As far as I’m concerned, one of the best shows (if not the best show) on television is the daring, innovative and poignant dark comedy “Louie.” This gem was conceived by stand-up comedian Louis CK, who stars as as a fictionalized version of himself in a weekly series of short films. These chronicle the stranger side of the life of the stand-up comedian — a middle-aged New Yorker who is the divorced father of two girls — in a uniquely and refreshingly self-deprecating style.
He riffs on taboo subjects, pointing out life’s little ironies in sublimely written self-contained vignettes of otherwise everyday encounters. Not only does he star in the show, CK writes, directs and edits every episode of the show and is a co-producer. For his efforts, he received a Comedy Actor bid and a writing nod for the episode “Poker/Divorce.”
CK has submitted the episode “Bully” in which he is humiliated in a Manhattan diner by a cocky high school jock who threatens to beat him to a pulp in front of his date. The date ends badly after this excruciating scene, so Louie follows the boy back home to suburban Staten Island where he confronts his parents, and eventually shares a smoke with the bully’s disillusioned father. It’s a fascinating and funny episode about power, youth and especially bullying, which has become a hot topic in America of late.
Perhaps CK’s episode is a little too bleak and light on laughs to compete against four of the other nominees who give conventionally comedic performances in more mainstream sitcoms. The fifth is Matt LeBlanc who stars in “Episodes,” which is even more satirical and irreverent than “Louie” most of the time.
FX is currently unspooling the show’s even stronger second season which has earned an impressive score of 90 at Metacritic. Among the raves, Kris King (Slant) thinks that “‘Louie’ is smart, cinematic, and bitterly honest, constantly dancing between revelatory moments and hysterical bursts of humor that are both surprising and touching.” Chuck Klosterman (Grantland) says, “I somehow get the sense that his entire audience is having the same experience as me. It’s a shared recognition of perfection, happening in the present tense. … This is someone working on the most radical edge of mainstream culture and succeeding brilliantly without ever doing the same thing twice. There is no antecedent.”
Watching the show’s second season, I have been continuously amazed at how deftly CK touches on issues that affect us all — love, death, family, sex, violence, friendship, humiliation, loneliness, pain. Just when you think he is about to veer from provocative to offensive, he pulls back ever so slightly, almost unexplainably, to present a point of view that I have not seen on TV before, and wish I could be privy to more often.
If voters are watching “Louie,” then sentimental favorite Steve Carell (“The Office“) could be in trouble. I admire Carell’s brilliance as Michael Scott and would love to see him accepting an Emmy that is long (and almost criminally) overdue. And I am also eager to see some recognition for Johnny Galecki (“The Big Bang Theory“) and LeBlanc, who have also yet to triumphantly hoist an Emmy in the air after years of making me laugh. But, as I sit and gaze at “Louie” every week, in complete amazement at what I am witnessing, I must admit, it would be a sweet victory indeed to see Louis CK win for his understated but profound take on forty-something life in the big smoke.
CK has an established fan base after years of toiling as a stand-up comedian, as well as for his short-lived HBO sitcom “Lucky Louie,” and his stints as staff scribe on shows including “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Dana Carvey Show” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” He reaped Emmy bids as part of the writing team of “The Chris Rock Show” in 1998, 1999 and 2000, winning in 1999, and also received writing nods for “Late Night” in 2000 and for his Showtime stand-up special “Louis CK: Chewed Up” in 2009. This year, in addition to his Emmy bids for “Louie,” he has been recognized with writing and editing nominations for his stand-up special “Louise CK: Hilarious,” which aired on premium cabler EPIX in September 2010.