The Best of the Set: Louie

Previous installments of this post have highlighted shows that exceeded, and succeeded, in creative ambition but which are no longer on the air. This week, it seemed appropriate to look at a show still on the air that makes those same, earnest strides.

Louis CK is the hardest working comic in the business. After years on the road as a stand-up comedian, working gigs and honing his raw tone and sharp insight into a funnel for social satire and jabs at the ridiculous nature of culture, he has finally found the perfect outlet for his unflinching humor and surprisingly touching intellect: FX. A station known for pushing boundaries and allowing creativity to roam free, FX provides CK with a base to build his show however he sees fit.

Louis on stage

“Louie” follows a fictionalized version of Louis CK as he adjusts to single life in New York, deals with his kids, performs stand-up comedy and tries to be a decent human being in a city full of vibrant and sometimes dangerous characters. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the show is CK’s unabashed view of the world as honest, funny, heart breaking, endearing and even pathetic.

He captures sublime instances of humanity that would go unnoticed by a less observant soul and spins surprisingly realistic scenarios with down to earth and often uncomfortable comedy. He is an everyman and his dedication to his role as such makes the show endlessly inspiring to watch.

And what is even more impressive is CK’s ability not to lose sight of the story as he juggles producing, writing, directing and often editing duties. Every episode is clear in its message and insight about the world and the balance of comedy and melancholy is as good as anyone ever has juxtaposed. This is his creation, first and foremost, and he takes it as an opportunity not to falter but to rise with each episode, allowing us deeper into his curious and introspective mind.

No one subject is off limits including Louis himself. The self-loathing he has for as an overweight, bald, sweaty father of two makes him all the more real and relatable. He isn’t a hulking movie star, in fact he has said in interviews that he hates acting, and this is the exact reason why he soars. He knows better than to get caught up in the idea of him-self as the “star” and it allows him to focus on the comedy and realism his show excels in.

The first season was bold in its undertakings and spot on in its execution. From heckling to God, from self-worth to family, “Louie” balances it all and never loses sight on its intent. In one especially amazing episode, Louie goes on a date with an attractive woman, always comedic gold for an uncomfortable man with diminished self-esteem, and gets harassed by a young juvenile delinquent.

The kid threatens to kick Louis’ ass but won’t if Louis begs him not to. In front of his date and not wanting to get in a fight, Louis gives in, asking the much younger kid not to kick his ass. The kid laughs and leaves them alone, humored by this man’s lack of self-respect. His date, too, is disappointed by his lack of courageousness and leaves him half way through the date.

Disgruntled and feeling unjustly criticized, Louis tracks down the kid that threatened him and follows him home, where he confronts the kid’s equally violent and unruly parents. After witnessing the condition in which this boy lives in, Louis understands the boy’s propensity for aggression and hatred, and the episode ends with a touching moment between Louis and the boy’s father discussing the trials and difficulties of being a parent.

It is funny to see Louis lose out on the date but instead of reaching its high point with comedy, CK goes for broke and melds in touching moments that serve as a reminder that the world and life is an amalgamation of emotions that often change in the matter of seconds. He handles the episode with candor and tact, something not every comedian is capable of doing, but CK comes from such an honest place that it makes the show that much richer.

And while this is just one example of the hilariously heart rendering genius that is “Louie”, it is safe to say that every episode of its fantastic first season reaches the same emotional highs as the previous chapter but in a unique way, spinning a web of life in a matter of thirteen, half-hour episodes. If you haven’t had a chance to tune in, the first season of “Louie” is out now on DVD and the second season is currently airing Thursdays on FX.