‘Louie’ – ‘Joan’: Funny lady

A quick review of tonight’s “Louie” – multiple Emmy-nominated “Louie,” no less – coming up just as soon as I want to go to the aquarium…

“Joan” was the last of the four episodes FX sent out in advance of the season(*), and yet another mark of how many different kinds of stories Louis C.K. can and will tell.

(*) And it’s unclear when or if I’ll be getting additional episodes in advance, since Louis C.K. works so close to deadline. (As I recall, FX didn’t send out any additional ones past the initial batch last year.) Given that I’m going to be traveling the next few weeks for Comic-Con and press tour, I may either have to table reviews or post them many days late. It’s too great a show to be ignored, but this is also a lousy period, schedule-wise. I’ll do what I can, when I can.

We open with a hilariously filthy stand-up bit, then an amusingly half-deadpan, half-surreal sketch with Louie trying to order food at the same time he fields a periodic guilt-ridden call from one of his sisters.

But those pieces are just an appetizer for the main course of the episode, which is a long, sincere conversation with Joan Rivers about paying your dues, professionalism and the ups and downs of stand-up. In a way, it felt like a bonus feature to that HBO special “Talking Funny” – albeit a bonus feature where C.K. tries to make out with Seinfeld two-thirds of the way through. A discussion of Louie’s craft has been fertile territory for the show (see also the poker game in season 1), and also for Rivers herself, who’s never more likeable and interesting than when she’s talking about paying her dues (see also the documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work”), and I liked how Louie kept misreading the various cues – until, in the end, they wind up going to bed anyway(**).

(**) Where does Louie’s sex life rank on the list of all-time strangest among TV comedy characters? Charlotte on “Sex and the City” probably still beats him (that show hooked her up with all the freaks), but Louie has to be up there.

In the end, he hates the lounge gig, but he understands the lesson Joan teaches him, and we get another sweet little closing scene as Larry Louie apologizes to the kind hotel manager and gets the gig back. It’s just impressive what a command of tone this show can have from scene to scene, beat to beat, style to style.

What did everybody else think?