Monthly Archives: July 2012

After Sex, After Yes (Season 3, Episode 4)

Dear Lili, Evan, and Phil,

Let’s start at the very beginning with the title: “Daddy’s Girlfriend, Part 1.” This is, speaking of formal surprises, Louie’s first two-part episode yet. CK has seemingly taken so many swerves with his show that now seriality—perhaps the defining convention of televisual narrative—now feels erratic, even devious. As other writers have suggested, good things cannot be waiting for Louie in Part 2. This is perhaps a prejudice, but, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself–

“Daddy’s Girlfriend, Part 1.” The title speaks with the subject as and from the perspective of the daughters, but the entire episode is still, as usual, seen from the eyes of Louie (this might be the most consistent aspect of the show). Though Louie’s status as a dad (and a single one at that) is firmly tied up with his self-identity throughout the series, this does not preclude his myopia and, oftentimes, selfishness as a single man.

Early on in the episode, stand-up Louie riffs on the term “prejudice,” which his daughters have asked him to define. Dad stumbles. Prejudice as a general phenomenon is, as Louie explains, exactly what the word says: “You judge before. Pre-ju-dice.” (After reading Litvak’s The Un-Americans this week, the homonymic pun between Louie’s emphatic pre-ju-dice and pre-jew-dice seems almost too convenient. But don’t judge me on that.) Prejudices, as markers of individual personalities, however, are more difficult to define—touchy in their simultaneous predictability and ability to shock. Louie, so articulate on stage, mocks his then-mumbled attempt to explain prejudice.

He goes on to assert with confidence that he “just knows” Scarlett Johansson would be terrific in bed, though his riff ends with this acknowledgment: “I still jerk off to that wedding album I found in the garbage.” Is it easier to be committed to your prejudices, or prejudiced toward commitments?

Rewind. Back to the title. “Daddy’s Girlfriend, Part 1” implies a commitment to narrative continuity. Girlfriends, too, imply a status of romantic commitment. (You don’t have to marry them, though you might.) Over diner food, Lilly tells Louie about “mom’s friend, Patrick” who is “pretty funny.” What underlies this comment is that Louie used to be mom’s “friend”; Louie is pretty funny. The daughters go on to ask Louie when is he going to get a girlfriend. The look of dismay on dad’s face is palpable. This episode is as much about “Daddy’s Girlfriend” as it is about “Daddy’s Girls.” Throughout the episode, you wonder if Louie goes to seek a girlfriend because of his daughters, or for himself.

We’ve seen Louie—as single dad—navigate the corridors of hook-up culture aplenty. Many episodes centre around him having sex with women who then never appear again in the show itself, though they likely do in Louie’s life, however sporadically. (The final joke of episode 2 this season was Louie agreeing to see Laurie again—and I little wonder that he does, from time to time.) Even this episode shows Louie trying to stretch a booty-call situation into girlfriend material. His “hanging out” with Maria Bamford means meeting on the corner of a sidewalk, going to her apartment, and promptly having sex. After sex, Bamford and Louie lie on the bed watching reality television, which already points to the lack of connection between the two (the physical connection is apparently just as shoddy). Determined, though, Louie (likely inspired by the idea that Bamford could be, for his daughters, the female counterpart to ex-wife’s funny friend Patrick) asks Bamford to come over and have dinner with his daughters. She immediately senses where this is going, and with a scrunched-up face, stresses that booty calls should not come with “added features.” As her metaphor “now I’m all dicked up in the head” suggests, certain dick encounters start down there (“I’ll blow you so you’ll get hard again”) and certainly should stay there.

Against all prior hook-ups where Louie essentially drops his role as decent male (aka decent dad), this one with Bamford offers a difference: he’s trying to link his sex life up with his family one. A favourite episode of mine, “Bully” from Season 1, shows Louie on a date rather than a booty-call; with a potential girlfriend, we see Louie then take into consideration his daughters and prioritizing—even articulating—his responsibilities as a dad.

“Daddy’s Girlfriend, Part 1.” There is something almost gruesome in the title–a joke on modern relationships in liberal culture generally. Dads don’t live with moms. Moms have friends. Dads have girlfriends. Marriage albums end up in the trash. Dad masturbates to them. Dropping Lilly off at school, Louie entertains fantasies of taking a teacher (how convenient!) as girlfriend for him and his daughters.

As he cruises classrooms from the hallway, a soundtrack (somewhere between doo-wop and bossa nova) kicks in as the camera pans slowly over the long skirts, tights, and pony tails of smiling schoolteachers. The combination of slow motion and bubbling ballad emphasizes their conservative dress as to almost attenuate, and so summarily extinguish, the allure behind sexy schoolteacher tropes. Indeed, if Louie is seeking a girlfriend, then he’s looking for a relationship that goes beyond one hallucinatory bout of soft-focus sex on a school-desk. The soundtrack primes us for a sexual encounter, but it’s not the kind that expands into girlfriendship. While one teacher shuts a door in Louie’s face (which also abruptly shuts down the music), another quickly loses girlfriend potential when Louie spots the engagement ring on her finger. Marriage isn’t sexy. Someone else’s romantic beginning marks sexual foreclosure for Louie. Only the dregs of broken vows offer erotic promise.

Louie’s male gaze (helped by camera and soundtrack) is pronounced exactly so the audience can get some distance on these scenes of obvious objectification. This form of prejudice can be dangerous. The third and final teacher Louie cruises is gesticulating at the children. Her arms make wide movements. She seems nice. She seems funny. But as the camera emphasizes, funny women come with stereotyped costs: this teacher is heaver than the others. Following this, Louie images a scenario where she’ll want sex from behind. *Cue: stop music.* Her body speaks a kind of logic about how she wants her body to be handled. That, indeed, is some shitty prejudice. And the fact that we as viewers understand it (even if in a mocked form) is shitty in itself.

This is, as Evan as previously stated, how the structure of Louie works. CK sets us up for a kind of narrative logic that then gets turned. And what makes the show so funny and surprising is how viewers recognize that they were primed for narrative to turn another way. If Louie’s endings (or in this case, his Part Twos) intercept our first impressions, how do we make of our ability to move on—or to move with—where these conclusions take us?

At a bookstore, a version of sexy schoolteacher is presented through a bookstore clerk (played by Parker Posey). The same ballad starts when Louie spots her, except this time the camera doesn’t focus on Posey–it focuses on Louie. He inches toward her, his awkward body taking the initiative to come beside hers, rather than using filmic close-ups to get hers right before his eyes. The song is interrupted once by her male colleague—“Can I help you?”—but it starts again, as though this narrative could have a redo, or doesn’t necessarily need to go without a stutter.

