So last week, Louie was on vacation in Vermont (as he told Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show). While on vacation, he was “unplugged” from the internet. He did, however, lounge around and watch television. He tuned in to an episode of “Tosh.O.” Personally, I mostly find Daniel Tosh offensive and insulting—and much less insightful than a C.K. Real-life Louie found him funny, and chose to express his appreciation for said joy by tweeting Tosh. The tweet mentioned that he found his show funny, and as a comedic aside he added that he had pretty eyes, too. Then the internet exploded.
The infinitely more revered C.K was defending Daniel Tosh for a rape joke he directed at a particular woman. “SAY IT AIN’T SO!” Wait, what? Yeah, that’s what Louis C.K was bombarded with when he plugged back in. Many culture bloggers and feminists furiously pecked at their keys with responses to Tosh’s insensitivity and amid that firestorm, Louie happens to compliment the very man who was becoming a lynchpin for comedic controversy—a classic debate about free speech and hurting people’s feelings. The reason why I mention this is because context matters. Without this knowledge, I’ll admit I was disappointed in C.K too. While I respect the comedian position that no activist is going to stop them from finding humor in horrible things, I’m an extremely empathetic person. It’s my nature to apologize profusely if something I said, wrote, insinuated, implied, or never intended to communicate caused somebody pain. That’s how I’ve been conditioned, for better or worse.
Louis obviously, even with more context, still sides with comedians on the issue of rape jokes. He finds them funny. BUT, here’s the catch. Whereas some comedians have attacked feminists as being humorless (and Louis even said as much on “The Daily Show”), he acknowledges also that in the past week of blog-perusing, his position has evolved:
I’ve read some blogs during this whole thing that have made me enlightened to things I didn’t know. This woman said how rape is something that polices women’s lives. They have a narrow corridor. They can’t go out late, they can’t go to certain neighborhoods, they can’t get a certain way, because they might get—That’s part of me now that wasn’t before. And I can still enjoy a good rape joke…
And that’s why I was somewhat ashamed I ever doubted my adoration for Louie, not only as a comedian but as a conveyer of human experience. He’s not about to proselytize or preach, ever. I’ll continue to repeat this for anyone who hasn’t read my Louie reviews before, but my thesis about this program, “Here’s how I am, how we are, how we treat each other, how we interact. Are you okay with that?” applies more than ever now. It carries over into the way he conducts himself outside of art as well. He’s never done challenging his own view. He’s always learning, always adding to his collection of experiences so that he can’t regret having a misunderstanding. And in increasingly partisan and divisive times, I don’t know if there’s a more admirable way to be.
“Chris,” you ask. “What about the episode?” Hold your horses, reader intruding upon my thoughts! The reason I felt it was vital to preface this review with this recent controversy is it so exquisitely exemplifies what I love about “Louie.” Like a rape joke, sometimes the things Louie says are uncalled for. There’s no productive use for his grotesque approach to the English language (see: his routine about three “bad” words he loves). And yet there’s something lovely about the brutish way he chooses to view things. It reveals damage, anxiety, wishes, hopes and even compassion. As Hollywood is increasingly discovering, people don’t want the bitter pill sugar-coated anymore. We can take repulsion and despair if there’s an undercurrent that it isn’t all for naught. Tonight’s episode was not one of my all-time favorites, but it serves as an advertisement for Louie’s look on life—it’s bleak, but only if you choose to bitch and moan instead of absorbing all the wonderment of risk. That’s why there’s no one more awkward than Louie. Because he tries.
Tonight he tries finding love, but with the added pressure of his daughters. We start at the Comedy Cellar. His bit addresses a question posed by his ten year-old daughter for a homework assignment. “What is prejudice?” He mocks his own liberal self-righteousness by giving a rough definition using the dissection of the word. “You judge before. Pre-jew-deese.” His daughter had fired back, have you ever been prejudiced? He again addresses progressive delusion with, “You can’t just say, ‘I voted for Obama, I can’t be prejudiced that’s impossible.’” But our true segue comes when he gives his greatest example of prejudice, one that would permeate throughout the 22 minutes. “Like, I wanna f*ck Scarlett Johansson. I’ve never met her, but I know it woud be the greatest thing to ever happen to me…and the worst thing that ever happened to her.” My favorite part is his equating withholding masturbation with romantic feelings. “I don’t even jerk off to her, that’s how much I like her.”
