I suspect there are two groups of people when it comes to comedian Louis C.K. – either you know and adore him, or you haven’t spent enough time with his comedy to appreciate him. It only takes one Youtube video or standup special to transition from the latter group to the former. As someone who has recently made this transition, I highly recommend taking twenty minutes out of your day to watch an episode of his acclaimed self-produced FX show Louie.
Better yet, watch the two-episode arc in season 3, “Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 1” and “Part 2.” It guest stars the great Parkey Posey, who has proved herself the Goddess of Improvised Character Acting in many a Christopher Guest movie. The two episodes are representative of Louie‘s off-putting, meditatively clownish sense of humor, the kind of perfectly imperfect comedy that elicits a few chortles during the watching and then creeps up on you later.
“Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 2” in particular bores itself into your brain with its beautiful ambiguity and commitment to intense realism. Louie and Posey’s character Liz (who at one point tells him with a straight face her name is Tape Recorder) go on one of those messy late-night dates, following impulses through the streets of New York. The episode is shot in an almost theatrical way; it’s a living, breathing, present-tense experience steeped in uncertainty about how it will end, the most terrifyingly accurate depiction of a first date ever. Amidst all the standard introductory fare lie startling insights into Liz’s whimsical, perhaps disturbing nature. We are poised to laugh at her silliness and his bemusement, but there’s something disquieting about the way Louie must assure Liz there aren’t snakes on her face as she kneels to question a mentally ill homeless man.
Parker Posey’s gorgeous, haunting performance atop a rooftop at the end of the episode is truly impossible to put into words. Zach Dionne of Vulture describes her sitting contemplatively near the edge while “some ghost we’ll never know punctures her verve.” It’s the inexplicably heart-breaking culmination of twenty minutes of television, a true testament to the medium’s potential. (How is this entire romantic epic told in only twenty minutes??) Go find this episode online, keeping in mind New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum proclaimed it “so good that I don’t even want to talk about it.”