The cable networks are just going to have to learn how to share Louis C. K.: HBO said on Monday that it would broadcast a new stand-up special by Louis C. K., the Emmy Award-winning comedian and star of the FX series “Louie,” to be taped during his current tour and shown next year. Louis C. K. said on his Twitter account that after this new special is shown on HBO, it would be sold a few months later as a $5 download at his Web site, louisck.net.
The announcement represents a bit of a homecoming for Louis C. K., who previously wrote for “The Chris Rock Show” on HBO and starred in his own comedy series, “Lucky Louie,” for a single season on that network. After it canceled “Lucky Louie,” HBO gave Louis C. K. a development deal to produce a set of short films. Although those never led to a series on HBO, they eventually became the basis of his widely praised FX show. Louis C. K., who announced last month that he was taking a hiatus from “Louie,” has also starred in the stand-up specials “Shameless,” shown on HBO; “Chewed Up,” shown on Showtime; and “Hilarious,” shown on Epix. His stand-up special “Live at the Beacon Theater,” which was originally sold only as an Internet download, was later shown on FX.
Around noon on Monday, word began spreading that Louis C.K. would give three standup performances that very night at Brooklyn’s Bell House. The set-up: C.K., the comedian whom Chris Rock calls “the funniest man in America,” would be auditioning new bits in various stages of undress, trotting them out semi-formally for three audiences of roughly 350 people each. We’d get a peek behind the curtain of his upcoming fall tour as he refined it in real time, and he’d get some eager guinea pigs to experiment on. The punchline: In a move seemingly designed to curb scalping, there would be no online ticketing, so in order to get in, fans had to hoof it to the box office, in the industrial Gowanus section of Brooklyn, with cash in hand, where a two-ticket-per-person cap awaited them. And, oh yeah, they had to make this journey in the pouring rain.
The second of the three sets – which all sold out by the early afternoon – began at a quarter to 10. Taking the tiny stage to enraptured hoots and hollers, wearing a familiar uniform of dark polo shirt, dark jeans, and dark New Balance, C.K. began by lowering the room’s expectations: What quality of entertainment did we really expect, he asked, for the cut-rate price of $10 a head, and staged, to boot, “in Brooklyn?” (C.K. lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.)
What followed was a masterful hour and 15 minutes in which the line distinguishing shaggy from sculpted could be hard to pinpoint – even in his finished bits, after all, C.K. is great at making fine-hewn bits seem haphazard. He built one extended riff around the centrality of smartphones in our daily lives, introducing the topic with the familiar observation that we can’t “just live” an experience, “we need to get it in our phones.” This is by now a commonplace, bordering on cliché, but C.K. managed to wring unlikely laughs and fresh insights from the subject, incorporating unlikely details like a furious sea lion and inept elementary-school dancers. The bit culminated with a dystopian portrait of a near-future in which Siri holds entirely too much power over our lives. You could see the whole smartphone riff being culled and compressed, in future iterations, to a more gemlike hardness, but C.K. didn’t think it was there yet: At the end of the bit, he consulted a yellow notepad covered with scribblings, perched on a stool next to a bottle of water. “There’s a lot of fat on that one,” he said apologetically. “A lot of fat.” But, flab or no, the room hadn’t stopped laughing for the entire run: Louis C.K.’s fat is a lesser comedian’s gold.
Another joke seemed to pick up, in spirit, where C.K.’s famous “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy” joke left off. In that old bit, C.K. attacks those jaded types who grouse about things like spotty inflight WiFi while taking for granted the godlike improbability of human flight itself. C.K. can have an aspect of the foulmouthed motivational speaker about him, and this was the case in a rant last night delivered against aging people who want to look “like they’re 23”: The deal, he said, sputtering with scorn, is that you get to experience a raft of worldly pleasures over a lifetime, and in exchange, your body looks and functions, increasingly, like crap. His marvelous catalogue of life’s pleasures included things both high-minded and profane. But, C.K. allowed, life’s wonders aren’t free. He talked about how, at 44, his body no longer behaves like it should, detouring into an amazing tale of wet farts that produced one of the night’s finest lines: Suffice it to say, C.K.’s rare gift when it comes to scatalogical metaphors is alive and well.
One of C.K.’s defining traits is the ethical-philosophical rigor of his bits, in which he refuses pat answers and constantly switches perspectives, playing the devil’s advocate, the empathizer-with-the-other, the Hegelian synthesizer and the Socratic interrogator. His closing joke consisted of a series of “Of course” statements, in which he’d cite a widely held ethical stance, upended by niggling, more coldly rational “But maybe” statements. The final of these pairings had to do with slavery and its counterintuitive upside. The bit – and the entire set – ended with a soft-spoken, somber line about human ambition and human goodness: It was an understated, exceedingly earnest way to close out a raucous, over-the-top performance stocked with wet farts, brutal infanticide, and Orwellian smartphones. Perhaps C.K. will decide it’s toounderstated of a closer as he continues to hone his new hour. But, last night, at least, it was a sobering, quietly stunning coda to send us shuffling back into the world.