Again, no reason for him to be crude. He could have been “sweeter.” He also didn’t need to mention an actual celebrity’s name (outstanding choice though, that is my future wife as well), but he did because every tortured soul who’s been burned by love has a Scarlett Johansson, a dream f*ck that would cleanse them of all their past woes. Except that’s totally not true, that’s not how trauma works. But this is the futility of our own mind. It tells us what we want, when we know it’s not gonna to solve anything. Some critical thinking there, brain.
Sitting at the table with his girls, Louie engages them in conversations about nothing in particular. I realized, if this was it, I would be adequately entertained. But thank you, Louie, for being much more. They talk about the pronunciation of “tyranny” versus “tyrant,” Louie taxes his youngest 10% of her food, and Lily wonders what a blimp is. Then they stumble upon “Mommy’s friend Patrick.” Then it becomes, why don’t you have a girlfriend? Now, his unrelenting urge to have sex is compounded by pressure from the little ones who mean the world to him. Lily believes he just needs to find the right person.
Cut to Maria Bamford, an exceptional comedian in her own right who is an expert at manipulating her voice to achieve maximum laughter. When I have watched her do late-night specials, I find myself cackling painfully without knowing why. Gotta love that. Her bit on the show was no less than fantastic. The line “I hope no one here is deeply religious. But if you are, rest in the glory that I am wrong” is just money. That’s someone with a striking affinity for language right there. Also, her baby Jesus impression was pretty dead-on.
After her set, Louie approaches Bamford to hang out. When she asks where he does his should-be patented wince and thumb to mouth. It’s as if you’re watching a rapid regression to infancy right before your eyes. She proposes they just go back to her place. What a dream scenario for Louie. Woman takes the reins, no strings. Sweet, right? Ah, but the first bad sign shows itself when she says to wait for her on the corner so there’s no hassle. Already doesn’t want to be seen with him. Yikes.
Now they’re on her bed watching an imitation “The Real World” complete with inane confessionals. “Can we have sex again in a few minutes?” Bamford asks. Louie perks up, gleeful that she’s eager. In truth, she was disappointed by the first round, and figures repetition could only help. He requests some time to recuperate, but Bamford is not deterred. “Don’t worry. I’ll blow you to get you hard again.” Devoid of any inkling of intimacy, sure. But you gotta admire that kind of gumption. Master of the visual component, we pan to the TV where one contestant stabs another through the heart. It’s a rough metaphor, but yeah, Louie is once again demoralized by his lack of sexual prowess. Breaking the silence after round 2, Louie grasps at the straws of redemption by asking if she’d like to come over for dinner with his girls one night. Bamford’s whimper and scrunched-up face was a thing of beauty. She expresses how sweet and horrifying the gesture was simultaneously. Then, in the most artful way I’ve ever seen anyone cursed out, she adds, “Jesus, now I’m all dicked up in the head.”
With a huff and a “You know what, really forget it,” Louie drops it, but in her anger Maria blurts out that he’s bad at sex. As if he could be anymore deflated. Well there’s the first part—that fear realized. He’s been rejected and devastated once again when all he did was expose an innermost want briefly. Now it would seem like the next logical step would be to dream, to fulfill that wish. He drops Lily off at school and begins fantasizing about her teacher with some “bom chicka wah wah” in the background. She’s no knockout, but a cute, well put-together blond dressed in maternal chic. Then she shuts the door and he moves down the hall peeking in through other doors sharing the same fantasy. Though I saw the hilarity in this sequence, it was a rare instance of self-indulgence on Louis’ part. I mean, three times? Although I liked that the last woman wasn’t attractive in the slightest, so his vision quickly dissipated.
