The world is one big green light for Louis C.K these days. Nothing seems beyond his grasp, creatively and professionally—but even by his standards, today is a great day to be Louis C.K. He just received a record seven Emmy nominations for Louie and Live At The Beacon Theater, including nods for Best Actor, Best Writing, and Best Directing in a Comedy Series. Oh, and tonight on Louie, he romances Maria Bamford and Parker Posey in the very same episode.
Of course, this is Louie we’re talking about, so I probably should have put “romances” in ironic quotation marks since the episode is less a delightful romantic romp than a shadowy descent into a psychosexual maelstrom of neediness, anxiety and sexual humiliation. C.K. has a tendency to attract damaged, needy, vulnerable and unstable women on Louie for a very simple reason: He’s damaged, needy, vulnerable and unstable himself. Like tends to attract like; damage invites damage and when two damaged people brush up against each other, sexually, socially and otherwise, the friction can lead to both exhilarating sparks or further damage, especially when tricky variables like children and the curious subculture of stand-up comedy are thrown into the mix.
Louie tends to attract damaged women for all the reasons above, but he also attracts damaged women because, in the universe of Louie, as in our universe, pretty much everyone is damaged on some level or another. It’s a miracle and pleasure to encounter someone who doesn’t seem afflicted with the trials of Job or a Sisyphus-like burden. Perhaps that’s why Louie found himself attracted to the lifeguard in last week’s episode: He seemed to be an emissary from a world where everything wasn’t dysfunctional and fucked-up all the time. That, plus the dude’s rippling physique.
But the darkness of Louie’s worldview is undercut and leavened by profound moments of connection and tenderness. There’s a distinct element of idealism and humanism that keeps those qualities from curdling into nihilism. It’s a show about emotionally scarred but often decent people trying to make the best of the strange cards life has dealt them.
The nighttime world of Louie is fraught with peril; every time C.K. leaves the loving womb of his family or his professional home at the Comedy Cellar something terrible can happen. And sometimes terrible things can happen even within the supposedly safe confines of the comedy club, or at least they can begin there, then take a sordid turn.
In the intriguingly titled “Daddy’s Girlfriend (Pt. 1),” something seemingly wonderful—being asked to have no-strings-attached casual sex with Maria Bamford—darkens unmistakably into something sad and harrowing. After admiringly watching Bamford perform at the Comedy Cellar, Louie asks Bamford if she wants to hang out and Bamford surprises him by cutting out all the bullshit, posturing and game-playing and simply proposing that they go back to her place.
The first sign that Bamford may not be the girlfriend his daughters implore him to find is that she doesn’t want to be seen leaving the club with C.K. The red flags don’t stop there. We then segue to Bamford and C.K. in bed together, Bamford with a look of profound disappointment and C.K with a look of shame mixed with confusion, as if he cannot quite wrap his mind around what just happened but understands it enough to know that whatever it was, it wasn’t good or satisfying or either party.
A chagrined Bamford proposes having sex again, not because she’s eager to repeat what appears to be, at best, a disappointing experience, but rather because she’s so disappointed and let down that she can’t help but imagine a second time around would have to be better, if only by default.
“Daddy’s Girlfriend (Pt. 1)” transforms comedy-geek sex fantasies into the stuff of sexual nightmares, like when Bamford tells C.K. “Don’t worry. I’ll blow you so you get hard again” with all the passion, lustiness, and enthusiasm of someone explaining to an electrician that their air conditioner isn’t working.
Strangely undiscouraged, C.K. asks Bamford if she wants to have dinner with him and meet his children and Bamford doesn’t just seem averse to going out with Louie: She seems borderline repulsed by the idea that he might imagine she’d want to meet his children and form a relationship that went beyond casual sex, that he might look at her and see a girlfriend and a mother figure for his children, not someone to hook up with every once in a while.
So Bamford, in a performance boldly devoid of vanity, repays C.K.’s fumbling attempts at intimacy and connection by verbally eviscerating him while he’s at his most vulnerable, telling him that he’s bad at sex when her actions had already conveyed that message in the harshest manner possible.
Feeling rejected and horny, C.K visits his daughter’s schools, where he has soft-focus, slow-motion romantic fantasies about three of the teachers set to the same lush, sultry soul song. First he fantasizes about a particularly young and nubile educator, drinking in her long blonde hair, perfect teeth, and air of corn-fed wholesomeness before the teacher abruptly ends his reverie by saying goodbye and slamming the door. Undeterred, C.K. fantasizes about another young teacher before settling on a zaftig, middle-aged teacher a far cry from the dewy perfection of his first object of infatuation but good enough to fantasize about, at least for a little bit.
Louie’s romantic fantasies continue when he visits a book store and flirts purposefully with a clerk played by Parker Posey while looking—or at least pretending to look—for books for his daughters. As the bookstore clerk, Posey fits the broad archetypes of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s cute, hyper-verbal, quirky, has a funky bibliophile job and seems uniquely well-suited to lifting a smart, depressed artist out of a funk.
This is Louie,however, so the character isn’t just a reductive male fantasy: She’s a fully-fleshed out character with damage and issues of her own that will become more apparent later. Unlike Bamford, Posey isn’t turned off by Louie. having kids: She identifies with his bookworm daughter in a way that suggests she hasn’t quite let go of her own girlishness, for better or worse. Like Louie and Bamford, Posey is damaged, but C.K. is too infatuated and overjoyed that she says yes to a date that very night (but only after deadpanning “I don’t date guys. I’m a lesbian,” seemingly only to fuck with Louie) to see her as she really is, as opposed to how he’d like her to be.
“Daddy’s Girlfriend (Pt. 1)” ends on a note of hope and optimism as C.K. pulls back his arm in celebration of scoring a date with a cute, interesting flibbertigibbet, but in this context holding out hope for a new relationship is a way of ensuring that inevitable disappointments will be even more soul-crushing. Pray for Louie. The fictional world he inhabits can be as cruel to his alter ego as the real world is currently kind to the man who created him.
- I’d like to thank Todd VanDerWerff for covering Louie while I got married. I love writing about Louie so much I was reluctant to let go of the reins even for two weeks but I knew Todd would do a much better job than myself and that I was leaving y’all in very good hands.
- Crazy that C.K. could be nominated for seven Emmys in a single year and still get fucked out of a Best Comedy Series nomination for Louie.
- “I still just jerk off to that wedding album I found in the garbage” is such a great non sequitur.
- “Jesus, now I’m all dicked up in the head” is a fantastic turn of phrase, expertly delivered by Bamford.
- This episode was full of wonderful, beautifully observed little moments, like the pitying little moan Bamford musters when C.K. asks her if she wants to meet his children.