S2S4: I never know what I’m going to get from an episode of Louie, and that’s a wonderful thing. This week, it was a bit of a lighter episode (which still means it’s sort of heavy, because this is still Louie after all). And the moral this story? A lesson in humility from none other than Joan Rivers. Go figure.
“Pulp?” –Deli guy
“Pulp.” –Deli guy
“Is there a – do you have a synonym?” -Louie
Before we get into the meat of the episode, I have to touch on the cold open. It displays something I love about this show: the fact that it follows the pace of real life instead of the pace of sitcom life. We find Louie just ordering some food for him and his daughters. By all rights this is boring, but that’s the beauty of Louie – finding the humor in the most banal daily issues. His (incorrect) deli order is interrupted by his sister’s mental breakdown, but of course as soon as he hangs up, we get the simple and effective punchline: the delivery guy at the door with 60 bananas who says, "Sunshine Deli?" Perfection.
But all bananas aside, Louie gave us yet another great episode. While the tone was a bit lighter, it certainly didn’t lack those signature soul-crushing moments. Like the scene in which Louie fails to do a successful set at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. This scene wasn’t painful the way his sex with the blueberries woman was or the way his accountant telling him his American dreams were crushed was, but it was painful. The sight of a grown man standing on a stage in front of a slew of drunk, gambling, unhappy people and quite literally begging them to care about what he has to say – most of which disparages the exact thing from which they’re taking a 10 minute breather in his little comedy den – is a tough thing to watch. Louis C.K. is so adept at delivering a very subtle shade of utter defeat and disappointment while attempting to hold onto that veil of bravado, so while this scene is undoubtedly painful it’s a pleasure to watch how he navigates the mucky waters. (Perhaps that’s why the Emmy gods thankfully decided to bestow him with a nomination this year.)
This mucky set leads Louie to tender his resignation. The hotel entertainment manager reads off a lengthy list of house rules Louie broke – all of which, we the audience can’t help but find hilarious – and he decides he can’t do a set without breaking them and quits. At this point in the episode, this looks pretty damn noble. He’s a comic’s comic. He’s not going to stoop below his level and perform in a dingy little dungeon for gambling addicts who are counting their quarters for slot machines instead of listening to his jokes. And he’s certainly not going to not make fun of Donald Trump. Nope, he can’t do that and he won’t. He has his little noble moment, but all it takes is a sit-down with a comedienne who rakes in the cash by talking about her sagging breasts and vagina: Joan Rivers.
“His name is Sam and he is a person.” –Joan Rivers
Jealous that he’s stuck in a tiny ballroom while Rivers gets a soldout set in the big theater, Louie sneaks in to watch her make the folks in Atlantic City laugh. Now, I’ve never been a fan of Rivers’ dirty old lady style of comedy, but there’s something about an endorsement from Louis C.K. that suddenly makes me listen to her somewhat disturbing material – which in many ways shares some common ground with Louie’s “life sucks, then you die” style of standup.
After the show, Louie makes a point to go meet Joan, who of course knows who he is. He’s a comic’s comic, after all. She invites him for a drink in her suite and that’s where the magic happens. Both kinds of magic -- wink, wink. Louie whines to Joan like she's his fairy godmother of comedy, touting his desire to keep from compromising his integrity and complaining about the subpar treatment he feels he’s getting. With the same lack of finesse and bit more genuineness than her red carpet quips, Joan delivers the doosie: stop being such a whiner. Louie is lucky. He’s getting paid to tell jokes – that’s the dream. And it’s true; the comic’s life is a hard one and the paychecks aren’t exactly steady. Joan grinds Louie into the ground and though she’s far tinier than he is, you can sense how small he feels in this scene. By the time she gets to the part about how Louie should talk to Sam, whose name Louie never learned, she delivers a simple, loaded quip that says absolutely everything Louie needs to know: “His name is Sam and he is a person.” It’s humbling, informative, and it propels Louie to go forth and get his job back.
Of course, immediately after this eye-opening conversation, Louie gets back to thinking with his nether regions…again. He tries to kiss Joan, who slaps him for it before turning right back around an nonchalantly accepting his half-assed offer with one of the best lines I’ve ever heard her utter: “And if you meet Melissa [Rivers], nothing happened. She still thinks I’m a virgin.”
Now, that’s how you end an episode featuring Joan Rivers. Keep up the good work, Louie.