Posey isn’t hot, she’s “h-horribly cute,” as Louie tells her later. She wears glasses, which she takes on and off during Louie’s various interactions with her. He doesn’t ask her out on a date during their first encounter. Instead, he repeatedly returns to the bookstore, and they, in a sense, get to know one another. She, additionally, gets to learn more about Louie’s daughters. Posey loves the children’s section. Maybe these added features are actually that–features. Her initial recommendation of a funny book doesn’t work for Jane, but she does seem to understand the power of novels to take budding female anxieties out for “a safe kind of spin.”

Like the reality show that appears as something of a meta-text throughout this episode, the novel is a site of safe projection. As the credits roll, the reality show returns as a kind of mediation and meditation between Part 1 and Part 2 (the final lines holds its speaker in suspense: “I just want to go home”). Like real reality shows—and like Louie—this made-up one follows the rhythm of alternating between people who speak to the television, commenting on their actions/character (engaging the audience much like stand-up Louie does), and then the actual scenarios where character gets played out.

That the reality show mirrors the form of Louie begins to beg the question: what is the genre of Louie? Does it have a start or a finish? Does it have endless starts? Are there parts that add up to a whole? Or is everything just a part? Is Louie autobiographical in the way that all reality television is based on an ability to “cheat” the real? Or is it as transparently artificial and predictable as this fake reality television show emphasizes? Are we to judge it—even pre-judge it—by a supposed genre? Or do we wait for it to surprise us?

Louie is wrong about expecting a “no” from Posey when he asks her out. Even if he harbours an obscene amount of visual prejudice against women, Louie uses his charming brand of vulnerable stuttering to talk Posey into a date by preemtively talking her out of her prejudice. Posey, though, counters his prejudice against her; she doesn’t “choose guys based on looks” and agrees (“of course!”) on a date. This disequilibrium between them is what suggests to me that Part 2 might be the last segment for these two.

Fist pump,
Jane

Episode 3 of Louie: Bellies and Balloons

Dear Evan, Phil, and Jane,

Louie’s Miami is a sort of virtual reality desert that perpetually “unmans” him. A man’s voice (gay—Louis CK likes to make a point of not-flagging-but-flagging gay flight attendants) announces they’ll be landing soon. In Miami, the very first people we see aren’t so much people as they are two bellies, women’s, invisible under fashionably ruched fabric. At check-in, a shirtless lanky man’s belly dominates the scene, and the camera lingers on it and refuses to follow Louie to the check-in counter. The next day, as he applies sunscreen (always a depressing reminder of one’s mortality), he gets knocked down by a mixed group of young bellies. “Sorry, man, I didn’t see you there,” they say. There’s no malice; he’s just not visible to them. They almost literally walk through him. Somewhat recovered, about to take off his shirt, the camera zooms in on the concave stomachs of the women around him. Louie pulls his shirt down and goes back to his hotel room, where he orders and eats a series of sandwiches and falls disgustingly asleep.

There’s no joy, no surprise, no adrenaline, just a never-ending dirge-like meditation on his grotesque existence. But what’s interesting about it is that it’s basically silent: it’s the visual representation of his usual stand-up, and the stand-up has gone missing. This episode has Louie at his most blindingly inarticulate—perhaps even more so than in Episode 1, where he forces April to break up with herself. That’s not quite right: it’s not the Louie himself is more inarticulate, it’s that the audience’s experience of the show is non-narrated. Usually we have Louis CK, stand-up comic, to tell us a little about what Louie is doing. In Episode 1 we had April to interpret Louie for us. But in Episode 3 we’re as close to Louie as we’re ever likely to get: we’re seeing the experiences he always jokes about from the inside.

Except for one, of course, and it’s a big one: we don’t see Louie jacking off. Louis CK has dedicated an entire episode to Louie’s defense of masturbation. This is not coincidence.

So what happens to Louie in this oasis of disciplined bellies? Well, for one thing, the gorgeous people are effectively making it impossible for him to be there. He spoils the thing by being part of it—you see that in his face. He’s the thing his stand-up is always in some sense about being: an apparently white dude who isn’t especially attractive. So he starts looking for alternative Things To Be.

At first he tries out the routine of an old man, and gets up early to swim before the Speedorati descend en masse. Other old men wave. It’s a whole outsider’s world he’s discovering—a pool of other lonely men with saggy bellies.

In being unsexed, he’s also being feminized, of course—he’s paralyzingly body-conscious despite his social invisibility. Even his things are invisible—the chair guy stacks the other chairs on top of his other things without so much as a pause.

Then someone sees him and pulls him out the water. “Don’t be embarrassed, man, anyone can lose control in the water,” Ramón says, kindly.

“I wasn’t drowning, but thanks for saving me,” says Louie when they’re saying their first goodbyes. The show loves that line because Ramón is obviously Louie’s prince charming. He’s young. His belly is enviable. He belongs in the beach universe, but he prefers Louie’s company to the bellies. He pulls Louie out of the water against his will, rescues him from the Island of Old Geezers and turns him into the little kid he was when he last spoke Spanish. They chase chickens (the camera, incidentally, beheads them in this scene more often than not—they’re two bellies chasing chickens). They eat. Then the camera cuts to a bunch of American-themed murals in Spanish. Murals of George Washington, “Padre de la Independencia” and a Mt. Rushmore mural with “God bless and protect America” are interlaced with murals of Pedro Knight and Libertad Lamarque. The question of which is and isn’t the “real” America is everywhere in this episode, and it’s typical of Louie that Louie’s contact with Ramón’s world is based on a series of misunderstandings: he wasn’t drowning and he isn’t gay, but to insist too hard upon either of those things might close the wormhole to this happy dimension.

There are two noteworthy moments: one is Ramón’s insistence that laughter is a gift. He thanks Louie for making him laugh even as Louie tries not to thank him for being saved (and objects to the girl taking the strawberry he didn’t give). I don’t know what to do with that moment. Maybe it’s underscoring that Louie is becoming more ungenerous as a function of his isolation, in which case his inability to clarify to Ramón that he isn’t gay is both a symptom of his inarticulacy and a marker of his growth. It’s an act of generosity to go ahead and let Ramón read him the wrong way.

