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Louie S04E03: "So Did the Fat Lady"

"So Did the Fat Lady" was a magnetic piece of television, and one of Louie's best episodes.

Lots of the series' episodes feature vignettes stitched together, but "So Did the Fat Lady" was direct and focused, devoting the appropriate amount of time and set-up to its touchy subject: weight. Specifically, the plight of an overweight woman in today's society. A waitress at the Comedy Cellar named Vanessa (guest-star Sarah Baker, previously of NBC's Go On), who was self-admittedly not the most slender woman, asked Louie out, and he politely declined. Then she asked again. And again, he declined. Finally, she offered up a kind gesture with no expectations of payback—she came into some hockey playoff tickets and offered them to Louie—and Louie asked her if she wanted to go get some coffee sometime. Yep, she sure did. 

Toward the end of the episode, Vanessa said to Louie, "Try dating in New York in your late-30s as a fat girl." Louie immediately told her she wasn't fat, and Vanessa was disappointed that he wasn't being honest in what was likely an attempt to spare her feelings. She then delivered a beautiful, self-aware speech about what she wanted as a self-described "fat girl." She wanted honesty, she wanted to say she was fat without people feeling uncomfortable about it, she wanted men to understand that it goes both ways. Baker delivered Emmy-worthy stuff here, and the conversation was brutal, uncomfortable, and frickin' REAL. 

I don't feel equipped to participate in the subject matter here, I'll leave that to others. But I do want to talk about how this episode, and in particular that final scene, was so effective. Louis C.K. wrote a character in Vanessa who was so charming, so affable, and so much fun to listen to that we were kicking Louie to accept her propositions for a date. Except we knew exactly why he didn't say yes, whether it was because we felt the same way or we understood Louie the character. Even if we hadn't realized it when Louie and his friend were drooling at New York's hottest hotties walking by, we could see it in the way he interacted with Vanessa early in the episode. He wanted to end their conversation as soon as possible because he wanted to get on with his life, but the words coming out of Vanessa's mouth were so engaging that he couldn't help but fall into brief bouts of conversation with her. He'd glance uncomfortably in her direction, and it was obvious why. He wasn't attracted to her, but he was afraid that she would ask him out, he'd have to say no, and then he'd feel bad about it. This is all accomplished by C.K.'s subtle acting, which combined the weight shifts, side glances, and accidental smiles of a man who was trapped where he didn't want to be. 

And in that final scene, which was one long gorgeous take, the uncomfortable intimacy of the conversation exploded off the screen to the point that it had a profound affect on me while I sat on my couch. The camera work was impeccable, drawing us into the characters' sphere while they never acknowledge its presence. We got so close to them that we felt Vanessa's exhaustion and danced with Louie's discomfort. And in a move that couldn't've been timed more perfectly, just as we, the audience, were feeling a combination of guilt, anger, and compassion, Vanessa pointed into the camera and asked Louie to imagine that he was sitting where we were, watching the two of them together and seeing how good they were as a couple. That moment transcended fiction and pulled us further in, just as we were trying to escape. Everything about that scene felt so real that when I'm 70 years old, I'll probably remember it as a conversation I actually had, and that's because the writing, the acting, and the camera work was so good that the wall between viewer and player was completely broken down and we stepped into a shared reality. 

The best episodes of Louie force us to confront issues we don't feel comfortable talking about. And as C.K.'s skills as a director and editor get better and better, these moments become something greater than television. 


QUESTIONS:

– Do you think Louie learned a lesson? I think it resonated with him in that moment, but I doubt it's something that will stick. 

– I'm a man, so I'm sure I viewed this episode very differently than a woman would. Discuss!

– Where does Sarah Baker's performance rank among Louie's guest stars? It's right up there with Parker Posey's, right? 

– We got a good look at the double standard between men and women when it comes to body image, when Louie and his friend indulged in a bang-bang with the promise to work out the next day, and then they both agreed they weren't going to work out. Yet if a woman did that... How the heck is that viewpoint acceptable in society? 


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 5/28/2015

Season 5 : Episode 8

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The thing with this scene (and yes the whole episode will be overshadowed by this scene alone as it fires through the internet an is watched by people who have never watched even one episode of Louie) is that it's not just about fat versus thin or women versus men or tall versus short or white versus black. It's about when you have a non-physical connection with someone whose is not your physical ideal you should still at least hold their hand in the light of day and give them and yourself a chance.
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I don't know whether this was right up there with Parker Posey but it was damn near close.

An amazing episode and a fantastic delivery by Sarah Baker. I hope she gets an Emmy for this.

That was a scene I won't forget any time soon. Louie is extremely good in this area. There are more amazing moments that I remember very well on Louie than on any other show. Considering how short the series is (so far), it is actually mind-boggling.

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- No of course Louie didn't learn the lesson, it ended feeling like he could except you missed that just like every other episode this season, it's all him playing a passive part in women been drawn to him, he gets to do what he wants and lay out a guilt trip and then survive while barely doing anything at all.

- Part of the reason men overlook big girls is because society places more of a status symbol on the women that men are with, and it takes really getting to know someone to understand how toxic society's gaze can be. Another part is that men are shallow.

