I have to admit that I cannot review this show without admitting that I am a huge Louis CK fan. Is he the funniest man working today? That is certainly debatable – but with Chris Rock on the sideline for the time being, Louie is definitely in any conversation or bucket you’d put Aziz Ansari in for instance. Louie had his time in the sun with the fairly uneven but interesting HBO sitcom Lucky Louie. That show might have had a good run if it did not get canceled after its only season – but fortunately it led to FX’s series Louie – which is the best comedy show on television right now. What Louie CK has managed to fashion in the show is something fairly similar to what he has fashioned in his own comedy – a mixture of family observational comedy and absurdist touches, deftly alternating between very high art and well … something else.
The show is an interesting format. At first, it bears a resemblance to Seinfeld in its early days – Louie intersperses the acting part of the deal with some cuts of stand-up performance. However, the comedy is not meant to be a wrapper necessarily for the action (which here is sketch not true sitcom) – it’s just a chance to hear him be funny. Louie is a virtuoso with timing – his everyday observation is funny in a way that can only be fully appreciated in person. However, the meat of the deal is in the sketches. What is striking about the sketches – which are directed and edited by Louie himself, is how high quality they are. The original music choices and production quality are top notch – the scenes actually look fairly top shelf, much more akin to an independent film (the good kind) than a sketch show.
One good example comes from this season’s premiere episode. The main story starts with Louie at home with his girls. We see him cutting the vegetables, preparing dinner. The cuts, the music here are all darn near artful – it looks like an upper class twit product ad of some kind. The funny dinner sequence gets interrupted by a surprise a visit from Louie’s extremely pregnant sister. Louie’s sister and Louie have a dialogue exchange about their mutual past which is funny, and surprisingly warm – there is some credibility established. This sets up the scene that night when she is in pain and needs to be rushed to the hospital. She is screaming and wailing, and for a second, her character is fully sympathetic with us. The screaming is painful, and you can see the pandemonium of the scene – it is a convincing dramatic scene. We are put off guard as she is rushed to the hospital – I mean this is a bleepin sketch show, and we are caring about the scene – what is going to happen to the character? I had no idea where this sketch was going – and isn’t that the best test of writing? The punch line blindsides us – and I’d be loathe to divulge it. It is worth seeking out. That sort of unpredictability is evident when Louie has encounters with Joan Rivers and Dane Cook. The scenes play as effective drama – or more accurately the SETUPS of the jokes are established with total realism – and so the laughs, when they arrive are ever huger.