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Thursday, August 25, 2011

On tonight's "Louie," Louis C.K. goes to war

Salon's new article "The Rough Magic of 'Louie'" has me totally stoked to see tonight's double-length episode of Louis C.K.'s superb FX series. The one-hour episode "Duckling" reportedly draws on the comedian's experiences on a U.S.O. tour in Afghanistan by sending the comedian to entertain troops in the war zone. Here's FX's promo:

I'm a little late climbing onboard the "Louie" bandwagon but recently caught up with the show's first season on Netflix Instant. Once you get used to the show's seemingly aimless plotting and idiosyncratic rhythms, you'll appreciate "Louie's" uncomfortably personal take the life of the "comedian's comedian." Ostensibly C.K. plays himself as a recently-divorced New Yorker raising two daughters, performing stand-up and getting back into the dating pool. "Louie" follows in a tradition of highly personal "New York" comedy in the tradition of "Seinfeld" and Woody Allen's best movies, particularly in the little throwaway jokes. In one episode, C.K. looks out an apartment window, sees goons in a van snatch a homeless guy off the street — and then leave a different homeless guy in his place.

At times the show leaves behind every pretense of behind a sitcom: last year's episode "God" flashed back to C.K.'s Catholic boyhood and guest-starred looming character actor Tom Noonan as a doctor who described the sufferings of Jesus in ghastly detail. The "God" episode proved nearly as harrowing as The Passion of the Christ while lasting a fraction of the running time — and ending on a warm, bittersweet note.

"Louie" finishes its second season on Sep. 8, and one can admire its scruffy greatness while feeling as though it's an incomplete portrait. Louis C.K. zooms in on his anxieties, so he comes across as a hopeless, self-loathing slob. But apart from his funny snippets of standup, he doesn't convey the creativity and work ethic that's made him the most respected (if not the richest) comedian of his generation. His blog posts, fill in some of the blanks: for instance, he's a photography geek who can get enthusiastic, at great length, about cameras, lenses and stuff like that. He's more of an artist and a professional than he'd ever admit, but most of "Louie's" comedy comes when he sells himself short.

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