The second noteworthy moment is when Ramón introduces him to his uncle who beckons Louie closer and says, “Louie, un amigo es un hermano, y un hermano es uno mismo.” A friend is a brother, and a brother is oneself. This obviously speaks to Louie’s self-loathing: he can only make a friend when he stops despising himself long enough to do something else, but it’s probably doing something else too, which I hope isn’t the Latin equivalent of the Magical Negro.

I don’t know what to make of the bellies, guys, but they’re everywhere—bellies are both appetitive and disciplined; they seem to contain the principles of deprivation and satisfaction both. Take the girl who takes Louie’s strawberry. Her concave belly nevertheless takes from Louie’s overstuffed one, and he’s pissed. He forces the belly to recognize its moral bankruptcy.

This doesn’t satisfy, though. Louie isn’t full yet. He’s as bitter and bloated as he is existentially hungry. It’s when Ramón comes up and slaps him on the back, making Louie spill coffee, that a different model comes into focus. For what it’s worth, Ramón’s habits of ingestion are accordingly specific and spare: “I’ll have a Sprite,” he says when Louie offers to buy him a drink to thank him for saving his life. Louie, in the meantime asks for some “brown liquid in a glass.” Ramón doesn’t ask for an intoxicant, whereas Louie wants a glass of brown oblivion.

Maybe Ramón is just giving Louie a way to see himself as contributing something good to the word. “Are you funny?” he asks. “Then I did a good thing by saving you.” And the self-loathing goes down a notch, and Louie spends a night being silly, and hates balloons a little less.

The last scene is worth recapping:

“First of all, I have zero anything, okay?”

“I guess what, the thing is that, I feel like…”

“See? I’m gonna stop you right there.”

“When my uncle says all men are brothers, it’s true right?”

“I don’t know if I’ve ever—I’m not trying anything that—and I don’t mean that—I mean, you know.”

There’s no standup until the very end of this episode. Before that there’s a clip that starts with Louie saying “I hate balloons.” It gets cut off, because it’s as much a part of Louie’s sterile life cycle as anything else. Louie hates balloons. He’s the jaded comedian who knows all the jokes, the guy whose funny muscles are exhausted, the guy you can’t get to  laugh. The standup only shows up at the end, with a speech about heterosexual men being anxious. “You can’t really throw wonderful around so much,” he says, of an encounter that clearly was, at every level, wonderful.

Is this episode actually about letting go of some parts of Louie’s heteronormative “American white guy” masculinity and letting the parts that don’t fit into his comedy breathe? Is this the real Miami? Or is Ramon’s Miami just a Never Never Land, a day Louie got to spend as an overgrown kid in an inclusive America that doesn’t revolve around eating too much and jacking off? Is it about finding that your roots are so painfully particular that you can’t feel like you fit in even when people call you “my brother” and claim you? Maybe it’s about understanding that friends are brothers and brothers are us, but that’s not as comfortable or comforting a slippage as it seems.

Muchos pantalones, man,

Lili

RapeJoke and The Politeness Police: Louie, Tosh, and Episode 2

Dear Jane, Phil, and Evan,

I’m a bit behindhand as I’m writing this from Chile, but tell me if you’ve heard this one before:

*

Girl: “You’re making jokes about rape, and that’s offensive.”

Boy: “You don’t like rape? You don’t? That’s really weird, cuz you wouldn’t exist if your mom hadn’t been raped by that homeless Chinese guy. No, listen, I’m sorry. It’s hard to really come back from that, but I’m sorry. Can you do me a favor?”

Girl: “What?”

Boy: “Can you please die of AIDS? Does anybody here have AIDS? Can they put their dick in her face and get her started on that?”

*

I thought about making this one of those “who said it?” Facebook infographics where you prove that Rush Limbaugh and Mira Sorvino or whoever say the same stuff. It’s pointless, of course. We all know it’s from Louie’s first season, the “Heckler/Cop Movie” episode, and we all know that it almost perfectly mirrors the woman’s account of her encounter with Daniel Tosh wherein he wondered how funny it would be if five guys gang-banged her right there (here is a good meditation on how funny). The internet has its laws, and I hereby dub this the Tosh Theorem: if there’s an article about Daniel Tosh and the girl who spoke up at his show, then there’s a commenter saying that Louis CK already did an episode on this. And the two instances—the real-life one and the fictional one—will blend, and the comments will curve asymptotically toward a single self-evident truth:

Was she a heckler? Is saying you don’t think rape jokes are funny heckling? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t (here’s a worthwhile defense of the latter), but we don’t ask those questions. Instead, we use the word heckler to simplify a complicated moment wherein two different scales of right and wrong come into conflict.

If we had any doubts about Louie’s influence on comedy culture, we need look no further than the extent to which that “Heckler/Cop Movie” episode has crystallized comedy-goers’ sense of how people are supposed to behave at a show. It’s what everyone quotes. That episode shortcircuits to this: if you’re a bad audience member, you’re a bad person.

“You have a good life and it’s just the way you want it to be,” Louie says in his Reasonable Guy voice. “These guys don’t have a life. This is all they have. Their lives are shit. They don’t have families, they don’t have friends, all they have is this. They have these fifteen minutes … and you took it away from them.”

Comedians are a special case. That’s the argument. It’s slipped in there so quickly you barely notice it as the guilt goes swishing by. Not that the special pleading should surprise us. Remember Joan Rivers’ line to Louie? “What we do, my darling, is a calling.” Louis CK believes that, and he believes that comedians in their capacity as comedians are exempt from our scorn and our bad behavior—or should be. He doesn’t feel this way about other jobs; Louie, remember, has no trouble hassling people doing other kinds of menial work. Like rental car agencies. “I always switch my car,” he says. “I ask for another car, and they ask me, ‘why?’ And I’m like, because I’m an asshole. That’s why. Just—this is your job.”

The girl offers a version of precisely this argument. “People are going to talk,” the girl says, “and it’s your job to deal with it, or learn to handle it at least. Why are you being such a baby?”

“Most people are polite,” Louie says, “and would rather cut off their hand than hurt a show by talking. A good person wouldn’t do that, so you must be a bad person.”

Linger, if you will, on the ambiguity of that phrase, “hurt a show.” At first I thought it referred to the audience’s right to a show they paid for. But that’s not it—Louie’s defense has less to do with the audience and their rights than with the comedian whose performance it is. It’s the comedian’s show that’s being hurt.

