While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this season—its comedic perspective, its insight, its top-notch guest performances—with the exception of Melissa Leo’s female-on-male rape (I contend that’s what that was) it has been filled with almost-great entries into the “Louie” catalog. This episode continued the trend by having two laugh-riot halves that felt cut off before the punchline. I don’t mean the comedic payoff, but the endearing sentiment that Louie can slip in undetected at times. My absolute favorite episode of Louie, might be an episode where there was close to zero laughs. The only times I recall chuckling during season one’s “God” were probably reactions to the subtle ironies, and bleak outlooks at religion. And the standup bits, obviously. Those are the indelible classics that C.K. can churn out with relative ease.
That’s not to diminish this week’s relaxing episode. Lately, “Louie” has been so anxious and squirmy that I was glad to be able to point and laugh instead of analyze. Also, we’ve been lazer-focused on his love life for five weeks—depending on how you view “Miami” I suppose—that it was refreshing to watch and listen as Louie pulled back the lens. Instead of examining his soul and insecurities, we got to poke fun at those nondescript weirdos that we come across. As always, Louie puts an unforgettable face on what could be a flat observation.
For the sake of time, we get no standup bits, but plenty of spitfire jokes. Non-traditonal ones perhaps, even sick ones, but guaranteed laughs, save those with weak constitutions. But if you’re squeamish, why the hell are you watching “Louie?”
The usual credit sequence is foregone. In its place, we still get Louie slumping, but here it’s in a stark black-and-white universe where he’s headed to, and arrives at, a funeral. Ominous music plays as we recognize the man on the other side of the pit—Robin Williams. Let me get this off my chest, I love Robin Williams. To some, his act is tired, annoying, or just downright not funny. I don’t know where Louie stands on the merits of his comedy, but he at least appreciates what the man has done for the art form, I’d gather. And he certainly respects the man’s acting abilities. I would think even the most vitriolic Robin haters can give props to his dramatic acting. Whether you’re talking One Hour Photo or Insomnia—he pulls off hairy and creepy like a champ—or Good Will Hunting. I watched “Hunting” a couple days ago, in fact, and that might be the performance of a lifetime for him. Affleck and Damon (or whoever wrote it) gave him some gorgeous material to deliver, but he nailed that wise, weathered man. You sensed that tragedy had made him even more brilliant that the most advanced technological mind, and yet it tortured him.
Anyway, Robin is more “Hunting” than Genie from Aladdin here. No riffing, no improv (presumably). He’s restrained as a fellow mourner and commiserator. Robin—since Louie doesn’t mention loving his work or him being a comedian, I assume he isn’t playing himself beyond name—and Louie are the only ones at the funeral. It’s the type of sobering realization that trumps death even in its depressive nature. Louie heads to the diner, likely the same set from the season premiere, and Robin sits down. Barney, is the man who died. Louie fumbles through the awkward asking of how Robin knew him. Louie knew him from working at his club, Robin is Barney’s ex-wife’s brother-in-law (it’s a complicated relation, but that’s what I recall/wrote in my notes). Louie takes a chance by revealing that he was the biggest piece of shit he ever knew.
Thankfully, Robin agrees. Louie remembers him underpaying comics, bouncing checks, and just being generally unbearable. Robin contends he was a prick and an asshole. Louie confesses he only came because the idea of a man going into the ground alone gave him nightmares. And it is terrifying. It’s a karmic test almost, to see how saintly you are. If you don’t celebrate this deceased soul, will yours get the same disrespect? I’m lucky enough to know that if I were to pass there would definitely be at least a few who would be affected. Besides family, I have my close friends and mentors who have shaped my life. But I’m also a compulsive empathizer and needy of others’ approval. I’m the guy you know will do you that favor no one else will. Not because I believe I’m better than anyone, but because I’m horrified you’ll hate me. I’ve had people come into my life and shit all over me. This is not to say I did them no harm. The road to hell is paved with good intentions as they say, and even at my most noble I know I have hurt. But they were so spiteful that they said the worst things imaginable, decimated my character and self-worth. And it rocked me. Needless to say, I could more than relate to Louie’s expressed fears.
They continue to swap stories about Barney’s overwhelmingly terrible nature. Supposedly, Robin invested a hundred grand on the guy, and he didn’t put it toward the club as intended. He stole it, and used it to buy a boat. Even shittier still, he profusely invited him onto the boat. Asshole. Louie, ironically, mentions that he wanted everyone to like him. The difference was, Barney pleaded for attention from people he’d burned. As Robin delightfully put it, “He wanted everyone to like him, even when he was killing them.” Louie recalled him begging comics to hang out at a strip club called Sweet Charity (great fake strip club name, by the way). Robin’s funniest bit comes when he does a Barney impression of him saying, “You gotta check out the tits on this new Chilean broad at Sweet Charity.” Is it just me, or does knowing a person calls women “broads” immediately paint a more vivid picture. Men like that, I feel, are undeniable horndogs. Not to say that are without-a-doubt awful dudes (my grandfather, whom I miss infinitely, said broads constantly), but it certainly makes you nod your head emphatically like, “Oh, I know a guy like that” as you grin in remembrance.
