The experiences we have on vacation feel more present and real than the ones we have at home. When you’re out on the road, it’s harder to fall into routine, and it’s easier to be open to the possibility of the new. At home, it’s much easier to just slip into your old ruts—to exist only where you’re comfortable. When you leave that comfortable space and find yourself surrounded by new people and experiences, you essentially have to open yourself up. You can’t just retreat to your couch or your bedroom and shut everything else out. Being among the unfamiliar means placing a certain amount of trust in other people—often people you don’t know—and that’s at once terrifying and exhilarating. Hence the openness to new things and hence the way a vacation can feel like a fresh start, until it inevitably begins to wear away the second you cross the threshold of your home.
A stand-up comedian, of course, is always on the road. Maybe this is why comedians have so often been such great observers of society, such astute gadflies who can pin down a person or a whole city in one well-crafted joke. I don’t necessarily think comedians are wiser than the average human being, but their existence is lived on the road. This means out of necessity they constantly open to those new possibilities, and this leaves their eyes opened just a little wider to what might be coming around the bend. I’m sure that most comedians have cities and houses they’ve played so often that it’s easy to slip into a routine in that city, but there’s always the possibility that the Yuk-It-Up comedy club of Bozeman, Montana, might bring them in to do a few nights of shows. And then they’re on a working vacation in Bozeman, doing their job, but also drinking in the sights.
My favorite segment of “Miami” feels just like the vacations described above. Louie has made friends with a lifeguard named Ramon, who believes himself to have saved Louie’s life when Louie was drowning. (In actuality, Louie was just trying to get the attention of a beach attendant dragging away a chair with his stuff on it.) The two have struck up a fast friendship, and on one of the last nights of Louie’s stay in the titular city, Ramon takes him out to what appears to be a family celebration. Louis C.K. shoots this in an almost cinema verité style, as Louie gradually becomes more and more comfortable hanging out with this group of Latinos. When he realizes he still has a show to go do, Ramon and his friends even make sure he gets back, though time is running short. It’s a loose, easy scene that has nothing to do with anything, but it perfectly shows just why Louie would decide to stay a few extra days in Miami after he gets back to his hotel. Something like this isn’t going to happen back at home.
There’s not a lot of plot to “Miami”—even by Louie standards—but that’s okay. Just watching Louie out of his natural environment acts as almost a vacation for the viewer as well. C.K. captures the rhythms of Louie’s trip well, and the early sections of the episode lay out the sort of comedian’s routine Louie could have easily fallen into if not for meeting Ramon. He does a show. He gets some room service. He grudgingly decides to check out the beach, where he despairingly looks at all of the far more fit and attractive young people lounging on the side of the ocean. He very easily could have spent every day of his trip doing just this, then gone home to his daughters, and he still would have had a good time. Miami’s a beautiful city, and, hey, that beach looks like a nice one.
But instead he meets Ramon, and as the friendship grows, the series turns to that “guide to masculinity” I was talking about last week. When Louie elects to spend extra time in Miami, he calls his ex-wife to ask if she can take the girls for a day or two more. She quickly guesses that he’s met someone, and when he tries to protest that he hasn’t, she says he doesn’t have to feel embarrassed. I like her evident happiness at her ex-husband seemingly finding a new girlfriend, and I like the way the season is developing a theme of Louie trying to say something very straightforwardly and others in his life assuming that he’s not saying what he really means. This reflects half of my interactions with other human beings in any given day. But the scene also raises an interesting, slippery question: Has he met someone?
On the one hand, he hasn’t. Louie’s a straight guy, and he’s not going to immediately strike up some sort of romantic relationship with Ramon, simply because there seems to be the possibility of one on the table. But it’s also clear that his friendship with Ramon has progressed far more rapidly than it might normally have. There’s definitely some kind of connection between the two men, and it’s a connection that might be teased out into something more defined if the two lived in the same city. The problem is that, as Louie laments in his stand-up set at the end of the episode, we have such rigidly codified expectations of how straight guys should act that the very fact that he decides to stay a couple of extra days in Miami suggests that he wants to have a romantic fling with Ramon. He only slowly comes to realize this, and the scene where he has to tell Ramon—without really telling him—that he’s not gay, that he just wanted to hang out with him a little bit longer, is incredibly cringe-worthy.
If there’s a theme developing to this season of Louie, it’s that we rarely say what we actually mean, but we’d be much happier if we were honest with each other. The problem, of course, is that everybody assumes honesty is hiding an even harsher truth and that we sometimes don’t even know what we actually want. Louie is as hard-pressed to describe his friendship with Ramon as the audience will be, other than to say that it exists and it was surprisingly intense for two guys who met each other when one thought the other was drowning. There’s no simple word or phrase to pin on the relationship. (Well, if I wrote for a celebrity magazine, I’d call it a “bromance,” and then I’d have to shoot myself.) It’s just something that is, and while it’s an experience that will presumably stick with the two, it’s also never going to get to fully flower for a variety of reasons—from societal expectations to the simple facts of geography. Vacations are great while they last, but you always have to go back home.
- It seems the casting of an African-American woman as Louie’s ex-wife has caused consternation in some corners of the Internet. And while I can understand that, yeah, the genetics of the situation make no sense, I also don’t really care. This is a series with a decidedly elastic relationship with reality, and I always enjoy watching C.K. figure out just how far he can push it without involving aliens or zombies or something. (That said, who wouldn’t watch Louis C.K.’s version of The Walking Dead?)
- Another great scene involves Louie and Ramon bonding over their shared Hispanic heritage. I was surprised to learn this past summer that C.K. has Mexican ancestry on his father’s side, but it’s both unexpected and true. (And perhaps it makes those quibbles about the genetics of his daughters on the show seem less important.)
- The idea that if you say you don’t know something, you can learn everything seems like a mission statement for both this show and this season.
- This show uses its over-credits footage better than any other show on TV, and tonight’s was no exception. It’s just fun to watch C.K. attempt to direct that scene amid the rolling waves.
- Thanks for putting up with me these two weeks! Nathan returns next week.