- Sarah Baker's performance was very good, but written in a way that felt a little... simplistic, as if she only existed for this story and nowhere else in the Louieverse. She has dramatic chops and showed them, especially with her character's punchline using that diatribe just to get Louie to hold her hand and push past his proverbial myopia, so I'd say she's memorable in a theatrical way but her words are purely Louis CK writing the magical minority character so it's almost cheating.

- Louie and Robbie's scene isn't a double standard that I can see, they are catching the same attitude from the waitress that Louie is pushing away Vanessa with, people who look like they eat a lot and don't work out are seen as lesser-than in this society.
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Now I will remember Sarah Baker's name and will always refer her as the girl from Louie next time I see her in something.

The next episode Elevator was good too. As a father of a 4 year old, I freak out the first time I "lost" her. Funny it was in an elevator that I lost her. The door closed and I was too late. I had to run down 4 flights of stairs. That was sometime back and we had no rules yet. She probably would not understand them even if we had.

I am not exaggerating when I say that all kinds of wild imagination went through my head the moment I lost her. I was praying all the way down and I am not a religious guy. I was so relieved when I finally saw her.

Louie always managed to come out with some topics that we can relate to.
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Kind of like Asian-American men trying to navigate the dating world -- we're not typically desirable to anyone. Thanks mainstream media.
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Another great episode of Louie. All I kept thinking during that scene was...


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As a slightly over-weight woman, hell, I'll even say it, 20 pounds or so, this resonated. You want a female perspective, Tim? I wish I had said all those things, even being only 20 pounds overweight. Considering my height, it really doesn't look like that much, because I'm lucky enough to also be tall-ish.

But, it doesn't matter. Two pounds, five pounds, any pounds, it's too much. When Tina Fey and Amy Poehler did that joke about Matthew McConaughey losing 45 pounds and that's what every actress has to do for every movie, it wasn't really a joke. It was truth with a punchline.

And, the truth is, that it is not just actresses. It's every single woman. I have to hate myself every time I eat too much. And I have to hate myself every time that I'm hungry and I want to eat but I feel like I shouldn't. Or I shouldn't eat what I want. Or when I don't want to go to the gym for some horrible workout that I hate.

I saw myself in that screen, I understood it, I felt it and now I'm doing it in the TV.com forum. I cried and laughed and it was great television. It was wonderful. It was vindication.
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Also, is it just me or are many of the stand-up comedians portrayed in this show complete assholes? And I don't mean when they're joking around playing poker (those are supposed to be his closest comedy friends), but the rest of the time. And his brother... just... ugh.
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I think that dude is his brother, correct me if I'm wrong. Amazing episode.
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Yes, Robbie/Bobby is Louie's brother on the series, played by fellow stand-up, Robert Kelly.
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I thought this episode was great and very real. I thought it captured what Louie is best at, making the viewer uncomfortable, but letting them think while Louie (the character), basically does exactly what any other person would do during that excellent speech. I know as I was watching it I was doing basically the same thing Louie was doing. He probably didn't learn a lesson, men are extremely shallow, that's how it is, but you could tell by the end that he was moved by the speech or at least respected her more for not falling for that empty thing that men say to try to "spare feelings."
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"Yet if a woman did that..."

What a bunch of horseshit. Are we to pretend that the waitress they explained the bang-bang to wasn't disgusted?

Are we to pretend that if Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson did that scene people wouldn't find it funny?
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Did you not hear Vanessa talk about the double standard? About how Louie can discuss being overweight in his standup routine and it's adorable? That's why he put that scene in there.
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It's bullshit though, if a standup with as much charisma as Vanessa was tackling those subjects on stage, she'd pull it off too and she'd have a solid boyfriend as well. She had too much personality to make that believable.
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I don't think Louie will ever learn the 'lesson', if there is one anyway. People are people, they do what they want. If it's dating pretty model girls, then anything below that is not worthy of them in their eyes. I've seen plenty of average-to-not-so-nice-looking guys thinking they were way better than a nice looking girl. They set their standards too high and aren't realistic I think, but yea well maybe they'll get lucky. Who'd want to date a superficial dude like that anyway, even if he looks like an underwear model. Only thing I can say about this episode, Bang-Bang. Def gonna try that one out he he.
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If he looks like an underwear model? Plenty of women, I'm telling ya... the world is full of superficial people. Shallowness is not a gender thing, double standards regarding beauty are. Could you imagine a girl version of Johnny Knoxville being sexy or remotely attractive?
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Oy, you do realize that scene was WRITTEN BY A MAN, right? That the words are only meant to give a semblance of an idea of what it MIGHT BE LIKE, so it's impossible to use that scene to put one in another gender's shoes. Don't drink the kool-aid to the point of shitting on those who don't.
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Sorry about that. It was a joke. My potty mouth has a habit of making me seem much more serious than I actually am.

As I was reading the review, I pictured my dick getting in the way of my TV viewing and the eight year old inside me giggled.

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No. I'm saying I've never been a woman and I don't pretend to know what it is like to be a woman.

