Louie: A Life Mourned By Strippers and Poop in the Tub

By Nick Campbell

Aug 03, 2012

Louie S03E06: "Barney / Never"

"I want to get rid of my vagina before Easter."

After last week's episode full of gravity and the kind of humor that makes you laugh but also makes you think, I expected something of a breather, particularly since the preview for "Barney / Never" featured a chubby kid in Problem Child attire saying apples will kill him. A madcap sleepover gone awry? Who knows—it's half the fun.

So imagine my surprise when the episode opened not with our schlubby hero grabbing a slice before a set but a black-and-white walk through a cold cemetery. Lonely strings and a lonelier bass. A sparsely attended burial starring the cheapest pine box you ever did see. And the oldest Robin Williams.

Louie never shies from awkward or uncomfortable subjects. That's kind of its thing. But after last week's lost and bipolar Parker Posey traipsing about New York like an aging manic pixie Zooey Deschanel, revealing the true melancholy in her life by the end, I didn't expect the saddest funeral for a follow-up.

Louie's conversation with Robin felt just as bracingly real, too, as they discussed the man they were the only witnesses to being put in the ground. Louie's line: "When I pictured him going into the ground, and nobody's there, he's alone, it gave me nightmares." As they swapped stories of this jerk they used to know (who, based on their impressions, is either Ray Romano or Kermit the Frog), you got the feeling this was a meditation, however brief, on death and its ability to unify, between the dead and mourners but also among everyone left behind. A man's demise, no matter how screwed up his life was, inspires a camaraderie among the people he knew because he has breached one of the few things that unites all of humanity: its mortality. Even when they visited Barney's favorite strip club and brought the place to a halt with news of his death, making everyone in the place cry ("No!" I shouted. "Not the DJ, too!"), even when the send-off song turned out to be "Sister Christian" by Night Ranger, there was still a gripping levity to the whole thing. Louie and Robin laughed off the sobbing strippers but they made a pact to ensure that someone attends their own funerals, no matter how their lives turn out. It' a heady subject for a half-hour comedy to approach but Louie handled it with grace, warmth, and an admirable lack of fear.

And then a kid shit in the tub.

I don't know what happened. One minute I'm thinking about how many people are going to attend my funeral and maybe trying to track down Robin Williams to make sure someone shows up (or, as Nick Swardson suggests, John Stamos) and the next, I'm watching a woman talk about having elective surgery to remove her vagina. Clearly, the starkness between the two stories was intentional but I don't know that I've seen Louie get this absurdist, this Sarah Silverman, before. Never (the kid's name) pushed a baby into traffic. What was happening?

The interesting thing about the story is that, even within this Earth 2 of hyperbole and surrealism, Louie himself operates with his same level of realism while interacting with the strangeness as if nothing is out of the ordinary. His booking agent seemed to come from the same firm as Liz Lemon's but they spoke to each other as if they'd known each other for decades (which would be the kid's whole life). The radio hosts spoke complete nonsense in voices lifted from SNL's "Z105" sketch or David Cross's "Diarrhea Moustache" bit (which also takes place in Kansas City, funnily enough), but Louie continued to communicate with them as if they were having an actual conversation that he would eventually ruin (natch).

I get that we're supposed to see Louie as the only sane person in an insane world (well, he and Lily—it's those two against the universe of Nevers and vagina-less moms), but I think that's a running theme to the show... whenever it's not Louie being unable to operate within social conventions and misunderstandings ensue. But I can't recall a time where the events of the show tested the bounds of reality so much. A kid insists on eating raw meat. An accident happens involving a truck carrying chemicals, prompting its driver to run screaming from the cab, "Holy shit! Run! Run!" There is a tub full of diarrhea water (although, from what little knowledge I have of children, that's not necessarily out of the question—kids are disgusting). But Louie reacts to all of these things with an even temper and tranquility. It's still funny. I suppose it's just a little on-the-nose. I expect that lack of subtlety from Aaron Sorkin, not Louis C.K.


– You don't have very many sitcoms these days that earnestly make visual references to Goddard or avant-garde cinema from the '60s and '70s. But, like Patton Oswalt says, we're living in a post-Louie world.

– I just want to go through life and not upset a stripper.

JB Smoove showing up at the end as one of the unaffected gravediggers was great. I miss Bent.

– Despite how starkly different the approaches of the two stories were, they were connected by a common theme of knowing terrible people. The kid was worst in the same way that Barney was awful. Maybe Barney wasn't as weird, but he did lack a moral compass beyond his own self-importance and it appears that Never is on the fast track to being buried in an IKEA bookshelf. Important lesson for those with kids who do what they want: Discipline is important. And, if you struggle to say no to your children, don't pawn them off on other parents. If you can't find a babysitter you can pay handsomely, maybe you should consider pushing your vagina surgery to Memorial Day.

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  • MightyMad Aug 12, 2012

    Reading your review, Nick, made me wonder if you ever watched "Louie" before this season.

    Yeah, a whole lot of weird sh*ts went down, but that's nothing new at all for this show. Hell, Louie's agent being a 16-years old Jewish kid comes straight from season 1! Frankly, I expect this type of comedy way more from C.K. than "Daddy's Girlfriend Part 2".

