Sunday, August 18, 2013

'Louie': Free-flowing, scathing hilarity

(Published Aug. 19, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Not a traditional, feel-good sitcom, “Louie” is the acclaimed half-hour comedy series created by and starring former “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” writer Louis C.K.

C.K., whose actual surname Szekely is pronounced “seekay” in Hungarian, brings his uniquely scathing and disarming wit to the show about a divorced stand-up comic raising two daughters in New York.

The comedian, apart from portraying a more problematic version of himself, also writes and edits the show, giving the similarly named comedian character a lot of familiar, even bizarre situations that aren’t always inspired by C.K.’s own experiences.
Several self-esteem issues and relationship foibles form the backbone of the series’ first season. A somewhat disenchanted Louie attempts to date again, but for one reason or another, things don’t work out for him. It’s the opposite of his character’s status quo in his short-lived, adult-oriented sitcom in 2006, “Lucky Louie.”

But this current show lets C.K. cut loose and experiment, wryly tackling topics such as sex, politics, racism and religion. Its darkly comic situations are sometimes bookended by his stand-up routines made exclusively for the show.

Through these short but effective bits, the comedian gets to examine and dissect everything from the minutiae of home life to his health issues, the self-deprecation and sharp observational tone consistently inspiring giggles. But C.K.’s humor almost always conjures up things to seriously think about, whether they’re stand-up routines or the situational parts.

And the heavier episodes of the first season easily stand out. In “Bully,” Louie gets intimidated by a teen thug, but later discovers disturbing reasons for his tormentor’s abrasive behavior. In another episode, “God,” it’s revealed that Louie unnecessarily carried extreme guilt back when he was a boy because of the misguided actions of a religion teacher.

Recurring guests like Ricky Gervais (as Louie’s odd, pranking doctor) and Pamela Adlon (who co-starred in “Lucky Louie”) keep some arcs running even though continuity isn’t always focused on (hence the personality inconsistencies of some characters). Other episodes benefit from the guest appearances of Matthew Broderick and “Smash’s” Megan Hilty.

Similarly accomplished comics like Joan Rivers, Robin Williams and Chris Rock eventually appear as themselves in subsequent seasons of “Louie,” subdued but sublime presences complementing C.K.’s unusual but welcome brand of hilarity.

(“Louie” airs Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m. on Jack TV.) 

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