There are really only four recurring characters on FX’s “Louie”: Louie, his two adorable daughters, and Pamela, played by Pamela Adlon. The rest of the cast is made up of guest stars, some playing hyperbolized versions of themselves and others playing virgins, hobos, casino comedy bookers, and the like. On the next few pages are the ten I believe have been the show’s best so far, knowing full well that tonight’s episode “Duckling” — in which Louie has an adventure in Afghanistan — might make the numbering obsolete. But humor me, folks — I need the page views like Louie needs pictures of the cast of “M*A*S*H” to masturbate.
#10. Will Janowitz, “Halloween/Eddie”
Will Janowitz’s appearance on “Louie” is so brief —all of a minute of screen time— that it doesn’t even appear on his IMDb page. So why does he matter? Well, he was Finn from “The Sopranos,” the only character I could relate to on the show, because he was just as intimidated by the bottle-smashing ways of the mobsters as I would be. (Plus, wouldn’t you feel uncomfortable if Vito started hitting on you?) For what it’s worth, Janowitz also played a comedian who believes Don and Lane are gay in the “Mad Men” episode “The Good News.”
#9. Todd Barry, “Moving”
“Can I pitch an idea to you? It’s a project. This is great. We start with your mom, we kind of lower her into a bathtub. But the bathtub’s not full of water; it’s filled with diarrhea from homeless people. And then we put…a cinder block on her head, to hold her down….”
#8. Ricky Gervais, “Dr.Ben/Nick”
As Dr. Ben, Ricky Gervais was able to do what David Brent always wanted but never could: say exactly what was on his mind, at any time, with no fear of repercussions. He’s the one in a power position, so to speak, because he’s a well-respected, successful doctor, which is why he’s able to tell Louie that tits are meant to be on women, not men; that he looks like diarrhea; and that he has AIDS and/or a tumor. Oh, and that Louie’s penis is the worst thing he’s ever seen, worse than the time he saw his dad hanging himself while masturbating.
#7. Joan Rivers, “Joan”
When I think of Joan Rivers, I don’t think of a great comedian or American icon — I think “annoying harpy who works for E! and appeared on ‘Celebrity Appearance’ with her monster of a daughter.” I’m not old enough to remember when Rivers was one of the funniest people in the world, regularly appearing on “The Tonight Show” and “Hollywood Squares” (although with every clip I watch on YouTube, the more I appreciate her). But Louie C.K. is, and in the Season 2 episode “Joan,” he reveals his admiration for her — and sleeps with her, too. It’s Rivers who steals the episode, however, when she explains why C.K. should be thankful for being a comedian. She says, “You do it because we love it more than anything else. That’s why you’re doing it. If you want a real job there are a million things you can do. What we do is not a job. It sounds so stupid. What we do is a calling, my dear. We make people happy. It’s a calling.”
#6. Munro Bonnell, “Bummer/Blueberries”
If I had done a post on the Ten Best Homeless People on “Louie,” Munro Bonnell — who you might not know from his roles as Stepford Guard in The Stepford Wives and Jack Reilly in Flannel Pajamas — would have taken the top spot. As “Crazy Homeless Man,” he’s the one who eyes Louie at a crosswalk, charges him, and gets thrown into the street, right at a truck going full-speed. His body is crushed and his decapitated head goes rolling down the street. A woman screams, “Oh my God, get some help!” A man responds, “Help what? His head came off,” my favorite line of the season.
#5. Amy Landecker, “Bully” and “God”
In “Bully,” Louie takes his date (Amy Landecker) out to “one of the last sh*tty old places in New York,” a doughnut shop on 14th Street. Things are going well until a group of high school students/football players invade the restaurant, screaming loudly and punching one another. Louie tells them to keep it down, and over the next excruciatingly cringe-worthy five minutes, the lead jackass, Sean (who I bet plays linebacker, because white linebackers are the WORST), emasculates Louie in front of his date, so much so that she considers it a turn-off and leaves. Landecker reappears on the show two episodes later, but this time, she’s playing Louie’s mom. In a flashback, she has to convince her Catholic School-attending son that he didn’t literally nail Jesus to the cross. At the end of their conversation, she asks him, “Do you want to get some doughnuts?” Make of that what you will, but either way: Landecker is wonderful in both segments.
#4. Stephen Root, “Dentist/Tarese”
A law of TV: put Stephen Root on your show, and it will automatically be better. See: “King of the Hill,” “True Blood,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Justified,” and of course, “NewsRadio.” On “Louie,” Root played a dentist who stuck his dick in Louie’s mouth when his patient was knocked out from happy gas. Louie pretty much lifted the idea from the “Seinfeld” episode “The Jimmy,” where Tim Whatley (played by Bryan Cranston) may or may not have “violated” Jerry, but Seinfeld didn’t dream about meeting Osama bin Laden and deep-throating a “banana.”
#3. Doug Stanhope, “Come On, God/Eddie”
Louie hasn’t seen his former friend Eddie (Doug Stanhope) in 20 years, and the two comedians are on different paths. Louie’s doing well enough for himself, constantly booking gigs, and he has two daughters to look after. Eddie, on the other hand, well, his life is a bust: he travels the country in a broken-down car; he’s “gone soft in the last three pussies” he’s been in; and he looks like a boozier, sweatier Michael Keaton. The only reason he meets with Louie is because he has something important to tell him: he’s going to kill himself, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. The episode ends ambiguously; we’re not sure if Eddie went through with his suicide promise, but in this full-length episode, we see what could have happened to Louie if he didn’t have his girls to look after.
#2. Eddie Brill; Hannibal Buress; Rick Crom; Nick DiPaolo; and Jim Norton, “Poker/Divorce”
Before “Oh Louie/Tickets,” “Poker/Divorce” might have been “Louie”’s finest episode. Louie and his comedian buddies are trash-talking each other while playing cards, and Nick DiPaolo asks Rick Crom what it feels like to have a penis in one’s ass. What follows is an examination on whether it’s acceptable for Louie to use the word “f*ggot” on stage, a history lesson on the derogatory term, and all the information you could ever want on City Jerks, where it’s suggested you wear rubber soled-shoes. “Poker” only takes up six minutes of screen time, but it’s an insightful and fascinating segment, led by Crom, one of the few mainstream gay comedians out there.
#1. Dane Cook, “Oh Louie/Tickets”
Appearing on “Louie” might be the savviest thing Dane Cook has done in the last five years (watch the video here). In “Oh Louie/Tickets,” he’s not the steroid-using douchebag we think he is, but a self-aware guy who wishes he were a comedian’s comedian but knows he’ll never be one. He’s the exact opposite of Louie — Cook is muscular, C.K.’s pudgy; Cook has over four million Facebook “Likes,” C.K. has 100,000; Cook knows Lady Gaga, C.K. gets attacked by the homeless — and he’s almost… not pissed exactly, but upset, that Louie never denied allegations of Cook stealing his jokes back in “two thousand and six.” Much to Cook’s credit, he never starts screaming and lashing out at Louie, and that’s why he’s #1. Many of the guest stars on this list are more or less playing themselves; Cook’s doing the same thing, but he’s playing himself in a way that we’ve never seen before. Who knew the guy from Good Luck Chuck had feelings?