The two halves of tonight’s Louie aren’t as well-united as last week’s little duo, but by the end of the hour, there’s a strong sense of history running through the series, as well as a sense that even when people try to do nice things, they’re mostly just thinking about themselves. Tonight, there’s really nothing in the way of “story,” as Louie goes to IKEA with Dolores (the woman from last year’s fantastic “Blueberries” segment), aborts a piano lesson, and apologizes to an old friend for the second time. But in the first segment in particular, there are lots of great laughs. This might be the funniest episode of the season, even if it doesn’t always hang together. (I say “might be” because I seem to be the only person on Earth who was wildly amused by the idea of a small boy who regularly eats bowls of raw meat in last week’s episode.)
Both segments touch on the way that time sort of slips away from you, until it’s a year after you hooked up with that woman you know through your kids’ school or 10 years since you last spoke to the guy who was your best friend at one time. In one lengthy scene, Louie, on the phone with Sarah Silverman, watches footage of himself, then Sarah, then Marc Maron, when they were all working as stand-ups in the late ’80s and early ’90s. (The announcer says it’s a show featuring footage from the ’80s, but Maron’s set seems to have come from 1990. So there.) It’s weird to see all of these people as younger versions of themselves—particularly C.K., who looks agreeably baby-faced in the old footage—but it’s also strange to think of them as the “establishment,” and the kinds of people they were trying to join back when those jokes were first recorded.
In addition, this is the only stand-up footage in the whole episode. We don’t cut to Louie at the comedy club at any point, for commentary on what’s happened in the episode so far. Instead, we just have these old, flickering images from the past, offered up almost as commentary on who these people were and who they became. Tellingly, Louie never once laughs at the jokes the younger version of himself tells. Indeed, he occasionally seems a little depressed by them. He only starts to laugh when Silverman takes the stage, but when he gives her a call to tell her to watch the footage of herself, she mostly makes fun of how predictable her joke structure was in those days. It’s only when Maron takes the stage that the segment starts to reveal some of what it’s going for. Marc and Louie, see, were best friends back in the day, and then they had a falling out. The falling out isn’t detailed, but what’s important is that Louie has finally realized he was the one at fault. At Silverman’s urging, he gets in touch with Marc to iron things out.
This puts this episode roughly in the same category as last year’s Dane Cook affair, when Louie needed a favor from the immensely popular comedian, who was none too pleased about the way Louie had portrayed him as a joke thief. Though the Louie in Louie is meant to be a fictionalized version of Louis C.K., it’s not hard to entertain the notion that in some episodes, he’s just barely fictionalized. This is another instance of that, as if you listened to the episode of WTF featuring Maron interviewing C.K., you’ll remember that they actually did have a falling out and were mad at each other for some time. (I can’t recall if it was as serious a situation as the show depicts, however.)
The Dane Cook story rose above its roots in reality because it told a fairly straight-forward story about two comedians clearing the air between themselves after a serious dispute in which both had legitimate grievances. You didn’t need to know the backstory to appreciate it, in other words. I’m not sure that’s the case here, even if it’s fun to see Maron pop up toward the episode’s end. Watching Louie stumble his way through his apology—particularly without really knowing what he’s apologizing for—isn’t the most thrilling scene the show’s ever come up with, and the final twist (that Louie actually went through this entire routine about five years ago) is fine, as these things go, but doesn’t put much of a cap on the story. The Dane Cook storyline was so compelling because Cook’s point-of-view was understandable, even if you didn’t sympathize with it. Maron mostly just sits and listens, then says, “Hey, why do you keep apologizing?”
Or maybe that’s more realistic. It’s clear at this point that one of the real reasons Louie’s approaching Marc is because he feels like asking for forgiveness will clear the water between them, will help him feel better about himself, rather than actually trying to repair the friendship. Marc, for his part, points out that maybe the two former friends should just go get coffee or something. That might be a better way to handle this whole situation. But there’s still a sort of restrained hostility there, an animosity that suggests that Marc isn’t too happy to be a prop in the Louie forgiveness tour. It’s an interesting take on this particular story, but it’s not especially funny or dramatic, just kind of fun to think about. And that leaves the mind to wander and wonder about the grievances between Maron and C.K. and how much of that made it onto screen.
The other segment—which I enjoyed more than the latter one—also deals with the ways that our attempts to help other people can often be self-serving, as Louie finds himself spending an awful weekend day at an IKEA in New Jersey with Dolores, who’s still seemingly on the edge of completely falling apart. There have been complaints from some this season that the show falls back into the “women are crazy!” trope a little too easily (though I would say the presence of the “Daddy’s Girlfriend” two-parter would give the lie to this idea), and I suppose I could see where this would be the ultimate expression of that. Yet it’s also clear at all times that the joke is on Louie, that he’s a guy who gets into these situations because he wants a little action (even if he’s gentlemanly enough to turn it down when first offered), even though he’s well in over his head. The bit where just the trip to IKEA seemingly turns the two into a bitter, old married couple develops suddenly, but it’s hysterical all the same, and I loved the younger couple, promising to never turn into that somewhere down the line. (They will. Oh, they will. It’s inevitable when you’re in IKEA.)
Louie, just like the real-life Louis C.K., I’d imagine, and just like any other human being on this planet, has a tendency to get so wrapped up in his own stuff that he misses the forest for the trees. In the end, that’s the biggest defense the show has against any concerns that it’s all about Louie dealing with crazy women (or whatever you might want to throw at it): All of the people on the show are short-sighted and naïve, and maybe they catch a glimpse of something larger than themselves for just a little bit, but that inevitably gets stripped away in the moments after. Being human is all about missing the big picture, about occasionally seeing something clearly, before you blink and it’s torn away. Maybe you get that glimpse when you’re having a knock-down, drag-out fight with a woman you’re not even dating in an IKEA. Or maybe you just get it every five years, and that keeps you from repairing an old friendship. Either way, it’s that limitation that keeps life both interesting and frustrating. You never really know when it’s all going to slip away.
- For as funny as Maria Dizzia’s return gig as Dolores was, the biggest laughs in the episode came from Maria Bamford calling to let Louie know that he had crabs.
- On the other hand, the old woman having her consultation with the pharmacist at the drug counter was a bit that mostly fell flat for me. I did like Louie’s sheepishness about having to buy the crabs medication.
- Good nicknames for your girlfriend: hasenpfeffer.
- I was sure there was some sort of dead-on Louis C.K. impersonator playing the younger version of himself. But no. That was the real deal.
- We briefly flip past the reality show Louie was watching back in “Daddy’s Girlfriend, Part 1.” Said reality show features Michael Cyril Creighton, who’s the star of a very funny web series named Jack In A Box. If you’re into the theatrical world at all, you should definitely check it out.
- Dolores now owes Louie a blow job. So we’ll almost certainly see her in season four, huh? I also hope we see Doris, the piano teacher, again.
- Nathan’s off setting the world record for circumnavigating the globe while riding a grizzly bear. He’ll be back next week.