As Louie and Laurie sit in a bar during ‘Telling Jokes/Set Up’, they have a great laugh over how shitty 99% of life is. Like many of Louie‘s scenes, it’s a quiet, thought-out moment of television where the universality of Louie’s narrative strikes a chord with its audience, no matter how off-kilter things may end up by the episode’s conclusion (which it sure does here). ‘Telling Jokes’ is an episode about the simple pleasures in life, and how age tends to make the simple things complicated and uncomfortable.
It’s displayed beautifully in a parallel drawn between the bookend scenes of Louie eating dinner with his daughters, and his ‘blind date’ set up at a comic’s friends house. In the former, the oddly accurate joke Jane tells about gorillas going to the ballet not only show the small joys of being a father at times, but also the way our age filter our views on experiences in life. The beauty of her joke is she doesn’t even realize how brilliant it is – and neither does Lily, who appears to quickly be approaching middle school (if she’s not there already), where crafting an identity is ever-important (notice the attention to structure and punchlines in her jokes, compared to the floaty, childish nature of Jane’s).
The meat of the episode however, is dedicated to two real gorillas trying to perform a ballet, when Laurie (the lovely Melissa Leo of Treme) and Louie are set up unknowingly on a blind date. If Louie C.K. has one trademark, its scenes of awkward exchanges, and there’s two whoppers of them in the episode, both during dinner and when negotiating oral sex in Louie’s truck later on.
Which brings us to the truck scene, which has been a hot topic on ‘rape’ and what Laurie does to Louie in the car for a quid-pro-quo. What I think makes that scene so damn hilarious is because its operating on so many levels: it’s commenting on gender roles, mid-life sexual relationships and dating, all surrounded around one of life’s simplest pleasures: a quick round of oral gratification. It’s amazing how his tone shifts in this scene from awkward sexual arrangement to playing with the idea of masculinity (Laurie calls him gay, she drives a truck, owns her own manly businesses, doesn’t appear to have a real need for men or dramatics), to self-depracation when he realizes that yes, her physical manipulation of him not only earned her a thousand bucks, but it turned him on in ways he ‘s only beginning to comprehend at the end of the episode.
And that’s why Louie is so fucking awesome – its not afraid to be subtle with his audience, to both leave things open for interpretation while simultaneously not giving a shit what people might think about when viewing the finished product. ‘Telling Jokes/Set Up’ is another fantastic episode of Louie, a clear example of exactly why he is dominating the art of narrative, both on television, and in his live stand-up.
- the motorcycle returns in this episode, which means Louie is still dealing with those mid-life identity crisis issues.
- telling a girl who just blew you that you’d rather not go down on her because its too intimate is not something I’d imagine happens too often in the world.
- Melissa Leo is awesome.
What did you think of ‘Telling Jokes/Set Up’? Feel free to leave your thoughts/observations in the comments below!