Louie doesn’t really think he’s an asshole for demanding a different car, or for dropping a rental car off in front of the airport without returning it and making someone else go get it. Not really. These things might make him a bad customer, but they don’t make him Fundamentally Impolite, i.e., a Bad Person. Politeness is beside the point in an ordinary transaction like renting a car. Who cares about whether a rental agency customer service representative has family and friends? Not us! But comedians and their audiences transcend the transactional, Louie implies. Therefore, being a bad audience member is morally wrong.

That’s the crux of the Louie Defense that got lobbed at Anonymous Woman by the #toshdefenders: being a bad audience member makes you a bad person.

It’s worth reviewing that logic, because it’s otherwise hard to understand the phenomenon that followed l’affaire Tosh, in which hordes of shock jocks suddenly transformed into scorched-earth Emily Posts. These people were adamant about manners, and their thought process was clear: a violation of etiquette absolutely and uncomplicatedly warrants a thought experiment in which someone is gang-raped in front of the audience by five men. (Or, in the manager’s account of things, a thought experiment in which the comedian wonders aloud whether the woman objecting to a rape joke is upset because of her own history of sexual abuse. He seems, oddly, to think that this version of things is better.)

It is wildly weird to see a crowd that revels in stories about jerking off and sisters getting raped morph into prim neo-Victorians when someone interrupted Tosh’s show. Ever the notetaker, I summarized some iterations of the phenomenon as best I could:

A slight variation on the theme held that she was preachy, shrill, and an instance of the damage feminism has done to society. The following argument was made without a shred of irony:

Being sanctimonious about someone else’s sanctimony is the new shock humor. Politeness is in the air, y’all.

Jane got us all thinking about comfort and courtesy last week, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about comfort and courtesy since.

“I’m not comfortable with that,” Louie says to Laurie in Episode 2. “You wouldn’t want me to do something I’m not comfortable with, would you?” “Fuck that,” Laurie says.

Everyone should read Jane’s history of what it means to be “comfortable,” but at the heart of its usage in Episode 2, and Laurie’s rejection of it as relevant, are two competing paradigms of politeness. Laurie says it’s impolite not to give sexual satisfaction if you’ve willingly accepted it. Louie says it’s impolite to demand a sexual experience that the other person does not wish to deliver. The first case is built around a gift whose social function goes unrecognized and is not reciprocated. The second is built around an understanding of a gift as a donation detached from a social context and which requires no reciprocation. But both parties agree on one thing: the terrain on which their arguments will live or die is the field of Good Manners. Which—this is the fight they’re having—is the more discourteous action?

Evan observed that the end of Episode 2 was a sort of extended nod to The Aristocrats. He is immensely, profoundly, oh-so-right. I didn’t know about The Aristocrats, I’m embarrassed to say, so  when Evan mentioned it/them I watched Bob Saget’s epic take and most of the 2005 documentary where all the greats doing their best versions of the all-time best comedian joke. I ended up … puzzled. It’s admittedly not the sort of joke one is supposed to hear forty times in a row, but even taking that into account, the joke just wasn’t very funny.

When I say the joke isn’t funny, I’m really talking about the punchline. The way the joke is supposed to work is by upsetting your expectations of what aristocrats do and are. It works beautifully if you’re a nineteenth-century person who subliminally associates the aristocracy with courtesy and correctness and purity. No twenty-first-century person has any such associations—the word “aristocrat” is a quaint anachronism. We have the Kardashians and before that we had Paris Hilton. We don’t resent the rich the way we used to, and they don’t try to model morality for us. They’ve become The Aristocrats. That’s just how it is, and so the joke just doesn’t really speak to us anymore. It doesn’t enliven our sense of society or the language; it doesn’t act on our deeply-held expectations. It’s the kind of joke an uncle tells but with some shit, incest and vomit thrown in. It feels old.

But there’s another way the two poles The Aristocrats juxtaposes have collapsed. It’s not just that the “aristocracy” has gone and got itself some diarrheic morals, which it has. It’s also that the comedians have started codifying morals of their own. We used to have the filthy decadence on one side and the patrician masters of etiquette on the other, so it was funny when they became connected. Now, though, there’s a sector of the population that is simultaneously the raunchiest, loudest, filthiest and the group most stringently obsessed with enforcing social proprieties. That sector is the comedy crowd. That may be inevitable, but the point is that #toshdefenders aren’t thinkable in a universe where The Aristocrats is funny.

I want to get back to Evan’s important point, though, about how Louie is using The Aristocrats. The Aristocrats is shock-based; but it’s a slow-cooking shock.  It’s takes the funnybone burnout that plagues comedians and rubbing it viciously until it becomes erect. In this sense, it’s intensely coercive. But it’s also an insider’s game, a game of comedic one-upmanship. It’s a contest at its core. And it’s a blank check to indulge in what seems to have become the Holy Grail for comedians: the rape joke. And that Holy Grail is what everyone is circling the wagons to correct. If the rape joke is the Holy Grail, the funny rape joke is the Philosopher’s Stone.

Louis CK’s support of Daniel Tosh might sadden but it shouldn’t surprise us. Let’s be real; Tosh wasn’t even taking a risk when he flamed that woman. It wasn’t a misstep. He cribbed his heckler shutdown technique straight from CK in “Heckler/Cop Movie.” Sure, it’s possible that the resemblances are coincidental. It’s much more likely that in the heat of the moment he reached  out and found, ready to hand, a comedically critically acclaimed script on that very subject! That he wondered aloud about the funniness of rape the very week Louie aired Episode 2 was just a stroke of good luck. As I waded through the soup of sanctimony, anger, freedom of speech claims and theories of comedic liberty—nestled in with the comfortable consensus view that a bad audience member deserves all The Aristocrats can give and more—I may have missed something important: the end of Episode 2 was (unless I’m much mistaken) supposed to be CK’s crowning achievement: a funny rape joke.

Rudely,

L

PS–No sooner had this post gone up than Gerry Canavan and Rafi Kam informed me that Louis CK walked back the Tosh support this very eve,  claiming (among other things) that the tweet to Tosh was a coincidence. That seemed wildly unlikely, but I just reviewed his Twitter usage habits and they’re random and spare enough that it does seem plausible. (Just.) I can’t see the clip because Chile is a barren wasteland without same-day access to breaking American television, so I can’t comment in any more detail, but I hope what he said was good and makes us feel better about him. It doesn’t change any of the above: “Heckler/Cop Movie” is clearly a source text for comedians and comedy-goers—that’s how it’s functioning, regardless of Louis CK’s intent—“Setup” is still setting up a rape joke, and politeness is (literally) all the rage.