Inevitably, as they realize that no one they knew ever obliged him by going to Sweet Charity, we jump cut to them entering the club. Neither man seems like the kind who would frequent a joint like this. Both refuse lap dances, the strippers are indignant. They are sort of wasting their time. So the strippers ask why they’re there. They say a friend who used to come here passed. One asks who since she’s been there ten years. Robin says Barney Ross, and the other one starts sobbing. I start laughing hysterically.
Sick, I know, to laugh at others’ pain. But it’s a wonderfully illustrated moment. In today’s interconnected world, even the most sheltered, or the most odd, has some makeshift family. Hell, whole comedies are constructed around the idea of workplace families. Or like “Cheers” let’s say. You spend enough time with people, you begin to care for them. And these folks apparently cared for Barney. The two strippers spread the message and the DJ says a few kind words.
Even other patrons seemed dismayed. Another fundamental truth from Louis C.K. The person we knew, isn’t the person everyone knew. So while the DJ blasting Sister Christian by Night Ranger (MOTORIN’!) had me doubled over, as well as Louie’s confused face, it was a tender sight. Barney did have people who loved him. He may have been insufferable for Louie and Robin, and this doesn’t mean he wasn’t a prick and an asshole, but to the folks at Sweet Charity, he was one of them. Someone who will be missed. And there’s beauty in that. In a romantic way, it’s comforting to know there’s good in everyone, potential for connection. Even the unqualified pains in the ass.
Robin and Louie leave, and they crack up as I did. Robin then asks a favor of Louie. Quickly, and reading his mind, Louie replies, “Oh, I’ll go to yours.” “Yeah, whoever dies first.” Robin morbidly finishes. It all goes back to basics for Louis C.K. While we wouldn’t expect sympathy for the Barneys of the world, we want it, unquestionably.
In the second half, it’s about another sort of intolerable—the kid who’s a result of obnoxious parenting. We’ve all seen it. A tiny monster that you want to condemn, but then you see the parent. When Louie is walking Lily, his oldest, across the street for some bonding time, a mother from the school stops him. OMG, CONTINUITY! This is the mom of Never. Never is in Lily’s class, and in season one Pamela warned Louie to steer clear of the awful child and his weird mother. He ignores Pamela’s bitching (or in tabula rasa Louieland, that conversation may not have happened). Never’s mom asks for Louie’s help watching him since she has a bit of an emergency. Good samaritan, and uber-liberal that he is, he swiftly answers, “Sure. What’s the emergency?”
“I’m having my vagina removed.” Rim shot.
Louie says sorry, thinking it’s due to a medical condition. Nope, it’s elective. She wants it out by Easter. It begs the question of why it’s so urgent that she lose her vagina before the commemoration of Christ’s resurrection, but we’re moving on. Lily whispers to her dad that she doesn’t want to play with Never. The kid has a keener sense of smell than her father, the kid and parent reek of nutty. But he’s trying to instill good values in her, so he reprimands her.
The mother relays her rules. She never says no to him, and he can’t eat anything with carbon in it, because it’s from China. WHAT?! In consecutive episodes, Louie seems to ignore all the signs of a looney tune. But hey, at least you can’t say he isn’t open to experience. And one of his primary operatives as person and an artist is to learn from those who are different from him. And you don’t get much more different than that pair.
So now that Louie has the matches and the gasoline, it’s only a matter of time. The kid never (HA!) gets told no? That’s an atom bomb of immaturity. Lily voices her displeasure again, and as she does Never pushes a stroller into traffic at the busy intersection. Several cars crash to avoid it, including a chemical truck. The driver rushes out shouting, “Run!” It’s gonna blow. Once again, Louie’s absurdist take goes hilariously grim. There’s mayhem all around, people scatter in panic, and Louie pulls the kids away. The look he gives turning toward the camera is money. Not at all scared, sort of expectant of this potential danger the kid has incited. Like a weathered vet, he whisks them off. Everyone around is freaking out, and he slinks away unfazed, if not slightly guilty.
