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The Zen of Louis CK

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The Zen of Louis CK

Photo by: FX

Unlike most boxers, Louis C.K. seems to hit harder and faster as he ages.  If you’ve seen his stand-up comedy, you know he can be relentless with his target in sight. Until the last year or so, it wasn’t certain if he could really make a successful transition from the stand-up circuit to television.

   By : SHAWNA BENSON

Unlike most boxers, Louis C.K. seems to hit harder and faster as he ages.  If you’ve seen his stand-up comedy, you know he can be relentless with his target in sight.  Until the last year or so, it wasn’t certain if he could really make a successful transition from the stand-up circuit to television.  A few years ago he attempted to launch a traditional sitcom formatted show on HBO (possibly the strangest place to launch a traditionally formatted show) and it didn’t last long.  As was clear from the ratings, pay cable audiences weren’t ready for a multi-camera sitcom with blue language and edgy subjects.  Since then, Louis C.K. has had a couple of successful stand-up specials, a few smaller film roles, and a subtle yet memorable stint on “Parks and Recreation,” playing a romantic foil for Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope.  Perhaps the TV climate has changed enough in four years, or perhaps Louis himself has changed.  Either way, the change is good and brings something new and interesting to FX in the form of the show “Louie.”

Photo by: FX

“Louie” is structured a bit like a show of vignettes, each story bookended by a few minutes of his stand-up.  The stories play out as surreal moments in life very often do — with awkward silences and misconstrued meanings.  On the show, Louie is a single dad, recently divorced, raising his two young daughters.  Whether he’s a volunteer at his girls’ school, attempting a first date or playing poker with his friends, the comedy isn’t “laugh track” funny, but is more organic, more real to life, and yes, as a result, more awkward than most other comedies on TV.  He’s just trying to get through his life as best he knows how, and his eyes reflect the depth of his frustration and his confusion in his newly single life.  He doesn’t blow his top like cartoon dads of other shows, and he’s not browbeaten.  He’s just…older, and learning to cope with his situation.  Some won’t agree with his methods, but the honesty which is at the heart of the show beats loudly, grounding even the most outlandish moments in some warmth.

One note of caution: while the show is on FX and therefore works a little cleaner than HBO probably ever required, there are times, particularly in episodes 2 and 3 where the humor gets a little rough, not just in language but in topic.  In the second episode, he spends at least five minutes with some fellow comics discussing their enduring fascination with a fellow comic’s sexual orientation, discussing details of gay lifestyle that go beyond what you normally hear about on basic cable.

Louis C.K. gets some help from friends, like Ricky Gervais, who plays Louie’s doctor in one episode.  When he is able to work with other masters, Louis C.K.’s game is further elevated, pushing the show to even greater comedy gold.  The first few episodes are funny when it counts, and if they are any indicator of the series as a whole, a grand mix of stand up and brutally honest humor.  It may take an episode or two to adjust to the format, but once you do, chances are, you’ll want to stick around for the whole run.

“Louie” premieres Tuesday June 29th at 11 PM EDT.

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