Over and out,

L

Manners, Please (Season 3, Episode 2)

Dear Evan, Lili, and Phil,

I’ve been thinking about the phrase “I’m not comfortable with that” this past week—about how it’s both abstract and euphemistic, and how goddamn polite it is, especially when thinking of its deployment in, say, the bedroom. Or even in sexual encounters less “polite” than a bedroom scene. When Laurie asks Louie to return her sexual favour by eating her out, his response might as well be: “I’m not comfortable with that.” The general tone of this sentiment is at least present during the scene, what with Louie trying in his most passive and apologetic Louie-like-way to say no, hoping that his posture at prudishness won’t scan as (and I agree with Evan here) laziness. Laurie doesn’t take no for an answer.

A commenter felt that Evan was being a little too polite himself in describing Laurie’s rather impolite demand-cum-threat as an act of “persuasion.” The conversation that ensued in our comments section turned to look at notions of rape, sexism, and gender double standards–all of which there already are precedents for in Louie. This one comment by Evan, I believe, deserves some mining:

One reading of the scene, then, is that if Laurie’s behavior toward Louie *is* rape, then she’s invalidated her own implicit double-standard argument by allowing herself to engage in behavior that, if the genders were switched, she would think was immoral. (This is assuming that Laurie doesn’t think of her own act as rape, which is probably the case.) The hypocrisy is not Louie’s — for receiving oral sex but refusing to reciprocate — but Laurie’s, for calling him out on immoral behavior while allowing herself to suspend the rules of sexual morality simply because she’s a woman.

By introducing a character like Laurie who refuses “the rules of sexual morality simply because she’s a woman,” C.K. seems to be (again, again!) presenting a radical form of sexual politics where the woman is the impolite one—the one who doesn’t give a fuck without getting one in return. Which is why it has been distressing that C.K.’s public response to Daniel Tosh’s devastating rape threats to a female audience member was not condemnatory, or even brashly rude (as I would hope and do expect from him now, at least based on his show), but actually complementary.

The fact that Tosh would propose (and later try to justify) an aggressive rape scenario under the guise of a “joke” is fucked up enough, but that C.K.’s response would pile on additional jocularity is more than depressing.

As Evan explains in his post, “Louie the show knows that surprise is the only formal structure it can trust.” Louie is adamant on working against classical forms of narrative television, as well as narrative jokes–and more often than not this working against is a way of moving forward. As a stand-up comedian, Louis C.K. is primarily a storyteller—both inside and outside of his show. I understood his not-so-polite on-stage criticism of sexism as something that didn’t really change, regardless of his status as Louie or Louis. As Lili noted, on stage is when Louie the character is both the most confident and has the greatest perspective; it’s when he most resembles Louis.

C.K.’s response to Tosh was a surprise, indeed, though not the one I’d wish for. As a variant on Angus’s final sentence on this subject, so what am I supposed to do with this story now?

Last episode begins and ends with scenes of begrudged acquiescence–of pushing and pulling, sucking and blowing, quite literally and physically–though to vastly different effects. It opens with Lilly’s attempts to force Jane (just noticed the name confluence with Dear TV) in responding to her knock-knock joke. Lilly’s silence rises to a vocalized resistance when Louie tells her to respond: “I doesn’t want to [open the door].” She eventually does, and they laugh at the utter silliness of Jane’s joke (it’s incomprehensible and harmless, though entirely endearing). The tussle with which the show ends, however, begins with taunts that quickly escalate to a broken car window, and then, well, rape. If the first scene spotlights a joke that falls flat, but still garners chuckles, what do we make of the final one?

As the episode ends, Louie seems stunned by the turn of events, but his face also reads as pretty blasé as he agrees to Laurie’s: “ You wanna go out again, right?” C.K., though, should know that what amounts to a public congratulations/joke toward Tosh (“your show makes me laugh every time I watch it/and you have pretty eyes”) isn’t something many fans will take with as much blaséness his Louie might. (Probably because this instance of rape wasn’t about Louie or Laurie, but a girl entirely beyond the limits of his show.) If C.K. wants to join the conversation, it’s important for him to acknowledge her presence. For him to do otherwise, as he did, is not only not at all funny, but indefensibly rude.

Jane

Jokes of Innocence and Jokes of Experience, or Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

Dear Lili, Jane, and Phil,

“I’ve been doing comedy for 25 years. I know every joke,” Louis C.K. proclaims at the start of Episode 2 of the third season of Louie. “Even if I haven’t heard it, you start telling me a joke, I know how it’s going to work.” If you’ve ever spent any time with professional comedians, you’ll have noted how infrequently they laugh or smile: prolonged exposure to the mechanics and the business of joke-telling, and the experience of hundreds if not thousands of easy, lazy, or overfamiliar jokes have taken their toll. This joyless, jaded, seen-it-all affect is something that Louie has captured perfectly from its very first episode: not just Louie, but pretty much all his comedian friends (all of them, naturally, played by real-life comedians) display it.

ImageThis episode gives us an idea of what it takes to make Louie laugh. In “Telling Jokes/Set-Up” — a title that both follows the utilitarian naming formula previous episodes of Louie have established and performs a telling (ahem) play on words — we first see Louie eating dinner with his daughters, telling knock-knock jokes. The jokes start out relatively simple (“Who’s there?” “Moo.” “Moo who?” “I didn’t know you were crying, cow”) and quickly, as often with small kids, get very convoluted and silly (“The painter who painted both of you as mermaids, but instead of being underwater, it’s pee pee”). The pleasure of the scene is less in the girls’ performances than in Louis’ utterly convincing delight in their innocent amateur attempts at something he does for a living. (In case we didn’t get it, the stand-up segment immediately following this scene underlines the point.)