I will say that while the scene itself had an excessive execution, its thematic purpose was well-served. I know I could relate to that projecting of your desires onto any random woman, that voyeuristic practice of viewing a woman like a museum exhibit where you’ve invented the history. It’s pitiful and creepy to a degree, but it’s stems from our basic need for connection. Yeah, he had sex with Maria Bamford, but he feels no closer to another human being. She treated their relations with a machine-like psychic distance. So when C.K visits a bookstore and becomes infatuated prematurely with a bookstore clerk (Parker Posey), we see the innocence despite his suspicious approach. I mean, that way he slunk toward the register didn’t help.
He makes up some BS excuse to strike up a conversation. He needs a book about flowers for his daughter. She pulls one out that satisfies him, but it’s her interest in his daughter, her knowledge concerning his child’s literary needs that intrigues him. The major victory here is that he had a genuine, pleasant interaction with a woman that wasn’t soiled by shame. We get a brief standup interlude where he preps us for the concluding image. He discusses the elation of getting a girl to say yes. He compares the solitary celebration to an athlete doing a fist pump. He observes that only a tennis pro or golfer does that. Because they’re alone. They can’t high five or pound a teammate, so they pull that release back inward. Following his time, he sees Maria backstage and turns around.
He goes boldly returns to the bookstore, reporting that the flower book was “too small” for his ten year-old daughter, but that his six year-old loved it. She praises him for being so involved in their reading habits and not just “perusing Amazon.” His mind rushes into a grainy daydream of them thrashing into the book shelf, making out. Snap back to reality, and Parker Posey is searching for “a depressing novel where people’s heads fall off” for Lily. She’s able to relate. She says at ten, there’s a lot of big emotions brewing for females. Books allow her to take them for a “safe spin.” Louie is astounded. “That’s massively helpful, and very terrifying.” I guarantee he was mostly turned on. In the moment, whether he’d admit it or not, he saw a woman who’d be an amazing mother.
She hands him a book and suggests he restrict Lily from reading it at night so she will defy him and it will be a “wrongful thrill” for her. After we watch him shave, attempting to bolster his confidence, he’s strolling into the bookstore again. He startles the clerk. “Sorry, I’m a monster.” He pulls her aside and stumbles over his words. But buried in the rambling there’s sincerity and even eloquence. He tells her right away that he’s asking her out, but to hold off from an answer because he knows she probably has a “No, all queued up.” That phrase made my heart hurt a bit that he so expected to fall short. He continues saying he has no idea what it is like being a woman in NY (relating back to his willingness to learn from others) and having guys torpedoing for her vagina. Again, unnecessarily crude, but sweet. He adds that she’s a decent person and “other reasons you’d want to be liked for,” but admits that she’s “horribly cute.” Ultimately, she accepts—but not before her knee-jerk joke, “I don’t date guys, I’m a lesbian. She assures him saying she doesn’t date based on looks, but that he’s not a troll, for Christ’s sake.” Of course, she embodies the abusrdist flair of Louie, evaluating his ask-out. “Nice job, A+.” Basking in his triumph, we see the foreshadowed fist-pump!
Adorable desperation is how I’d describe the ask-out scene. It’s not a certifiable success, but it worked for him. It reminded me of last’s season’s “Subway/Pamela” where he told Pamela he was in love with her. He said downright gorgeous things, and was pure with his feelings. But he knew she didn’t love him back. But he took that risk because there’s beauty in that unleashed honesty, even if it’s essence can’t be reciprocated. Why would you stop yourself from projecting more love into the world? Even if it’s met with hatred, does that counteract what you’ve dispersed? Not everyone will be willing to receive you when you reach out to touch them. Some people would prefer to be museum exhibits. But Louie breaks the glass and forces the interaction to take place. Sometimes volatile concoctions are formed from these mixtures, but how will you know unless you throw them together? He struck out with Bamford, but hit a home run with Posey because he swung for the fences. The success rate of this show will always be high because he’s not playing to win. Louie just wants to make contact.