S02E07: Whenever I’m watching Louie, I always jump to assume that everything happening onscreen, with the camera, in the dialogue, is automatically genius. I have yet to waver on this and last night’s episode just furthers this philosophy. As is routine this season, the episode is comprised of two ostensibly unrelated vignettes. However, despite the fact that they take place approximately ten years apart from one another, they are more connected thematically than I realized at first glance.
Tonight’s Louie opens with a four-camera sitcom segment that, if you’re familiar with the show’s experimental nature, you’d assume is the format Louis’ reality is taking. However, thirty seconds into the episode, Louis breaks the scene in frustration with the cute, kitschy, insincere writing (best Bob Saget cameo ever, by the way), and goes on a tirade about his disgust with family sitcoms. Bluntly revealed at the end of the conversation, however, is Louis’ home problems: it turns out, this segment takes place years before the timeline of Louie, when Louis was still married (unhappily; we still don’t see the face of or hear the voice of his infamous wife) and his daughter Lilly was still a baby.
Louis speaks to his infant daughter with sincerity, which is not a habit he ever grows out of. He explains to her that, as a comedian, he’ll be on the road a lot and will plausibly not make a terrific living. He further goes on to explain that, despite (or perhaps because of) how devoted he is to raising her well, he cannot sell out and involve himself in a sitcom like the one depicted in the opener, which he believes to be dishonest and unfair. We have yet to see Louis with either of his children at this age; he’s certainly softer, but just as sad. Louis sings his daughter to sleep, calling her “baby” repetitively (which, I’ll go out on a pretty thin limb, is symbolic), as the audience, or at least I, tear up at the thought of where Louis’ life is going. Moments later, we see him performing a standup routine about suicide-inducing felatio. Naturally.
It’s heartbreaking to see Louis on the decline of hope, knowing full well where he is heading, in terms of emotional state. It is hilarious just the same to see him as a greenhorn standup comedian. Heartbreaking and hilarious: the amazing one-two punch for which Louis is appropriately known.
The second vignette of the night traverses the line between Louie and popular culture in the real world: the Dane Cook/Louis C.K. situation that fans of stand-up and celebrity gossip might remember from a few years ago (Cook was accused of stealing Louis’ material). Louis wants to give his precocious sophisticate of a daughter a birthday gift she’ll enjoy (after failing with “Sabrina Bubble” tickets); he vies for Lady Gaga tickets. Lady Gaga happens to have the same manager as Dane Cook, so Louis goes to the comic to ask him for the favor. Cook is presented at first as a godlike figure with secret service leading Louis down an endless hallway to see him. As Louis sits down with Cook to present the favor, Cook controls the conversation hostilely. As it progresses, we actually see something interesting: we get a little insight into the fact that celebrities are human beings. This is not dealt with at all heavy-handedly, but Cook announces how much it hurt him to be accused of stealing material. Louis never fully accepts that Cook was innocent of the misdeed, but he does buckle in defeat at the young comic’s convicted expression of his feelings. Louis ends up offering his daughter another gift, a boxed present as suggested by Cook (as that’s what excites children), but she is equally as disappointed with this new, unseen gift, and Louis trails off in defeat.
As said, the vignettes are inherently connected. Now, it’s probably not as subtle as I made it out to be (I might just be slow on the uptake), but the overarching theme of the night was Louis’ devotion to his daughter, and the form this love takes. When she is an infant, and he has her in his grasps, Louis cannot bring himself to abandon his principles, as he wants to be the sort of father she deserves. Sweet and solemn. The next vignette (which is, on the surface, more comical, but underneath, way more depressing) shows Louis doing anything he can, and contradicting his disapproval of his daughter listening to Lady Gaga, in order to make her happy. Now that she is no longer living with him full time (I think the fact that Louis points this out to his agent organically REALLY drives the theme and the discrepancy of the vignettes home), Louis is more eager to do what he can to fill her with joy and love. The first scene of the season two premiere really illustrates the show: Louis feels constantly in danger of losing his daughters’ love. He wants them to favor him, but at the same time he wants to be an admirable father. And this is carried out expertly through the backdrop of this episode, in the Louie way: heartbreaking and hilarious.