Louie S02E01: Let’s Make Friends
In the first shot of the season premiere of Louie, we see Louis C.K.’s thinly veiled alter-ego brushing his daughter’s teeth. When she lets out an “ow,” he apologizes: right away, we’re in the realm of his overwhelming preoccupation with his parenting skills. That’s what makes it heartbreaking for us, too, when his daughter breaks the news: “I like mama’s better because she makes good food and I love her more.” On her way out of the bathroom, her dad flips her the finger.
The second season of Louie promises more backbreaking anxiety and dilapidating alienation, with lots of stand-up routine footage sprinkled in the mix. Basically, Seinfeld without the laugh track. Thanks to Go the Fuck to Sleep, the “honest parenting” bit is gaining in popularity (just waiting for one more to call it a trend), but nobody does it better than C.K. In the first stand-up clip of the episode, Louie tackles the issue with his usual grace, explaining limiting it can be to plan activities when his kids are at different stages. “We have to be dragged down to her shitty skill level,” he says of his youngest daughter. It’s refreshing to see a comedian do a bit about single parenting that doesn’t end up as a screed against his ex-wife. Instead, Louie is grappling with his inability to communicate his frustration to his kids, which makes the bulk of his comedy routines sound as if they’re directed at them: “I know how to look after you! I’m good at it! You’re not dead yet!”
What keeps these rants from becoming vindictive are the multiple scenes throughout the show depicting Louie as a great dad. He cares about his kids, he loves them, he cooks for them and picks them up from school. It’s like that unwritten rule that you can make jokes about your own race or ethnicity that others can’t; we can accept Louie’s parenting tirades because he’s a parent himself, and a good one.
The problem is, Louie relates to his kids on his own adult level, which leads to endless conflict when they inevitably don’t understand. In one scene, he gives his older daughter a slice of mango, then tries (unsuccessfully) to explain to the younger one that it was the only one left. But the “life isn’t’ fair” bit doesn’t register too well with a three year old. Kids don’t just appreciate that their parents take good care of them. It’s a given, and that’s where Louie’s frustration comes from: it’s not a given for him. He had a life before them, one with a lot less effort and obligation.
The main conflict in the premiere episode wasn’t really about Louie’s kids, though. When his very pregnant sister (Rusty Schwimmer) shows up at his door unexpectedly, he insists that she crash on the couch instead of getting a hotel room. She wakes up in the middle of the night with screaming stomach pains and Louie has to figure out how to accept his neighbours’ offer to help them to the hospital. “Brother,” his neighbour says, “do not let your sister die from pain or lose her baby because you are awkward with strangers.” He relents and they rush to the hospital where his sister lets out a 10-second fart. “Dude,” Louie sighs. They go back home.
Judging by the first episode, it looks like Louie will be letting more people into his tiny universe this season. “I know it was just a fart,” he says to his neighbour, “but I couldn’t have gone through that without you.” In the closing stand-up clip, Louie comes to the realization that he can’t do it all alone, and sometimes family isn’t enough. Last season, the only neighbour Louie made contact with was a perennially pot-smoking burnout who pushed him into a terrifying trip. It may make him queasy, but this season he’s breaking out of that habit: “I have a new friend, and it makes me sick to my stomach.”