Louis C. K. Disses Himself
Louis C. K. Disses Himself
In the pilot episode of Louie, which recently started its third season on FX (Thursdays, 10:30/9:30c), Louis C.K. appears onstage at a comedy club: "I think a lot of people who think they're good people are living a really evil life without thinking about it." He continues: "There are people who just starve to death, and that's all they ever did. There's people who are born and they go 'Oh, I'm hungry,' then they just die, and that's all they ever got to do. And meanwhile I'm in my car having a great time, and I sleep like a baby."
It's a common thread running throughout Louis C.K.'s work—namely, the question of how to be a good person in a superficial and self-absorbed world, and how to recognize and respect the humanity of the other. Most importantly, as a comedian, he never exempts himself from criticism—in fact, he is most often its object. In a first season episode, Louie's title character tells of picking up a friend's rural cousin from the Port Authority; it's a story that exposes a form of inhumanity so pervasive as to be mundane:
"We pass this homeless guy and she sees him. I mean we all passed him but she saw him. She's the only one who actually saw him. We didn't. Me and her cousin were like, 'Um, so? He's supposed to be there. So what?' … She goes [to the homeless man], 'Oh my God, sir, are you OK?' We immediately go to her, 'Oh no, no, no, honey, don't.' We start correcting her behavior like she's doing something wrong. She's like, 'Why, is he OK?' 'No, no, he needs you desperately. That's not the point. We just don't do that here. Silly country girl.'"
Louis and Louie have been lauded by TV critics and fellow comedians for this humaneness, deftly addressing a range of complex topics from bullying, child neglect, terrorism, and suicide to race relations, sexuality, and religion. Indeed, after his series premiered, many questioned whether Louie was really a comedy or whether it would be more accurately described as something quite different. There are occasional dramatic segments intended to elicit few if any laughs, but these often represent the series at its best, offering penetrating analyses of human nature and experience that are at once both critical and sympathetic. In an episode called "Bully," Louie is threatened and humiliated in front of his date by a teenage boy. He then follows the kid all the way to Staten Island and confronts his parents—only to witness the bully's dad beat the boy in response. Though Louie protests the father's violence, the episode ends with the two men sitting on the front stoop having an earnest conversation about the challenges of fatherhood.
The series regularly tackles religion too. In an episode titled "God," there's a fairly serious segment in which a 10-year-old Louie clowns around with a classmate during a lesson about the Passion, leading his teacher to fear that she has failed to adequately convey Jesus' suffering. She gathers the children in the chapel and brings in a local doctor to do the job right. The doctor undertakes a "theoretical autopsy" of the murder victim, Jesus. His intense postmortem holds the children spellbound, and he ends by inviting Louie and his friend up front to reenact the scene. The children fall silent when he instructs Louie to drive a nail into his friend's wrist. Louie refuses. The doctor goads him and asks, "You can't do it? Well then, why'd you do it to him? You drove in his nails with your sins … and you won't nail them into this brat, this godless boy?"