It’s no secret that Louis C.K. is a fan of the distinct two-part episode structure (tonight’s episode marks the 14th time in less than three seasons there’s been a slash in the episode title). He does this to varying levels of success — I’ve discussed my theories in two-parters “Telling Jokes/Set Up,” “Barney/Never,” and“Ikea/Piano Lesson” this season — but it’s mostly an effective tool C.K. uses to highlight an overarching theme. In this case, it’s Louie desperately trying to find something he’s looking for.
Sometimes the symbolism on Louie is far from subtle, and you don’t need to make too far of a leap to connect the dots between Louie literally trying to find the people in this episode to figuratively trying to find things of deeper and more emotional meaning as he meanders about his mid-40s. (Though the symbolism here isn’t nearly as obvious as it was on , say, every episode in Season 5 of Mad Men, but that’s a discussion for another day.) But more times than not C.K. hammers home these themes with an irreplaceable endearing quality that few shows can duplicate.
The episode opens with a vignette with a rare occurrence for any Louie episode: a call-back character. In this case it’s Parker Posey’s crazy, unique girl from the bookshop in the Daddy’s Girlfriend episodes, who’s name we finally learn is Liz (not Tape Recorder). The offbeat night the two spent together really left an impact on Louie, and after she starts showing up in his dreams, he tries to seek her out. Turns out she no longer works at the book store, but with the help of very hipster-looking Chloe Sevigny, he tries to track her down despite not even knowing her last name.
It’s clear that Sevigny’s character is bored with her life at the book store and is an old-fashioned romantic. At first it seems like she just gets off on the thrill of being a low-rate P.I., snooping into other people’s personal lives and insisting Louie how “he has to” follow up on all these things about Liz, regardless of how uncomfortable he becomes. Of course, Louie’s naturally uncomfortable nature reaches an all-time high when Sevigny’s character literally gets off on her speech to at the coffee shop.
Where Part I is clearly on the more surreal side of C.K.’s projects, the “Lilly Changes” half of this slash episode hits much closer to home, showing Louie in dad mode (always my favorite Louie stories). We’ve always seen Lilly as a very intelligent and on-the-ball 10-year old, but for the first time we (briefly) see Lilly outside of her life with daddy when some of her classmates start teasing her for being a “nerd.” Louie tries to get her to open up to him, but Lilly isn’t having any of it. Louie has been proven to be a great dad, but sometimes he’s a little out of touch with his daughters (like when he tries to cheer her up by taking them on the Merry-Go-Round in Central Park, something Lilly has clearly out-grown).
Apparently when Louie is stressed, he takes his laptop in the bathroom and smokes a cigarette, and when he comes out, Jane greets him with the news that Lilly went out. Jane doesn’t seem too bothered by this, but obviously, Louie freaks out. His daughters are the only two things left in his life that he loves, and being a dad is one of the few things he’s any good at, so screwing something like this up is up there with the worst things he could ever do.
He doesn’t want to leave the house incase Lilly decides to come back, and he’s so scared to face his ex-wife with this news that he’d rather call the police to try and settle the matter than call her to see if she ran off to her mom’s house. But just when it looks like a full-on investigation for the missing girl could be underway, Lilly emerges from the closet with her robe and headphones on. Turns out she was just trying to take off some steam, 10-year old style (though seriously, who reads with headphones on?).
As usual, plenty of Louie’s insecurities are brought out in this episode, and while it wasn’t nearly as laugh-out-loud funny or emotionally poignant as many episodes this season, it was a fine filler installment leading up to the final four episodes of the season.
- “I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping, as we all should.”
- “Life isn’t that long. 80-some years, buy some shit, use it, it breaks, try to fuck somebody, hope your shit’s don’t hurt too badly.
- Classy dad move of the week: Louie giving Lilly the double middle finger when she’s not looking.
- Jane’s classmate (7 years old) is teaching her Slovenian, and she thinks it’ll be helpful to use some of it when looking for Lilly.
- You don’t need a seatbelt in a taxi. They are magic and nobody dies.
“Louie” has been renewed for a 13-episode Season 4, FX president John Landgraf announced at his Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour executive session Saturday.
“There are not enough superlatives in the English language to bestow on “Louie” or the work Louis C.K. is doing,” Landgraf boasted. “With this series, he has changed the form and is doing truly groundbreaking, landmark work that is inspiring a whole new generation of artists. Simply put, he is making one of the best shows anywhere on television.”
