We asked last week whether Louie would finish the season on a high after the depression that surrounded his time on the road. Would he be reminded of why he loves comedy, of why he’s on the road in the first place? Of course, this being Louie, we were being naïve to wonder if it would end well (it never does), but getting to the root of his unhappiness at his current situation was at the heart of this season finale.
“[Comedy’s] not an art, stupid. It’s a bar trick,” says Kenny, the comedian that Louie has to share the condo with for his week in Oklahoma City. Louie’s time there shows him that he’s basically fallen out of love with comedy. The tiredness with the whole experience is visible in Louie’s eyes when he has to argue with yet another club owner about not wearing a suit and swearing on stage. We see the sweat pouring off him as he struggles with a crowd in a city he doesn’t want to be in. He says he loves it and always has, but he’s given so much, maybe too much, for it. He’s given up so many years, spent so much time alone and put so much effort into being a great comedian, and he doesn’t know what happened. He’s sharing the stage with a guy who, in another of Louie’s great truth-telling scenes, he says he thinks is a disgrace to the art form. A guy who acts like a jackass on stage; a moron who’s barely a comedian that he hates being classed in the same profession as.
As Louie has done so successfully before though, the show conditions us to side with Louie and see those that annoy or antagonise him as wrong, only to flip it so we see the other view. We understand from last week’s episode that Louie wants just be left alone when he’s on the road and are unsurprised when he rejects drink, food or to party with the random girls Kenny’s picked up. And we agree with Louie, looking at Kenny like he’s a hack, thinking “Come on, you’re too old for this.” But Kenny’s jokes might be stupid and he might not act like a tortured soul artist of comedian, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get it. “I’m a great dad. But you know what, I like to have fun, and two aren’t mutually exclusive.” And it’s not the fact that Louie doesn’t want to party, but that he’s totally unfriendly and can’t help but think himself better than everyone, “I don’t know what they call it where you’re from, but around the rest of the world you’re an asshole.” When Louie does let himself connect with people he actually enjoys it, like the moment in the flea market where he agreed to dress-up with two random ladies and take an ‘old timey’ photo.
Louie’s conversation with Kenny ends up with him crying (another emotional moment for him in a season where his feelings appear to always threaten to break the surface) and admitting that he does love farts and fart jokes; realising that maybe his relationship with comedy has changed. Maybe it’s a nod from C.K. to those that might criticise him for thinking his show is better than others, as well as those that think it is. Also, maybe, a reminder from Louis C.K. to himself not to overthink his comedy – we know that in his stand-up C.K. does in fact take jokes about farts, masturbation and poop to an art form, as well as in the show, like with “A La Carte’s” elaborate diarrhoea joke. In the show it’s a reminder to Louie not to take himself so seriously either, and he agrees to let loose and finish a whole bottle of whiskey with Kenny.
Of course, for Louie things don’t end well, with a cut to Louie hunched over the toilet bowl vomiting, and then Kenny trying to take a ‘top-decker’ in the tank. Anywhere else there would be a gross-out moment or that would be the end of the scene, but in Louie the world view stays the same, with Kenny slipping and falling, blood pooling around his head and later Louie is told in the hospital that he didn’t make it.
An episode that, like the season as a whole, was dramatic, deep, absurd and most importantly funny. A shame there were only 8 episodes in this short order, but should there be another season, it’s fascinating to think what Louis C.K. might do for his next ‘bar trick’.
Louie airs on American channel FX on Thursday nights.