In the second, much longer story, which stretches across three segments, we follow Louie as he is set up by his comedian friend Allan Havey with a woman named Laurie (played by the Oscar-winning Melissa Leo). At first Louie and Laurie display little interest in one another, but they bond over their mutual distaste for their married friends. (“Married people. They just love spreading their shit on everyone.”) The two go off to a bar together, get drunk, and end up in the front of Laurie’s truck negotiating an awkward sexual encounter. (Is there any other kind, in Louie-world?) Laurie gladly fellates Louie, but when she requests reciprocation, he refuses, claiming that the act is too intimate for him. (There may be some truth to this assertion, but I think we’re supposed to think, as Laurie does, that he’s just lazy.) Finally, through a combination of humiliation and physical violence (she punches him in the face, knocking his head into the passenger-side window and cracking the glass), Laurie persuades forces Louie to go down on her. She also wins $1,000, having bet him a few minutes ago that he would end the night by “licking her pussy and asshole.” He doesn’t have the money on him, but they both agree that he can pay her next time they see each other; it’s obvious to both of them that they’re going to be going out again. This final twist has the feeling of a punchline to a long, sick shaggy-dog story like “The Aristocrats”: what impresses isn’t where we finally arrive but the unlikely, explicit, disturbing elements touched on along the way.

Plenty of previous episodes have contrasted scenes of Louie and his children — scenes which, as Lili points out, function as a guarantee of his essential decency — with something darker and more sordid. (Very occasionally, the two worlds overlap, as in last season’s “Halloween/Ellie.”) Here, though, the two worlds are linked by something more than ironic juxtaposition. They offer two opposed ways of crafting a surprising comic situation, one that can arouse the attention of even the ultra-jaded Louie. The juvenile surprise offered by the total innocence of Jane’s joke — which surprises via its combination of absurdity and prosaic, logical development — and the grown-up depravity of the Louie/Laurie story have something in common: it’s a story to jolt awake the sensibilities of professional comics deadened by decades of predictable set-ups and punchlines. (Note, again, that the Leo segment is titled “Set-Up.”)

This brings us back to the extended comparisons between Louie and Girls that both Lili and Jane have been pursuing: for me, it’s less that Hannah Horvath is (secretly) horrible and Louie is (secretly) good than that Hannah is too young to realize that her mistakes will count against her, while Louie is too old to believe that even his good deeds will amount to enough to redeem him. The difference between them lies not in their ethical behavior — both have their good and bad moments — or their degrees of privilege — which are comparably high (Hannah might get some points by virtue of being female, but Louie seems to come from a working-class background; I’d call it a stalemate). It’s in their degrees of experience and knowledge, including self-knowledge. One of the reasons Louie has to be so extreme — and, at the same time, so subtle — is that it’s meant to register on the cognitive radar screens of people who have burned themselves out on the usual forms of humor, who don’t just roll their eyes at a corny, overused joke (a “clam,” in comedy writer parlance) but almost physically can’t experience it anymore. The apparently off-handed, casual nature of the show, with no two episodes following exactly the same formal structure, is in fact very highly calculated to stimulate the brains of people who are inured to certain kinds of formal structure. (If you want to see what real off-handed casualness looks like, leave the TV on after Louie and watch Russell Brand’s new, bizarrely under-produced BrandX.)

Hannah may seem self-conscious — and she is — but she’s still innocent enough to expect that her life will take the form of a story, whereas Louie seems to be as disgusted with narrative continuity as he is with traditional humor. Just as Louie (the character) knows that even his moments of grace or good luck are flashes in the pan — after all, life is “shitty 90% of the time,” as he and Laurie agree — so Louie the show knows that surprise is the only formal structure it can trust. And this means that, paradoxically. Louie is a harder character for the audience to know than Hannah, precisely because he knows himself better than she does, and can steer any given situation away from what Louie would usually do. (Another, shorter way to put all this, of course, would just be to say he’s going through a mid-life crisis.)

I think it’s about time to bring this post to a close, but, before I sign off, one final question:

Who didn’t let the gorilla into the ballet?

Evan

“Oh, all right, just go ahead!” (Season 3, Episode 1)

Hi, hi Dear TV!

Happy to be back. Lili, your opening post to our discussion on Season 3 of Louie was both expansive and specific—and entirely on point. It was, ahem, the smartest thing I had read on the Louis-C.K.-brand of white maleness, and not at all lazy. Not surprisingly, it spurred a discussion both on Twitter and in our comments section not seen in our prior conversation about Girls. Louie resonantes with an audience that didn’t (or couldn’t) watch Girls, despite, well, the obvious resonances between Dunham’s and C.K.’s projects. Hopefully readers will continue to weigh in. Weigh in! Please!

When so many women said how Girls did not speak to them, men were all the more exempted from expectations to identify with or even watch Dunham’s show. Willa Paskin’s oft-quoted statement that Girls was “FUBU: for us by us” felt integral to female audiences’ initial obsession over it.  The argument runs the other way too, as expressed in Emily Nussbaum’s riff on Louie: “I’ve met guys who love this show, and I’ll bet it speaks to a certain audience—maybe if I identified with Louie more, it would feel cathartic.” Louie might not be “for us” ladies, and it certainly isn’t “by us.” (Though I think C.K. deals with food fixations and emotional eating far more realistically than Dunham—it is far less parodic, far more honest.)

I mean, I can’t even.

So, there’s that: the sex difference thing. And, as you noted, the age-difference thing, as well as the narrative -style and -pacing difference thing. Aside from a few marked similarities of setting and authorship, Louie and Girls come at semi-autobiographical representation in fairly different ways. They are, after all, fairly different people. What did strike me as threading Louie to Hannah was their shared passivity, both seemingly driven by an impulse not to be the guilty party at all costs. Regardless of whether Louie is, as you posit, a more good person than Hannah, his refusal to take responsibility for his desires seems just as selfish as all the moments when Hannah forces her interlocutor to become aggressive, to ask her “is this what you want?!” In episode 1, Louie sits dumbfounded—moving his mouth without vocalizing a word—as his exasperated girlfriend cries: “You’re gonna make me break up with myself!” Mmhmm.

Louie has a blurry penis. Or Louie thinks he has a blurry penis. Either way, he doesn’t know what his dick wants sometimes, or his dick just won’t see eye to eye with, well, his eyes. April (played brilliantly by Gaby Hoffman) is attractive—as attractive as many of Louie’s prior dates (many of whom he directly told were too beautiful to be with a sad sack like him). Nonetheless, it’s clear from the moment the diner waiter sets the ice cream before Louie, that he’s no longer content with April. Unlike Hannah, Louie is old enough to know what he doesn’t want. While he gawks at April, unable to articulate the words “I’m breaking up with you,” there’s another Louis on stage that has a story about “y’know how it’s really difficult to break up with someone? . . .” Hannah doesn’t have this sideline figure yet, though she does have Lena on Twitter, very, very, very obliquely playing out story B.

