After an opening stretch of five heavily thematic, dramatically adventurous episodes, Louie has settled into its third season comfortably enough to lob us a double feature of short-form silliness. Insofar as there’s a motif to “Barney/Never,” it is shitting.
The scat humor begins with the newly acquainted Louie C.K. [Note: I should’ve clarified this earlier in the season, but here, “Louie C.K.” denotes the character, and “Louis C.K.” the writer-director-star-producer-guy.] and Robin Williams figuratively dumping on a deceased man, a money-grubber and hanger-on Robin dubs “a prick and an asshole” and Louie is fairly positive “was the biggest piece of shit I ever knew.”
But these men are stand-up comedians, and their caustic take on a less fortunate, less living soul is no cause for self-doubt. Keep it dumpin’. Williams’s eyes twinkle as jolly-ly as ever. Lonely Louie admits the only reason he showed up at the burial was that he’d had nightmares about no one paying tribute at his own death. (And how good was that bookend to the funeral scene, the J.B. Smoove cameo in the credits? “This dude right here’s bein’ buried in a Ikea shelf.”)
Louie and Robin hit Barney’s favorite strip club, not to honor the prick/asshole’s memory, but to bask in his demise with the kind of extravagance talking trash in a diner just can’t offer. This first vignette and its overexpository dialogue felt like one of the season’s first slight missteps. It’s a slow burn toward two great punch lines, the first being a crew of strippers and their fingerless-gloved, long-haired male emcee emotionally grieving for their favorite patron to the tune of Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian.” It’s a good joke, but that’s basically the whole joke.
The second joy this first part gives us is Robin and Louie stepping outside the strip club, glancing at each other, and sharing a toxic chuckle. And they each agree not to let the other get buried alone, of course.
Then we’re onto the second vignette, the first time this season we’ve gotten such a blatant chop. Young Never’s loud- and close-talking mother, whom we’ve seen in earlier school-oriented episodes, asks Louie to watch her son while she gets a consultation for an elective vagina removal. “I have to do it now to stay on schedule … I want to get rid of my vagina before Easter.”
The perfectly round-faced Never, sporting a bow tie and suspenders and looking like a Harry Potter extra if ever there were one, is never told no and can’t eat, um, “carbon,” his mother warns. The afternoon’s off to a promising start as soon as Never pushes a stroller into traffic, enacting a disaster-movie-style car accident resulting in a chemical gas leak and a frantic Artie Lange cameo.
Never will die if he eats peanut butter, he won’t touch an egg, he hates carrots, and he’ll also perish if he eats an apple. Raw meat in a bowl is solid, though. With Never snacked out and off to take a bath (he’d like to play with the completely vanished Lilly, but “she’s not into it,” Louie says, flat out), Louie takes a phone interview his impossibly young agent has convinced him to do. “Spend ten minutes with these guys and you’ll make way more money next week, it’s worth it,” Doug tells Louie, laying out the exact scenario a less famous C.K. surely used to face often.
“I always hate doing radio shows — there’s always some idiot and his idiot friend,” Louie tells Doug moments before jumping on the phone with a cavalcade of zany-to-the-point-of-incomprehensibility D.J.’s voiced by Jim Norton, Amy Schumer, and Opie and Anthony. It’s reminiscent of Parks and Recreation’s “Crazy Ira & the Douche,” in itself a send-up of the insanity of drive-time radio. It’s also reminiscent of the unintelligible lingo Louie gave the youth in a coffee shop in season one. A pretty goofy bit, but it lets Louie tag onto that “shitting on people” premise by trash-talking Kansas City on air in Kansas City, repurposing an old bit and getting hung up on by some D.J.’s who aren’t so into joking around anymore.
The dumping comes back Louie’s way imminently, with a relaxed Never explaining, “I diarrhea’d in the tub.” Awesome, dude. Louie swings it around one more time, telling Never that as long as he eats raw meat and shits in bathtubs and destroys everything, no one, certainly not Lilly, will like him. “My mom says that any choice I make is okay because I love myself,” Never says. “Your … your mom is wrong,” Louie tells him, not so much mean as exercising the bullshit-calling bluntness all parents wish they could.
• No title sequence this week. Just a black and white intro of Louie, forlorn as ever, strolling into a graveyard. A decent rule to live by with Louie is that when there’s a black and white scene, you know that more than anything that Louis C.K. was trying to express, you know he just thought it would be neat or silly or tickle his fancy for some other unknowable reason.
• Williams’s and C.K.’s goatees hail from the same species.
• Louie using impression humor against an all-time champion of funny voices was fun to see.
• Everyone in the world who overanalyzes this show will catch that Louie says “her mother needs our help” about Never when Lilly protests the playdate. Just want you to know I’m watching. HARD.
• Speaking of mistakes! (Done after this one, promise.) Please tell me Robin Williams’s name being misspelled did not make it to air?
• Sweet Charity is not a strip club in New York. It is, however, a Park Slope vendor of homegoods, gifts, and clothing.
• How great was the tiny moment of C.K. acting beautifully naturally alongside Lilly as he picked her up from school? That was like a ten-second documentary about dads picking up their daughters from school.
• Why is there a gold Gibson Les Paul in Louie’s living room? C’mon, man.
• Louie’s funky glasses are back! Drink!