At the apartment, Lily storms off to her room and slams the door. Louie investigate the cabinets, then levels with Never. He has no idea what “nothing with carbon” means. He asks how about a peanut butter sandwich? “Can’t.” Louie, concerned, “What is it, the peanuts or the bread?” “My mom says I’ll die.” Louie responds, “That’s pretty serious. You have an allergy?” “She says I’ll die.” This poor kid never/Never (I could do this all day) stood a chance.
Eggs, no. Carrots, he hates. Apple, he’ll die. Never points to packaged meat says, “I’ll have that.” Louie’s thinking, “Oh, a burger.” Nope. Raw meat. In a bowl. He has that a lot. Louie could protest, but he doesn’t. He can live with it. “You got it, killer.” The phone rings, and it’s more continuity calling! It’s Doug, his pubescent agent that is played amazingly deadpan. He wants Louie to do a radio interview to help boost ticket sales in Kansas City. Louie argues it’s not drive time, but his agent assures him the economy is so bad there, no one’s at work.
Of course, Never wanders off. He’s launches his rug out the window. He shouts below to a couple guys who are taking it (love that it happens so instantaneously) that it’s his, and one flips him off. Love NYC. This reminded me of two prior episodes—season one’s Dogpound where his neighbor tossed a jug of water onto a car, and season two’s Moving where he witnessed a homeless person being abducted and switched for another one by some men in a limo. No good ever comes from Louie looking out of windows.
Never, the devilish dough boy, looks back innocently. He asks if he wants to watch TV while he’s on his call with the radio guys. He says his mom won’t allow it and Louie, exasperated, insists it’s okay. Never fervently says it’s not appropriate. Lily won’t play with him because “she’s not into it” as Louie so eloquently states. He requests Louie give him a bath, but speaking of inappropriate, he says he must wash himself.
Louie draws the bath and and asks Never to sit peacefully. If he obliges he’ll get a second bowl of meat. The hosts call (They’re played by Opie and Anthony, who;ve done considerable things for C.K’s career, and awesome comedienne Amy Schumer). They speak unintelligible gibberish that Louie inexplicably understands and they laugh endlessly at his answers. He flubs, however, when he insults KC. He calls it a dump, the worst city in North America. I mean, that’s what Louie does. But apparently he hit a sensitive spot because they cut off the call pronto.
Lily runs in claiming something smells awful coming from the bathroom. Louie catches a whiff as they get closer. He opens the door and the kid has diarrhea’d in the tub. God, that’s beyond gross. Louie tries to navigate the logistics of the shittiness and it’s both unnerving, and genius. That is the worst thing that could have happened. That’s creativity at its crudest and finest.
Sitting on the couch as Never dries, Louie initiates a conversation. Trying not to view this kid as an irreversible basket case, he says he doesn’t know his situation with him and his mom, but he half-heartedly suggests he could be a father figure and someone to talk to. Never asks why Lily doesn’t like him, and I love that he matter-of-factly cites all the recent events—you eat raw mat and shit in tubs, and you wreck everything. He imparts him the important lesson that no one will like him if he’s like that. Never then regurgitates some of his mom’s demented hippie parenting (I’m not disparaging hippies, but it sounds like some alternative parenting spiel that is just warped and obviously ineffective). “My mom said any choice I make is okay because I love myself.” Louie says, flat out, that that’s wrong. He’ll take the heat if Never tells his mom. It’s something he feels she should know anyway. Yes, absolutely kids should love themselves, but not at the expense of everyone else’s comfort level. If you aren’t going to give a shit about others, why should they give a shit about you (Lots of shit in this episode, huh?)
Barney, basically, is Never grown up. Nobody likes him, he does as he pleases, leaving destruction in his wake. Hell, with a name like “Never” he’s basically a paragon for how not to raise your kid. If you want to relate it to my pervasive theme for the season—this is who we are, how we act, how we treat each other, are you okay with that?—this is Louie no longer looking inward, and instead saying, your turn. He sketches out these oddballs, an unrelenting dead jerk and a budding sociopath, as cautionary tales. This is what happens when you stick to a “I don’t care what other people think” philosophy. No one comes to your funeral that isn’t there out of pity, or you raise a demon that shits on other people’s lives, sometimes literally. Of course you should be your own person, but be a civil one. And I doubt Louie really cares about people with batty ideologies about raising kids, but eventually those children need to co-exist with society. And society will say no, a ton. Without no, how would we learn that we can cause pain? While this was the silliest “Louie” this season, it’s not without relevance. Our rules may seem oppressive, but in America we forget that we’re not forced to do much. Being considerate is just the right thing to do. Louie’s just saying what Spike Lee said in his own depiction of New York City a while back. And like Spike, Louie is a visionary that holds back…NEVER (Okay, I promise, I’m done).