But go ahead and jump to conclusions!
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It was a joke. Sorry about that.

Of course you've never been a woman. But if you turn that beard sideways and I close my eyes, it'll turn out OK.
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I can hear the banjos playing, Fernando ;)
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Tim, you did a great job in not assuming that you could possibly understand what it feels like to be an overweight woman, or a woman for that matter. It is all about perspective and it takes guts to realise that you don't have it, that you can't really know something that you never experienced.
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I think what you meant to say Tim was, "Go eat a bag of dicks! But thanks for your views. On this site about, yah know, views".
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I just love Louie..
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That's rich, complaining about body standards on a website that celebrates the institution that enforces (if not invents) them.
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Television hardly invents the beauty standard, men have been judged in audio visual entertainment since before there was television, watch a black and white movie. It seems like you are just looking for a reason to throw stones. TV neither celebrates nor creates the institution of the double standard, it merely represents what disparities already exist in our culture.

Kirk out!
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Wow. I guess everyone who watches TV isn't allowed to have opinions on society. Good to know!
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I was not critizising "everyone who watches TV". I was critizising you (assuming that you are the author of this article).
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Don't Americans have some kind of Amendment on that? Oh shit. It was written by men. Of Course!
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I didn't know this website "celebrated" anything (there are good & bad reviews, it's not an it's-all-so-great fest), and I didn't know television was an "institution" per se (would you say Louie & Duck Dynasty are the same type of creature?). Body standards are not enforced by TV alone, that's what this episode tried to tell in a way I think. It doesn't matter if you watch TV or not, look at billboards or not. If you're a man living in this society you're most likely going to have double standards towards women's weight & beauty.

I mean, the second time she asks Louie out, this other comedian comes to him just to say 'Yuck!' in the most obnoxious way possible, as if not only him but Louie as well, were above her in every aspect.

So what's your point? TV dumbs us all down so we can't possess any sort of critical thinking abilities?
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Just watched it, amazing ending.

No, I don't think Louis C.K. wants us to think Louie has learned the lesson, he ended up holding hands out of respect for the woman's speech, nothing else. We probably won't see more of Sarah Baker on the show (I hope I'm wrong). He basically dated her because he felt guilty about getting those tickets for free. She's just taken her chance to tell him like it is: "Listen, man, let's be honest. You think I'm fat and ugly, but so are you. We are great for each other. You just don't wanna see it, even though you know you're fat and ugly too & can't stop laughing at my jokes."
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I would argue that he didn't hold her hand out of respect for her speech as much as it was out of shame.
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True. But his "character" being a stand-up comedian, and a pretty good listener, I like to believe that he really liked her reasons. After all, Louie is not a monster, he just wanted to cheer her up by telling her a lie, and she just didn't buy it.
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Elevator was good too. Ellen Burstyn, imagine? Her cursing out the cab and throwing something at it was perfect. The subway scenes were terrifying.

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we were kicking Louie to accept her propositions for a date.

No, we weren't. It was a pity date, and she will most likely get a pity fuck. Men suck.

Sad stuff, but oh so true. Imagine if she were homely AND fat? Men suck.

No, Louie didn't learn the lesson. Fat bald homely men who can still score with do-able skinny young dumb women will never learn the lesson. Silly rabbit. Men suck.

How is that viewpoint acceptable in society? Because fat homely women will always be shat upon, and dumb skinny do-able women (think Louie in RL would date a fat homely woman?) will always get any man they want. As it should be. After all, AI and Survivor need new viewers for the next 40 years, don't they, and what better viewers than the offspring of stupid bald fat men and dumb skinny do-able women? Men suck.

Forget it, Tim, it's a double standard that has been around since Julius Caesar (I bet he would boink fat homely women either) and will continue until Armageddon. Men suck.

Louie is an excellent actor, why isn't he taking the place of Paul Rudd in movies?
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"How is that viewpoint acceptable in society?"

Why is it horrible, horrible, horrible for him to be attracted to "do-able skinny young women" but it's not horrible, horrible, horrible for her to flirt with "the great-looking ones, real high caliber studs" instead of just giving up?

It's funny that you took so much time to rant about double standards while employing those exact same double standards you ranted against.
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Don't mind me, but many of the girls that I've stumbled upong during my nightlife that flirted with me or with friends didn't necessarily want sex or something deeper, and that was probably Vanessa's case, she knew nothing was going to happen but she still flirted, because why not?. They just wanted to be flirty, play a little and move on.

I'm pretty sure there aren't many men like that.
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What I notice about this show is that there are two types of episodes: the surreal and the deep/profound. This episode was the deep/profound. Those types seem to play in two different universes independent of each other. In this type, Louie learns lessons. His character is more human as he empathizes with characters in unpredictable situations.

Last week's "Model" was the surreal type that plays on the character's growing misery and misfortune in everyday life. They are definitely entertaining, but they are shallow. There is no lesson to be learned. These episodes present an entirely separate type of Louie character in a separate canon.

Great episode tonight. In lesser hands, that speech could have come across as pretentious but it was very well written. Raw and honest.
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