Louie Recap: ‘Joan’

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“You came here on a shitty bus to give Donald Trump your seventy-five cents.”

I love the women of Louie this season. They’re either disturbing, overbearing, awkward, or all of the above, and without them the sadness to Louie’s character wouldn’t have the depth that makes this show so hilarious. Joan Rivers plays herself in “Joan,” where Louie learns from not just another strange woman in his life, but a seasoned celebrity who has seen both the best and worst times a successful stand-up comedian can experience. And how fitting this episode aired the day of the Emmy nominations — Louie snagged two for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series (for the “Poker/Divorce” episode) — so this show has nothing to complain about, and as this episode explored, neither does Louie.

“Joan” opens with Louie performing stand-up at one of his usual New York spots, where he tells jokes about diarrhea and pooping in public restrooms in front of his daughters. Next we see him ordering some groceries to be delivered, but he and the deli employee reach a dead-end when they can’t understand each other on the phone. Louie gets a call on the other line from his sister. She’s crying and apologizing for not being a better big sister and starts to talk about some neighbor boy from their childhood, but Louie tells her to drink a glass of water then hangs up. Initially this weirded me out, but it’s clear from Louie’s indifference that this is probably a call he’s had with her many times. After he hangs up the phone, there’s a knock at the door. It’s the delivery guy from the deli holding bags of Louie’s groceries.

Next, the show picks up in Atlantic City, where Louie takes a gig working the “Comedy Night” of a Trump-owned casino, where he performs in a room that he quickly learns is just a free rest zone for gamblers who are either too drunk, broke, or both to be at the slots, so Louie’s act tanks from the moment he opens his mouth. He ends up turning on the audience and starts mocking them for giving Trump their money, only to be reprimanded by the manager and reminded of the restrictions on his act. Louie refuses to agree to the rules, which include not cussing or dissing Trump, and he quits.

This episode captured the saddest side of casinos so well, whether it was the shots of the endless maze of slot machines and old people or the scene where Louie just walks around and watches everyone like they’re some strange breed of creature he’ll never understand. Then he wanders into a Joan Rivers performance in the big theater where he would rather be performing, and the episode finally picks up some positive energy. Louie watches Joan as she scampers up and down the stage in a frilly gold robe yelling out jokes about her droopy vagina. He approaches her after the show and she invites him to her suite, and that’s when she imparts him with the comedy (and life!) wisdom bombs he needs to jerk back to reality. And it all starts when he tells her he quit his gig.

After telling Louie how stupid he is for quitting, for not sucking it up and leaving out Trump jokes, and for not seeing the value in the gig or even getting to know the name of the manager (“His name is Sam and he is a person.”), Joan gives him the reality check he needs: “You don’t know when you’re lucky.” She reminds him that in two years, he could be performing in the theater while she’s the one doing the Comedy Night gig. She tells him to stop bitching and appreciate what he has, and how does he reply? A mumbled “Sometimes I get tired of the bullshit.” Saying that to Joan Rivers?

Like any city dweller, Louie has to live around people who have better apartments, better jobs, and better connections than him on an everyday basis. He showed this in last week’s episode as well, but this week it was less about gaining things he feels he deserves and more about jumping straight to the most successful time of his career. It’s only through Rivers’ mental bitch slap that he sees that success lies in the present. Like Joan says, “It sounds so stupid… What we do is a calling, my dear. We make people happy. It’s a calling.” Louie has a family who needs him, paid stand-up gigs, a nice apartment, and a deli guy who delivers his groceries in under a minute — and that’s success on a level that matters, not least because he ends up in bed with Joan Rivers. Droopy vagina or not, that’s one classy lady.

Megh Wright promises that Josh Kurp will be back next week.