about the trials and tribulations of parenthood that keeps the show well clear of becoming what anyone could possibly consider saccharine or sentimental. The crudity throws the emotion into sharp relief. I’m a fan, though I could never show this to my mom, who won’t even watch The Simpsons.
My favorite thing about the episode, though, is the way Louie manages to mine pain for humor. Human Survival Rule #1 = you laugh or you die, and I’ve always had the most respect for comedians or writers or friends who can me laugh at my pain. Louis CK is like that awesome buddy you call up when you need some perspective on something awful that just happened, and he obliges by pointing out the absolute ridiculousness of life in general and your situation in particular until you’re laughing so hard you can’t hold the phone anymore.
The Huffington Post has called CK “a prophet for the age of lessness,” because he makes comedy out of being average, overweight, divorced, and unappreciated, “channel[ing] bummer zeitgeist.” Amen to that, brother. Splitsider discusses the pacing of the show and the way it isn’t full to bursting with snappy one-liners but rather builds “slow comedy.” I think it aligns better to real life that way, and allows viewers to more easily see themselves in the situations depicted.
Other critics, such as the Los Angeles Review of Books, have noted that some episodes of Louie depict preposterous and absurd situations that are meant to evoke “how the real world sometimes feels, not how it looks,” but there are also episodes like this one, in which everything from his daughter’s confession that she likes her mother better than she likes him, to the neighbors coming to help in a crisis, all could conceivably happen, and I have a feeling I’d prefer these episodes. But that remains to be seen.
Rating: 4/5 stars