To be a fan of Louie, one must be almost be as manic and wonderfully unpredictable as the show itself. Because while one could easily tune in for a more structured and reliable comedy anywhere else on television, we still come back to Louie. To watch Louie is to jump into the unknown, to take a chance on television again. One week it can make your heart ache and your anxiety spike (like it did last week during the brilliant but emotionally exhausting “Daddy’s Girlfriend, Pt. 2”) and the next week it could make you laugh so hard you’re in tears for a whole different reason, much like I was during last night’s gut-busting one-two knockout punch “Barney/Never.”
The start of “Barney/Never,” however, looked to be anything but. Then again, no episode of Louie ever starts or ends in a place you expect it to. (The Simpsons was always great in that way, too.) Opening like a classic black and white film, we find Louie at a cemetery. He’s alone at an open plot until he comes face-to-face with another funeral guest, played by none other than Robin Williams, who mercifully tapped into his dramatic side for the part. (I’ll take Good Will Hunting Robin Williams and Dead Poets Society Robin Williams over comedy wild card Robin Williams any day.) It is clear these two men, who don’t appear to know each other as they say nothing, are the only guests at this funeral. Leave it to Louie to make one of TV’s funniest episodes of the year begin so melancholy.
The two meet later again, in color, at a diner. We come to find Louie and Robbie (Williams) were attending the funeral of a man named Barney, who was described, quite simply, as “the biggest piece of s**t I knew.” While Louie knew Barney as a dreaded guy from the comedy world, Robbie had the great misfortune of being thrust into the recently deceased Barney’s family, as he was his ex-wife’s brother-in-law. The two swapped stories about the huckster and what made him “a prick and an a**hole”. I could have honestly watched an entire episode of these two remembering this terrible man and that the idea of no one attending his funeral gave them nightmares.
But they didn’t stay and chat at the diner; instead they paid their respects by finally going to the dreary strip club in downtown Manhattan that Barney frequented and always wanted them to go to. I didn’t think there was anything more depressing than a strip club in the middle of the day, but as it turns out, there is. It’s a strip club in the middle of the day in which all the strippers, employees, and patrons are crying at the news of the passing of one of their most beloved customers while Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” plays over the sound system. (Why is this song so damn perfect for bizarre comedy moments?) Louie may have just become the first man in history to make a stripper cry by not making her give a lap dance.
When Louie and Robbie eventually stepped out of the world’s most depressing strip club, they couldn’t help but burst into laughter at the absurdity of it all. The two men shook hands, promised each other they’s attend one another’s funerals, and go their separate ways. Perhaps because Louie and Robbie were so similar, there was no “Miami”-like misunderstanding here. For once, Louie had a perfect, untainted moment and connection with someone. A perfect, untainted moment that just happened to involve a funeral and crying strippers.
They say the only certainties in life are death and taxes. I’m pretty sure in Louie’s life it’s death, taxes, and moments of strange, soul-crushing happenstance. In the second half of last night’s episode, Louie got saddled with a terrible, weird classmate of his daughter Lilly (much to the dismay, and understandably so, of Lilly) named Never after Never’s terrible, weird mother had an emergency consultation to get her vagina removed. I always love how much Louis C.K. toes and blurs the line with reality and this scene — which included a brief, gut-busting cameo by Artie Lange as a terrified truck driver who gets in an accident after Never pushes a baby stroller into traffic — was no exception.
If hell is other people’s children (something Louis C.K. has hilariously touched on in his stand-up routines, particularly in his Beacon Theater special from 2011) then Never is the seventh layer of hell. Louie wanted nothing more than to spend the day with Lilly (and vice versa) and because he’s a nice guy always trying to do the right thing, despite the universe always telling him otherwise, instead got Never. Never, who can’t have carbon in his diet (“It’s from China!”) but can eat a bowl of raw hamburger meat; Never, who wears a bowtie and suspenders to school and is never told “no” (which explains a lot about the bowtie and suspenders); Never, who throws Louie’s Oriental rug out of his apartment window and eventually s**ts in his tub. I was fully anticipating Never to somehow ruin Louie’s phoner with a god awful drive time radio show, but Louie wound up knee-deep in s**t all by himself on that one when he insulted the city he had trouble selling tickets to… while on the air in said city.
I quickly lost track of how many times I erupted into DVR pausing laughter during the “Never” portion of this episode. From Louie’s subtle moments of resignation when he realized he was in for a utterly horrible day with this kid to the line, “Nobody likes you because you eat raw meat and you s**t in the tub and you wreck everything”, C.K. absolutely killed it. Perhaps it was so damn funny because we all know, or at least when we were kids, knew a weird kid like that, but mostly it’s just always funny to watch Louie accept defeat. Case in point: when some punk kids on the street begin to take away the rug Never threw down, he yells for them to stop, only to have them flip him off. He does what just about any New Yorker would have done in that scenario: he shook his head in disbelief, shrugged it off, and continued to accept his fate as a New Yorker. Besides, Never was worse than anything going on outside his apartment. (Congrats, Mad Men‘s Marten Weiner, you’ve officially been dethroned as the most bizarre, uncomfortable kid on TV!)
Still, because Louie is a good guy, in the end he felt bad for Never. He sincerely tried to level with a kid who is living on another planet and let him know that if he needed a guy to talk to besides his clearly crazy mother, he could talk to him. He even tried to explain the flawed notion in the logic that one can always be right because they love themselves, but Never (in case the s**tting in the tub wasn’t a dead giveaway) was a lost cause. Still, Louie tried. If nothing else, Louie always tries.
Oh, and just in case this episode wasn’t already a killer, J.B. Smoove showed up in the end credits as a deeply annoyed grave digger who couldn’t understand his coworker’s thick accent. His delivery of the lines “Oops, I farted”, “This dude is being buried in an Ikea box”, and “I hate you” was on par with anything Smoove ever said during on his time on Curb Your Enthusiasm, and on Louie it was in the closing credits. And speaking of credits, was this the first time in Louie‘s history there was no opening credits? No matter, this was still the most consistently funny and easygoing episode of this season. Louie, Louie, Louie, you made me die.
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[Photo Credit: FX]