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

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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.



NOTES


– 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.