Episode two: Poker/Divorce
11:30PM EST FX
If you weren’t already convinced that Louie was going to be a fascinating watch, this should be the clincher. The cold opening is a bunch of guys sitting around a table playing poker. Stop there, this could be scene from any one of a thousand sitcoms over the last half century.
But then you see who’s at the table – Louie, Jim Norton, Eddie Brill, Nick Di Paolo, Hannibal Buress, and Rick Crom. This isn’t your usual cast of sitcom characters, and they’re talking like they would if you walked in on them at the Comedy Cellar. They are busting each other’s chops, insulting each other’s mothers in vulgar and inventive ways.
Then the conversation turns to the one gay comic at the table, Rick Crom It starts as a free for all about gay sex, punchlines flying, and Di Paolo protesting he doesn’t want to hear the specifics. But then it turns into a poignant discussion about the word faggot, and the associations it conjures for gay men.
At one point, the room gets quiet, and Crom talks about the medieval connotations of gay men being burned, but not on a stake, which would be too good for them. They were thrown into the kindling below instead to burn. There’s a long and troubling history associated with the word, and, Crom reveals, for some gay men, the word brings that up every time.
Again, C.K. avoids trying to take the high moral ground. Everything devolves into jokes again quickly, with everyone participating. And Crom leaning over to smooch Di Paolo’s head. The end result isn’t a judgment, it’s a bunch of guys bringing up a serious topic, showing their differences, and getting along. If only people behaved like that more often in real life.
And that’s all before the opening credits, which aren’t really opening credits, because they happen nearly eight minutes into the show. Nothing is taken for granted in this show. Everything falls where it feels right.
The second half of the show deals with life after divorce, set up by Louie onstage riffing on the topic. That’s followed by a short montage about the day of the divorce, with Robert Kelly playing Louie’s brother. Kelly gets some great mileage out of hammering the negative into Louie, telling him he’ll die alone under a thin blanker, actually asking him to picture it. (Kelly was only supposed to be in one episode, but C.K. says he’ll be back).
Louie then flashes back again, to his high school sweetheart, Tammy Wickilinis. Feeling a bit alone, he digs her up on Facebook, and decides to meet her face to face. Obviously, things have changes, and Tammy isn’t the cute little Tammy she once was. But C.K. avoids the obvious here, as well, and what could have been either a cliché or complete sap turns into something hysterical and sweet.
The laughter continues over the closing credits back at the poker table, and you can tell its genuine for everyone in the scene, just as Louie is genuine all around.