A review of last night’s “Louie” coming up just as soon as I’m only ready for a Reagan joke…
“Late Show (Part 2)” opens with a very warm, simple, human scene between Louie and his ex-wife Janet, who knows Louie better than he knows himself and won’t let him off the hook about pursuing the Letterman job. After that, though, it’s an episode so surreal that of course David Lynch had to play Louie’s new late-night guru.
Everything that Jack Dall makes Louie do and say makes no obvious sense: timing him on that creaky old Nixon joke and then sending him home immediately, telling him to introduce the show without giving him any context, or sending him to Alphonse(*) to get punched in the face and then, again, sent home immediately. And yet it all makes perfect sense to Dall. When Jack stands on the talk show set, Louie can hear music and applause through the monitor, but when it’s Louie’s turn, all is awkward silence. A great deadpan comedy performance from Lynch, and I appreciated the other surreal touches around him like the two actresses playing Jack’s secretary.
(*) For the rest of his career, I may have to greet any Isiah Whitlock Jr. appearance by watching a supercut of Clay Davis’ favorite word.
This middle chapter also made great use of Chris Rock and, especially, Jay Leno. Though Louis C.K. is a former Conan writer(**), he’s never turned on Leno the way many other members of Team Coco have. And like the Dane Cook episode last year, C.K. here provides an opportunity to humanize a comic whom most other comedians (and comedy fans) have turned on. Even though it’s easy to read the conversation the way Rock does – that it’s just Jay trying to manipulate Louie – what Leno says about once being the edgy comic is true. Most of the Leno hate-pieces tend to have as their thesis that Jay went from this guy who always killed as a Letterman guest, and who had a distinctive sensibility that he watered down the second he got the “Tonight” job. I don’t think Leno’s exactly crying on his bed full of money, or in his garage with 87 classic cars, but I imagine from time to time it rankles him that many of his peers think of him as – and have publicly called him – a sell-out. And I like that even though Rock has been established on the show as being a good friend of Louie’s in the same way they are in real life, he still doesn’t hesitate to throw his hat into the ring for the job. As the saying goes, it’s not show friends; it’s show business.
(**) In the middle of the Conan/Leno/NBC mess in January 2010, C.K. came to press tour to talk about “Louie” and was, of course, asked about the latest late-night war. And he said that while he liked both men, Conan’s obsession with getting “The Tonight Show” never made sense to him, because the name ceased to matter when Johnny Carson left, and that Conan (like Letterman before him) was better off just sticking with the show and brand he had built. TV Louie’s situation isn’t analogous to either of those men, since he doesn’t have a pre-existing talk show, but I couldn’t help thinking of those comments as Louie has gone through the process of trying to inherit Letterman’s show.
Given where this episode went, it’s hard to imagine Louie having a plausible shot at the job in the conclusion of this trilogy, but it’s been a pleasure to watch (and listen to, as I love the melancholy music used on the score) so far.
What did everybody else think? And, if you need some more on-camera Lynch hijinks in your life, enjoy his turn as hearing-impaired FBI boss Gordon Cole from “Twin Peaks”: