By Anthony Cornell
Louis C.K.’s career has hit many peaks. He has released numerous successful CDs and DVDs, had a show on HBO called Lucky Louie, and has been known as “the guy Dane Cook steals all of his good jokes from.” Despite all of that, C.K. has never shown us his creative genius better than he has with his current project: FX’s Louie.
FX offered C.K. $200,000 to make a pilot. He responded to them with an ultimatum. He told the network to wire him the money in New York and he would give them a show. He refused to go through the typical process of getting a script approved, demanding full creative control over his vision. C.K. is credited as the producer, director, writer, and star of Louie; he even edits every episode on his personal MacBook. What comes from the mind of C.K. is an unconventional look at some of life’s most awkward and hilarious moments.
Louie is also an autobiographical depiction of C.K.’s life as a divorcee and a single father. It shows a man going through what seems to be a continual mid-life crisis trying to find a place in this world beyond fathering his two girls and being a comedian. The show also throws in huge doses of black humor, which provides Louie with some truly hilarious moments. Situational humor drives the plot, from when C.K. brings a dog home from the pound only to have it pass away as it walks in the door, to when his mom comes for a surprise visit to deliver the news that she has recently discovered that she is a lesbian.
Conversely, the true genius behind this show is revealed when it takes a more serious turn. In the second episode, Louis and his comedian companions are enjoying what appears to be their weekly poker game. The topic of the word “faggot” comes up and the group turns to openly-gay stand up Rick Crom for his opinion on the use of the word in the comedy world. He says that he personally takes no offense to it and that it provides a cheap laugh. However, he lets the group know that they should keep in mind that every gay man in America has at some point been called that word, usually during moments of extreme discrimination, including vicious assaults, from individuals or sometimes multiple homophobes. The group then considers this harsh truth in a moment of silence, cracks a joke, and then continues with their game.
It is in these moments, where we get to look intimately into the lives of the characters of Louie, that we are most engaged as viewers. This show simultaneously entertains and makes us reflect on our struggles to understand and identify ourselves in life’s small tragic moments. C.K.’s creative genius, not only as a comedian, but also as a serious writer, shines through in this medium stronger than in any of his previous endeavors.