Lili, your analysis of narrative continuity was right on. Not only does Louie eschew all conventions of televisual seriality, Louie as a character does as well. Like you say, his only commitment is to his daughters. Girlfriends, siblings, mothers, wives–those come and go. Fatherhood does not. In terms of viewer’s brushing off the Janet’s (which I do presume is meant to be interpreted as: wife is white, actress is black), C.K. has suggested that his audiences will suspend their disbelief (as he has prompted them to time and time before):

To me, the racial thing is like — when people probably first see her, their brains do a little bit of DNA map and go “I’m not sure I get how that would happen,” and then I think with my show most people, they go “Oh, all right, just go ahead.” And then they watch the scene. The thing that’s important is what’s getting said.

Indeed! “What’s getting said” has always been important, but this–unlike radio, unlike improvisional stand-up comedy–is television. On a television show, visual inconsistencies and shifts must be taken into consideration, even if finally to be discarded or ignored. C.K.’s call for viewers to just let go—to move on to the next clip or next story—is itself a fascinating comment on television’s propensity to forget, even its urge for its dedicated viewers to forgive. Whether one watches Friends or Mad Men, one is often surprised at how quickly characters move past  trauma. “It will shock you how much it never happened.”

C.K., again on Louie:

I also like that when people are watching the show, they don’t know how long they’re going to be told a story for. I think that makes it exciting. . . I think one reason TV always done well is because there is something comforting where you kind of know what you’re going to be taken through. But a different—and probably a smaller—group of people would rather watch a show where they don’t know how long this is going to go on for. They don’t know if they’re going to see this character’s face ever again. This character might be in the rest of the season, or who knows? I think it’s more organic that way. Life is built that way. You stick with things that are compelling, and you drift away from things that aren’t.

Television as immersion. Television as escape. Which brings me to one of the last points—and my favourite—of Lili’s post:

Transportation as spectacle—transportation as punchline, transportation as a means of annihilating sympathy—these all date back to the pilot, and it’s interesting to see that theme revived in Episode 1.

It had not occurred to me until this how much Louie is a show about transportation—a story about navigating New York (something that Girls hasn’t done very much of yet). Cars, taxis, trucks, buses, ambulances, pedestrians, and sometimes helicopters or limousines, litter C.K.’s scenes. The opening credit, as Lili mentioned, so very consistently lets us know that Louis, as well as Louie, is rooted in and by the subway system.

To rank transportation by its costs, then, is crucial not just to the character Louie’s life, but also to director Louis’s process of filming. Vehicles, and vehicular crashes especially, are expensive. Louie notes in this episode to the storekeeper after learning that a bike costs only $7,500: “So it’s actually smart to buy a motorcycle!” For a father? Maybe not. For a television show? Sure!

To see the Infiniti get crushed (yes Lili, it’s the Infiniti!) in this episode no doubt meant a financial cost to the show–a choice that hopefully reaps compound comedic and symbolic gains. The camera certainly lingers on the scene, forcing Louie and viewers to face the agony of watching one’s car be totalled. It also harkens back to an earlier episode where Louie gets high with his neighbour, who then throws a water gallon from his apartment window down to a car below. The car’s roof and back windows are smashed. (The shock of witnessing this is part of what makes Louie so excellent–and also what makes the costs of losing a car, I suspect, worthwhile to the show’s producers.) Any subsequent consequences for the act aren’t mentioned—all that happens is a replaying of the scene in reverse during the final credits—an aesthetic relishing that, again, capitalizes on the real costs of losing a real car. “Transportation as spectacle—transportation as punchline.” If you can run that punchline multiple times and still have it be effective, why not?

Destroyed cars, like the motorcycle crash, smacks of a boys-will-be-boys logic, and Janet’s unamused “good luck with that” speaks as little sympathy as I suspect C.K. believes his character should get. “You could just be a man,” April tells Louie as she leaves his apartment, in which she means, Louie and Louis could for once meet half-way and do the good thing, instead of the one that feels nice or easiest at the moment. Even before Louie asks April to stay, he understands it’s a bad idea. She knows it’s a bad idea, yet he just can’t quite move on past his guilt to say it outright. Don’t worry though, he’ll soon get over it. By the next episode, it’ll show just how much this never happened. We’ll get over it too.

Have a good one.
See ya sometime,

Jane

Louie vs. Louis CK: Something Is Wrong (Season 3, Episode 1)

Dear Dear TV,

We left Hannah Horvath eating cake out of tinfoil on a beach in the season finale of Girls just in time to catch Louis CK eating, then gobbling pizza off  a paper plate in the opening title sequence of Louie. Season 3: you’re here.

I’m glad we’re talking about these shows back to back because they share so much despite their obvious differences. Both characters are writers, both writers are characters, and both Louis CK and Lena Dunham are interested in exposing their fictional personae at their ugliest and most appetitive.

I want to flag two important differences, however. The first is structural: Louis CK tends to stitch two different and apparently unrelated stories together through bits of stand-up. It’s not quite right to call them A and B stories (although I’m going to anyway); they’re more like separate vignettes. In the pilot, for example, A is Louie’s field trip with his daughters. The field trip, which is set almost entirely on a school bus, goes wrong and culminates in Louie sending each child home in his or her own limousine. The B story is a disastrous date that begins with Louie knocking too frequently on his date’s door while her neighbor angrily flashes him. It ends with his date literally jumping onto a passing helicopter in order to get away.

The pilot opens with expository stand-up: “I’m 41 and I’m single, uh, not really single, just alone? But I have two children, and that’s the only thing I’m comfortable with in life anymore. I know how to take care of a couple of kids.”

In the A story, Louie talks too much. Whether he takes the initiative or it’s thrust upon him is debatable, but the fact is that he gives the bus driver directions, reproaches him for being irresponsible when they get a flat tire, overrides the teacher when she decides they’re going to walk the kids through Harlem to a subway stop, and sends each kid home in a limousine. In the A story, Louie never stops talking. “Do you realize what you’re teaching them?” the teacher says as he greets the long line of limos.

He does. And we know he does thanks to the stand-up that follows this set piece: “I’m white, my kids are white, which means they can’t screw up too badly, because they get a million chances. My life is really evil. There are people starving in the world, and I drive an Infiniti.”

This is Louis CK’s method: showing his character in action, then obliquely commenting on it, like a sort of Greek chorus to and on himself. The A story is a monstrous version of the stand-up: Louis CK drives an Infiniti and is white like his daughters, but “Louie” rebukes a black man, then hires two dozen limousines to individually escort his daughter’s classmates home rather than have them walk together through a poor black neighborhood to the subway.