    Anyway, great show as usual - Louie's complete inability to bullsh*t is quite baffling. Why couldn't he just say "yeah, KC's alright"? Why does he think telling his true feeling about a place he loafs would help him sell tickets over there? You were talking about weird? Well THAT'S WEIRD.

    And, sorry, I'm completely with C.K., Williams, and, I guess, The Bloodhound Gang in saying that a lap-dance is so much better when the stripper is crying. Hey, don't knock it 'til you tried it

  • Dudekotka Aug 06, 2012

    " I expect that lack of subtlety from Aaron Sorkin, not Louis C.K."

    Why you dissin' on Aaron Sorkin? Almost nothing on TV is ever subtle, I don't see why you needed to go after him there.

    Eh, first segment was alright, whoever does the editing should stop doing black and white segments, because they've used it a ton this season, and never (that I remember) before. Could have used a bit more humor, because I like these semi-realistic segments, but the show is still a comedy.

    The second segment needed the opposite again, or at the very least, more of Louie's kids.

  • WavSlave Aug 06, 2012

    Did anyone else notice that they misspelled Robin Williams' last name as Willaims in the closing credits? It wasn't intentional, seeing as they did spell it correctly in the full cast listing a few seconds later.

  • BarryDalton Aug 05, 2012

    When did Louie give up being a comedy and turn into "Art House" TV?

    It's high on quality but low on laughs.

  • JT_Kirk Aug 05, 2012

    The first part, "Barney", was a really good segment, a total return. It didn't make a big deal out of anything except the music and black & white work, yet it had a lot of funny and human moments out of an odd thing.

    The second part, "Never", was a bit of a stretch from a plot perspective, it felt like an expansion of things that could have really happened but taken too far into the realm of absurdity, and it was only a heavy focus on humor which kept it alive. That said, the humor was really strong here so it definitely didn't lag for it, and watching Louie think he's being funny and clever bashing on Kansas City over the radio only to watch him take it too far was fantastic.

    All in all, this was the best of the season so far, for me, and that's an odd thing because it really worked well within a contained bottle - I laughed, I thought, I felt, and I didn't feel like I was being jerked around, that's all great, and a good turn from the previous episodes so far - but you can't just have weird crazy bottle episodes every time either.

    BTW, there was no baby in the stroller, the kid was being taken out in the scene right before. Also, I would argue that Louie is not sane in an insane world, he's insane because he's getting himself into these insane things, and then acting like "who, me? what?" when they go awry.

  • AssandroJourn Aug 04, 2012

    It's actually Godard if u are talking about french new wave director. And why a reference to Godard? Coz of a black and white picture? I dont get it. It could be anything. And who said that Louie is a sitcom? It's definitely not a pure comedy anymore. And absurd stuff happening since the middle of 2 season so I don't see a lack of subtlety here. It is a way that Louis CK does things in this show. I wasn't suprised by absurd scenes in this episode. It fits quiet well in the story. And Artie Lange cameo (driver that screams Run!) was hilarious) It was very unusual and unpredictable stories and it's kinda usual for Louie))

  • NicholasCampb Aug 07, 2012

    I was most reminded of Godard (and 1960s/1970s experimental/avant garde cinema in general) with the first one-shot of Robin: a black and white extreme close up using a hand-held. My opinion might have also been colored by the tag on "Daddy's Girlfriend, Part 2" which ostensibly does the same thing, though Parker Posey is a much closer model to the ingenue in the French New Wave than Mork from Ork.

    You're right that LOUIE challenges what a sit-com is. This is a show about a comedian of vague success living in New York where all kinds of awkwardly ridiculous things happen to him, which, as we know, is a familiar premise (NBC has been chasing that magic for years). But, because it's semi-autobiographical and because it dips into new territory like changing the visual style, absurdism, and dealing with a heart Seinfeld never had the capacity for, it opens up a sit-com and lets it breathe. I like that he's pushing boundaries.

  • Taccado Aug 04, 2012

    This episode reminded me of Bloodhound Gang's song "A Lap Dance Is So Much Better When the Stripper is Crying".

    Anyway, I have many times thought that filming some of the scenes in Louie must be pretty hilarious for the child actors. Can't imagine how hard it was for Hadley Delany (Lilly) not to laugh when they walked in on Never sitting in his own diarrhoea. And some of the scenes are filmed in one long take without cuts so the kid must stay focused for quite a long time, like when Louie talked to Never in front of the fridge or on the couch at the end.

  • AngBi Aug 04, 2012

    okay someone has to say it and I might as well be me.

    I liked the cameo of O&A; and I liked that they referred to stuff that only Q&A; listeners would understand.

  • aknu Aug 04, 2012

    This was so surreal and really fucking awesome. That kid has got to be the worst person on earth, I wouldn't be able to stand him for more than 10 minutes lol

  • eLLectrify Aug 04, 2012

    Just look at his face in this pic. Jeremy Shinder looks like a great little actor :)


  • eLLectrify Aug 04, 2012

    I love the kid actor, he and Louie on the couch just made my new wallpaper.

  • DavidJones39 Aug 04, 2012

    Wholly Crap!

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