The last episode dealt with Louie’s life as a single father, trying to educate his daughter Lily and then hosting Jane’s sleepover, but this week’s follows the other half of his life as a stand-up comedian. Being a single dad might be tiring and chaotic, but it sure beats the hell out of being on the road. Mixing the observational and surreal humour that characterises his stand-up, “The Road: Part 1” follows Louie as he leaves New York for Cincinnati, on one of the many show trips across the country that comedians have to take to make ends meet.
Not much happens even by Louie’s plot-light standards (Louie meets his driver, does a show, and in the airport tries to help a kid and loses his bag) but it’s full of signature touches like brutal truth telling, observations on the strangeness of humans, and brilliant background blink-and-you’ll miss it details. We watch the bad things that Louie has to put up with on the road, but also the happiness that he ultimately brings to people with his comedy. Louie’s hilariously child-aged agent returns, but he’s allowed the venue to put his client up in a crappy motel whose room door opens onto the parking lot and has a “human-sized cum stain on the floor”. It’s the little things that make all the difference when you’re on the road and staying in shitty motels has Louie saying “I’ll kill myself in a place like this.”
The episode introduces us to the life of a stand-up, to what people expect of them. Louie’s driver (Buzz from Home Alone!) might just be another lonely human being trying to connect but he goes about it the wrong way. He tells Louie about how all the other comedians he’s driven are such nice, fun guys, wanting to hang out and go to the coolest places, the kind of guys who shake everyone’s hand. Louie’s too old for that shit. He’s been doing this longer than he cares to remember and the road isn’t an adventure for his anymore, it’s just something he has to do, and something he’d rather do alone, quietly. He doesn’t have the energy or will to spend his time talking to people or making friends. It’s another example of Louie displaying the honesty that he wishes the rest of the world would take part in; unfortunately the truth can often be harsh and hard for some to take, and it ends about as well as the rest of the truth-tellings usually do, with the driver struck silent with tears rolling down his face.
The rest of “The Road” is all based in Cincinnati airport as Louie makes his way to the next city. There are lots of funny little moments, like his awkward interaction with the attendant at ‘Jizzy buns’ as he seriously considers her (joke) offer to put his head under the syrup pump and pour it into his mouth, the airline announcement to pre-board the “dying or afraid”, and a woman struggling to wake up her partner who looked like he was napping but might actually be dead. There’s also Louie trying to help after a young child who’s been separated from her mother, as the only person on the airtrain who seems remotely concerned. The child is visibly scared of him and when he turns his back to use the incomprehensible callbox she runs off; Louie is left with a hilariously resigned look on his face and just gets back on the train. When he gets to the gate though he realises he’s lost his bag and ends up sitting on the tarmac watching guys in hazmat suits blow-up a non-descript black suitcase because he can’t be sure it’s his. We then end where we started, with Louie buying a brand new bland bag and filling it with bland clothing, “Thursday, Friday, Saturday, sweat.”
The circularity of the narrative reflects the endless monotony and feeling of gloom that seems to envelop Louie when he’s on the road. Will he finish the season on a high in next week’s season finale, or with North Carolina prove to be an equally surreal yet boring experience for him?
Louie airs on American channel FX Thursday nights.