The network also announced it has picked up seven additional episodes of “BrandX With Russell Brand.”
Louis C.K.’s critically-acclaimed dark comedy just landed three Emmy nominationslast Thursday, even though it was snubbed from the Outstanding Comedy category.
“We’re incredibly proud of Louis C.K.’s seven Emmy nominations, more than any individual in Emmy history, and particularly proud of his nominations for best director, best writer and best actor in a comedy series for ‘Louie.’ We’re obviously disappointed that the show ‘Louie’ was not nominated as best comedy series, but thrilled with the nominations nonetheless,” Landgraf said.
“Louie” has seen a jump in the ratings this season as C.K. has taken dating and friendship to new heights of awkwardness.
C.K. appeared via satellite at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour on July 27 to share a few thoughts on what’s ahead for the rest of the season and his record seven Emmy nominations.
“The record was previously held by David Lynch, who is a big hero of mine, so to take something away from him is bittersweet,” C.K. said. Though competition seems more like “an athletic thing” and “kind of silly” when applied to creative arts, he said, “It’s nice for the people who work for me and for the network.”
Critics were shown a long, typically funny/uncomfortable scene in which F. Murray Abraham played Louie’s uncle, and C.K. talked about having the actor guest on the show again (he played a different character in a Season 2 episode).
“When I got a show, like, thought number three was ‘I want to get F. Murray Abraham.’ I love him,” C.K. said. The previous role he gave to the actor was not “that special a role, in terms of how I wrote it. I wanted another crack at it and …. I wrote it for his voice.”
C.K. also talked about an upcoming episode with guest star Robin Williams, whom he said he’s become friends with over the last year or so. “He’s a great actor and a very generous guy,” he said, telling a story about how the day of filming outdoors with Williams was like “the siege of Leningrad” due to pouring rain. “We gave him a Town Car to sit in, but he just stood out there in the rain with the rest of us.”
The writer-actor-director-producer went on to say that there will be a lot of notable guest stars in Episodes 10, 11 and 12, but he wouldn’t say who they were. As for Parker Posey, who guest starred in a two-parter, he said he would be open to her character returning. Guest stars come back “as long as I’m able to write for them,” he said.
He also talked a little about how he interacts with the Standards and Practices department at FX. Earlier in the day, FX president John Landgraf said that material had been removed from the Season 2 episode “God.” Landgraf wasn’t specific about what was removed, but he said that the material might have made the episode quite offensive to Catholics.
C.K. said he had no problem removing the material because he wanted the focus of the episode to remain on the experiences of his character on the show. In general, he views the notes he gets from the Standards and Practices department as “a service.”
“If I step too far over the line and piss off a group really terribly, I’m going to get curtailed [more] than I am now,” C.K. said. But having worked in the industry for a long time, he said he is generally aware of where the lines are. “I’m like a dog with a shock collar, and you can take off the collar. I know where the fence is.”
The most interesting part of the panel was when C.K. talked about the music composition for the show. He said that before he begins writing a season, he and composer Matt Kilmer record music with a band for two days, and then C.K. uses that music to inspire him as he pens episodes.
For instance, they recorded a piece of music called “Angel” that was very haunting, and he wanted to write something that would live up to the mood of that song. He came up with the story of Louie’s date with Parker Posey’s character, and “Angel” was the soundtrack for their rooftop scene. He said that being part of the music composition process was his “second favorite part of making the show.”
C.K. was asked about his favorite TV shows, which include “Project Runway.” “I really enjoy fashion, I like looking at it and creating stuff in a competition is really fun,” he said. “And I love that Tim Gunn guy. He’s got a great work ethic and he’s a great teacher.” He added that his daughters also love the show.
He said doesn’t watch a lot of TV, but “Family Guy” makes him laugh, and he likes “American Idol” and other talent shows. “Deal or No Deal” also gets him. “I’m a real sucker for maudlin emotional stuff. I used to cry like a baby at that show. Watching a working man trying to earn for his family” always got to him, he said.
“Louie” airs Thursdays at 10.30 p.m. ET on FX
As I’ve written before, comedian Louis C.K. has turned episodes of his sitcom “Louie” (10:30 p.m. on FX, TV-MA) into miniaturized versions of independent movies, allowing guest stars to turn in remarkable performances. This is especially true tonight, when Louie steps out on the town with the bookstore clerk (Parker Posey) he met in last week’s episode. Neither the audience nor Louie can tell if he’s out on the most exciting date of his life or the beginning of a waking nightmare.
Posey’s performance, while occasionally over-the-top, is often spellbinding. Don’t miss “Louie”; it’s the best thing you’ll see on television this week.
Don’t miss this episode of Louie tonight at 10:30pm EST; 9:30 CST.
Don’t miss it!