kimberlee rossi-fuchs lives with louie…
“Telling Jokes / Set Up,” this week’s episode of Louis CK’s Louie, opens with the fairly sweet scene of Louie and his daughters sitting around the dinner table telling knock-knock jokes. It’s an intimate moment between a father and his daughters, and one that could be mind-numbingly dull, as young children rarely, if ever, provide sparkling dinner conversation. Instead, Louie appears to be genuinely enjoying himself, particularly the shitty joke-telling skills of his younger daughter, Jane, as he and his eldest daughter, Lilly, laugh at the utter randomness and nonsensical nature of Jane’s jokes (The punch line to her painter knock-knock joke: “The painter who painted both of you as mermaids, but instead of being underwater, it’s pee-pee.”).
In addition to a painting a charming family portrait, the scene also captures the essence of CK’s humor and comic philosophy as a whole. After Louie and Lilly begin to improvise their own silly knock-knock jokes, forgoing punch lines altogether in favor of hard stares and odd facial expressions, Jane whines that she doesn’t get it. Rather than clue her in, Lilly points out, “Then you just don’t get it.” That sentiment is true of Louie’s humor, as well. While writing these reviews, it’s often hard to pin down and flush into words precisely what it is that makes a given moment funny. Louie isn’t the type of show that gets laughs from snappy dialogue or farcical misunderstandings. Rather than any elaborate comic plotlines, the show often elicits laughs from the subtle inner workings of Louie’s mind as he deals with the mundane and occasionally unpleasant moments of his daily life. I can’t explain why Louie’s slightly mocking laughter at his daughter’s awful joke (Q: Who didn’t let the gorilla into the ballet? A: Just the people who are in charge of that decision) is funny – it just is and you either get it or you don’t.
The dinner table scene is immediately followed by CK on stage at The Comedy Cellar, bringing Jane’s gorilla joke to life in his act, imagining the frustrated gorilla trying to appear incognito by busying himself with his cell phone until event security stops him from entering because, “Gorilla kills everyone in the ballet once, shame on the gorilla.” Akin to The Aristocrats, the gorilla joke isn’t about the punch line at all, but rather the surreal world his daughter inadvertently created. For CK, that becomes the joke itself and he spins on and on from that one premise of a gorilla denied access to a cultural event. The gorilla joke is also indicative of just how deep CK’s well of inspiration runs – the man can literally turn a child’s terrible joke good.
The episode segues into the second, main vignette of the episode with Louie’s comedian friend, Allan Havey, following Louie’s set at The Comedy Cellar. While the married, but childless Havey lives a different set of circumstances from CK, the two seem to share a similar comedic point of view and apparently one which involves a lot of self-deprecating discussion about one’s own penis. I must admit that I hadn’t heard Havey before last night’s episode, but I will definitely keep an eye out for him in the future, as his featured act was pretty funny, particularly the bit about his married and sedate Bing Crosby-esque penis. Later, at the behest of his wife, Debbie, Allan invites Louie over for dinner. Louie finds the invitation odd, but reluctantly agrees and on the night of the dinner, heads out to their home on his cool-guy motorcycle from last week.
Upon arriving at Havey’s home, Louie realizes the purpose of the invitation was to set him up with Debbie’s friend, Lori (played by 2011 Oscar-winner Melissa Leo). Neither Louie nor Lori were aware of the arranged date and neither is particularly thrilled about it, making for an incredibly awkward dinner party. Debbie uses the condescending tone one normally uses when talking to a child when she urges Louie, “Why don’t you ask Lori what she does?” Lori comes across as dour and unpleasant, aggressively cutting her food to shreds and rudely nipping any attempts at conversation in the bud. As Louie and Lori sit there looking annoyed and uncomfortable, it’s easy to see why Debbie thought they’d make such a good match. As soon as Debbie and Allan begin to bicker, Louie and Lori finally find something to bond over. “Married people,” she sneers through a cloud of cigarette smoke, “They just wanna spread their shit on everybody.” They decide to ditch the Havey’s and head to a local bar where all of a sudden, they seem to be having a great time, getting drunk and laughing over their shared cynical world view that pretty much everything is shit.
Leaving the bar, a tipsy Lori offers Louie a ride home and the evening looks like it’s going to end on a high note when she pulls her truck over in an alley and offers him a blow job. Of course, Louie happily accepts, but when she asks for payback time afterwards, he balks at reciprocating, claiming his values preclude first-date cunnilingus. His argument comes across as more selfish than moral and Lori fiercely argues about the double-standard that implies and angrily asks if he thinks she’s a whore for doing something she simply deems as polite way to end a good date. He says no, but quickly adds, “But if I did what you did, I’d feel like a whore.” Still parked in the alley, Lori bets him $1000 he’ll go down on her before the night’s end. She questions his sexuality and Louie laughs at the idea that calling him gay will make him change his mind. That’s when Lori pulls out her finisher move, punching Louie in the face so hard that his head shatters her passenger window and then twisting his arm until he agrees to finally reciprocate. The punch to the head and essential date-rape came out of nowhere and was hilarious in its ferocity. Afterward, Lori points out that he now owes her $1000, but says she can wait to collect until they go out again, a date which Louie eagerly agrees to. Whereas last week’s episode began with a bizarre break-up, this week’s closed with one of the strangest and funniest first dates I’ve ever seen on television. As Lori, Melissa Leo was crude, rough around the edges, and hilarious. Both her performance and the always stellar writing helped make “Telling Jokes / Set Up” one of the most wickedly funny episodes of Louie to date.