Let’s get this out of the way right up top: seeing David Lynch pretend to host a talk show within the universe of Louie feels like something out of a David Lynch movie. Although Louis C.K.’s show often employs the casually surreal tone of Lynch’s oeuvre, having the director himself on his show is a major coup, and an unexpected delight.
As last we left Louie, in the initial installment of a three-part episode, he had nailed a Tonight Show segment and was in the process of being vetted to take over for a soon-retiring David Letterman. This stroke of good fortune, however, remained bittersweet, tainted by the realization of what Louie’s future might behold if this new opportunity didn’t work out. As mentioned in my previous recap, the golden years of comedians who never quite pop can be some seriously murky territory.
Although that first episode was rooted in reality, based on the actual Louis C.K.’s experience of going viral on Conan’s show in 2009, we have now left the realm of reality (as far as we know; perhaps Letterman will indeed make some surprise announcement soon and blow everyone’s mind). Simply because it’s hard to picture the rest of the series functioning with Louie as a professional talk show host, one would think he couldn’t possibly land the gig in next week’s episode. Louie is nothing if not surprising, though, so who knows how this arc will be resolved. Perhaps with an alternate universe where Louie’s apparent confidant Chris Rock has pulled the rug out from under him to become the new Late Show host. It would be a rather ironic conclusion, though, considering the pair has already worked together on Rock’s late-night talk show in real life for HBO.
Here are the five most uncomfortable moments in last night’s episode.
1) “His show was great, but that was a long time ago” is the assessment that Louie’s ex-wife, Janet, makes of Jerry Seinfeld. If that’s Seinfeld she’s talking about, it’s hard to imagine what she thinks of the fictional Louie’s career. The two are having a drink so Louie can drop the Letterman news on her, and there’s nary a “congratulations” when he does. Instead, she senses that he wants her to urge him not to do it – but she won’t do that. Not only does she encourage him to do it and explain how the kids will be fine if he takes the job, she adds to his pile of fears by audibly fretting for Louie’s odd future.
2) Going in to see the boss at the Letterman show was going to be nerve-wracking for Louie no matter who it was, but the fact that said boss ends up being a gruff walking anachronism played by no less than David Lynch seals the deal. He’s got a gun in his desk, and he immediately takes charge in the room once Louie walks in, ordering the comic and his man-boy agent to do a cue card-reading of an abysmal Nixon joke. “Comedy is about timing, son,” Lynch’s boss-man tells Louie, who has some of the best timing this side of George Carlin.
3) In a scene that doesn’t have any bearing whatsoever on the rest of the episode as far as I could discern, Louie suffers through a weird moment in the grocery store. After his daughter Jane sees an old, hungry-looking lady steal food, she makes a big fuss so that security escorts the woman away. Louie can’t quite figure out how to tell his daughters that, in Adult World, sometimes telling on a person is wrong, even if they are breaking the rules. It’s a great, very human little moment, but it seems so dart-board random, like the pharmacist’s visit on the Marc Maron episode a few weeks ago, that it makes the episode feel a bit disjointed for a moment.
4) Only on Louis C.K.’s show will you find circa-2012 Jay Leno explaining why he sort of sucks now. “When you have to do 14 minutes a night, nobody’s funny every night,” he explains. It’s too bad he’s doing so in the context of discouraging Louie from trying out for the Letterman spot. This scene makes the Jay Leno character into kind of a prick, but between this and the salary cut the real-life Leno just took to keep his staff on board, dude suddenly seems rather sympathetic.
5) “Hey! All right! Let’s get started!” That’s Louie’s queasy attempt at opening up the Late Show when Lynch’s executive gives him a curtain-front screen test. Louie’s all nerves and hollow enthusiasm. This isn’t going well at all. Compounding his discomfort at failing to strike the right tone while waving to the audience, Louie has to endure the sight of Lynch-as-head-honcho succeeding at same, while the sound of a roaring audience magically fills his ears. You have to look pretty hard in Blue Velvet to find a stranger moment. (OK, not that hard.)
Last Week’s Recap: Talk Show Hosts