Monday, January 21, 2013

Louie, You're Gonna Die

I am working through the back catalogue of Louie, a sitcom set in New York but depicting a very different world to Sex in The City. On the surface it could be compared to Seinfeld in that both sitcoms feature the main character who is a stand-up comic, doing bits of his act. However, while Seinfeld was a wry, detached observer of the madness around him, Louie (played by real-life comedian Louis CK) is frequently depressed, confused and beset by failure. Divorced and with two children who live with him half the week, he struggles to set boundaries for his kids, but often just gives in to them. His attempts at finding love are usually awkward and end in either no sex or humiliating embarrassing sex. Like me, Louie is in his 40s, and one of the themes of the sitcom is that he is past his prime, overweight, balding and unattractive. In one episode a young woman has sex with him because she has an old-man fetish and he smells like death. The jazz music that often plays in the background is nicely appropriate, although the main theme is a reworking of the Hot Chocolate Song, Brother Louie, with altered, more downbeat lyrics. In season three there is great use of one of my favourite jazz songs, the epic Christo Redendor by Donald Byrd, in a scary/revelatory roof-top scene which involves one of my favourite ever actresses, Parker Posey.

Parker plays another of Louie's weird dates, although she manages to take the show to a different level.

The series is coming to the UK and it will be interesting to see if he is successful. Britain is the home to Comedy of Failure (Fawlty Towers, Steptoe and Son, Dear John, Hancock, Rising Damp) while American comedy tends to focus on characters who, if not swimming in success, are at least reasonably well-adjusted and have the capacity to learn from their errors.

Louie is heterosexual, and surprisingly there is a lot of gay content in it. In one episode, he and a bunch of poker buddies discuss gay sex clubs in New York and one of his friends explains why they exist and gives a lesson on the etymology and effects of the word 'faggot':

"Every gay man in America has probably had that word shouted at them while being beaten up, sometimes many times, sometimes by a lot of people all at once, so when you say it, it kind of brings it all back up, but you know, by all means use it, get your laughs, but now you know what it means."

Another time, Louie is rescued from a potentially life-threatening situation by a (male) cop, while doing his act in one of the southern states. The cop asks for (and gets) a kiss in return. And in another episode I've yet to see, he is saved by a hunky lifeguard who he develops a kind of odd yearning for. While the jokes that characters in Louie makes about gay people are offensive at times, I would take their humour over another show I'm watching at the moment, The Big Bang Theory, which has no gay characters, and is still stuck in the 1990s, by deriving a great deal of humour from the suggestion that characters Rajesh and Amy are closetted gay and lesbian respectively.

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