The B story knocks the stuffing out of poor Louie. All the initiative he showed in A in his capacity as a parent vanishes when it comes to B, his romantic life. Here, in a theme that gets picked up again in the first episode of Season 3, he can’t communicate. Unspeakable misunderstandings pile up—her crazy neighbor, his desperate lie that he’s wearing a suit because it’s the anniversary of his father’s funeral—all of which contribute to his date’s incredulity when he claims it wasn’t him knocking on the bathroom door shouting that he has to take a dump. In the dead intervals, he smiles at her in a sickening kind of way, and admits, when she asks him to, that he can’t stop.

These, roughly speaking, are Louie’s three dimensions on the show: overreaching Louie, defined by spurts of arrogance and self-righteousness,  mute and self-loathing Louie, most often seen in scenes with women (the season premiere shines a withering spotlight on mute Louie, in case we missed him earlier), and charismatic Louie, usually in stand-up mode, whose habit of commenting on his own flaws has the effect of attenuating them.

We’ve talked a lot here about the extent to which people’s reactions to Girls  seemed to depend on their perception of the show’s self-awareness. It became clear by the end of the season that the show is extremely self-aware, and that self-awareness goes a long way towards mitigating the characters’ apparent monstrosity, their blind spots and their privilege. We can accept those things provisionally if we know they’re being judged by the universe’s God.

Seen from this point of view, Dunham takes bigger risks than Louis CK. She’s young enough that she can (and is) mistaken for her callow character, and she doesn’t have a stand-up version of herself to comment on the action from the sidelines. I was telling Aaron Bady about the sexual harassment encounter in  Girls (by which he was horrified), and he made the point, which hadn’t occurred to me, that unlike Hannah, who is frequently a terrible person on Girls, Louie, in Louie, is essentially good. Sure, there’s a sort of sad-sack pathos to the character, sure, he makes some mistakes, but he’s wracked with guilt over everything. He’s also by definition obsessed with being a good father which, in this day and age, is  the fast-track to sainthood. There’s never a trace of irony when it comes to Louie as dad: the show starts by announcing fatherhood as Louie’s defining character trait in terms I’m going to repeat here again, because it’s amazing how absolutely they drip with emotional appeal: “I’m 41 and I’m single, uh, not really single, just alone? But I have two children, and that’s the only thing I’m comfortable with in life anymore.” Hannah Horvath admits that being a good friend to Marnie isn’t high on her list of priorities. Louie will never, ever, ever, be anything but a dedicated dad. Parenting will partially redeem him from the charges of human selfishness.

I would add, parenthetically, that Louis CK as stand-up also redeems the sad-sack Louie we see in the show. It’s easy to buy into Louie’s account of himself as pathetic, cringing, weak, passive, repulsive, and awkward. It’s astonishing, when you stop think about it, that he pulls this off while telling us about it onstage as a stand-up whose onstage presence is unfailingly assertive, self-assured, charismatic and appealing. We’ve asked whether Hannah Horvath is any good as a writer and talked about the pitfalls of showing artistic characters doing their art; Louie sidesteps this by making Louie a successful comedian whose personality onstage differs substantially from his personality off it. The one exception to this I can think of offhand is Episode 6 of Season 1, “Heckler/Cop Movie,” when Louie tells off an attractive heckler.

The other important structural difference between Louie and Girls are Louis CK’s experiments with sporadic continuity. He often has the same apartment, for example, but in some episodes he has a brother, in another two sisters. His mother, a lesbian in one storyline, is played by the same actress who played his date in another. Young Louie is played by a wide range of redheads. Even his daughters are sometimes played by different actresses. It’s a fascinating choice, and it produces a surreal quality that nevertheless feels anchored by the opening credits, which unfailingly show Louie eating pizza and descending into the underworld of the comedy club.  The comedy club is exempt from this constant shuffling of characters: Louie’s stand-up is consistent, his daughters are the only family members ever mentioned in it, and he never stops being exactly what he says he is: the white father of two white girls.

Which brings us to Season 3, which for the first time violates Louie-the-stand-up’s version of things. We see Louie’s ex-wife for the first time, and she gets a name and a race. Janet is black. That means Louie’s children are mixed race. That’s not a trivial change that contributes to the overall surrealism of the show. It’s a big deal, even if his ex-wife is white or Asian in the next episode. It’s the first time I can think of in which the show explicitly contradicts “stand-up Louie,” whose anchoring function as narrator and truth-teller is important. It means the terms he set in the pilot I’ve quoted above, terms to which he frequently returns—the problem of being a white father raising two white daughters in a way that won’t make them assholes, the problem of privilege, in fact—are suddenly inapplicable.

This matters because Louie’s fatherhood, its loneliness and its obstacles, constitutes the show’s backbone. In Season 2 there’s an episode in which Louie  takes his daughters to visit an elderly relative who turns out to be incredibly racist. That scene would scan very differently if his daughters are mixed race. This is less a matter of doing race badly than it is a matter of violating the rules of the show’s universe.  In general, Louis CK is pretty adept at taking on sensitive topics and doing them raunchy justice. Still, I don’t think the show, as it’s existed up to this point, can get away with this. (Nor, strictly speaking, did it try—that his ex-wife is black is a detail, not mentioned in the episode. There is, however, a longish bit of stand-up on replacing or adding on to a used-up dick by getting a transplant, preferably from a brown athlete.)

It’s possible that Louis CK as writer might be trying to create some distance between himself and Louie the stand-up, who has been drifting closer and closer to Louis CK since the show began.  What better way to break up with his narrator than by smashing his stupid car with a bulldozer? (Was it the Infiniti? I hope so, but I couldn’t tell.) Louis CK is big on this kind of spectacle. He’s said in interviews that his biggest expenses, when shooting the pilot, were the limousine scene and the helicopter scene. He talked about the difficulty of even finding that many limousines in New York, and bartering with the helicopter pilot for a rate he could actually afford. Transportation as spectacle—transportation as punchline, transportation as a means of annihilating sympathy—these all date back to the pilot, and it’s interesting to see that theme revived in Episode 1.

I haven’t said anything about the break-up scene and its follow-up scene in Louie’s apartment. Both were astoundingly good. April could have deciphered those cryptic parking signs in a second, that’s how good she is at reading conflicting messages that add up to No. It was so good that I, like Louie, find myself assenting, and with nothing to say.

Before and after midnight,

Lili