Any chance you recall Louis C.K.’s Parenting Hall of Fame–worthy bit from 2007’s Shameless about one of his daughters regaling his then-wife with the story of a dog-sighting? “I’m telling mama, not you.” (C.K.’s brutal, amazing follow-up: “What, you think I actually give a shit about the dog you saw? Like that was gonna be an awesome story, that you saw a fuckin’ dog?”) That’s where we resume season three’s showcase of Louie’s fatherhood, only with his younger daughter Jane (Ursula Parker) attempting to elicit enthusiasm from her sister Lilly (Hadley Delany), then burning her dad when he tries to jump in.
C.K. displays two of his persistent tropes through his fictionalized daughters here: Jane tells a joke hinging on a bodily function (mermaids dwelling in pee rather than water), while Lilly follows up a pair of absurdist knock-knock jokes with what could often stand as a tagline for Louie itself: “If you don’t get it, you just don’t get it.”
In an unusually direct editorial transition of life-to-stage, we come to the requisite stand-up bit, based on a wildly unpredictable joke Louie’s daughter told him. C.K.’s stage presence is so at ease these days. Dig up One Night Stand or even (again) Shameless and compare how close to the surface the not-quite-40-year-old C.K.’s eagerness to elicit laughs was. Now his joke-telling has synced more or less completely with his truth-telling.
Following Louie onstage is 57-year-old stand-up veteran Allan Havey, whose more classical, joke-oriented show is interesting to consider straight after C.K.’s (don’t fret about the absence of dick jokes, however; older gentleman, Bing Crosby–channeling dick jokes abound). The reason for C.K.’s first use of a fellow road warrior this season: Louie, who tends to dislike people and doing things, will begrudgingly dine at Allan’s home.
It’s great to see the motorcycle back, huh? It’s fun to imagine viewers who didn’t catch the last episode all of a sudden being forced to reckon with the idea of schlubby Louie riding a hog, and it’s hysterical for everyone who did catch last week’s hospitalizing crash to now see Louie has stupidly kept the bike. He putts his way out to Merrick, New York, accompanied by his French motorcycling soundtrack, to get set up with the mom from The Fighter at Havey’s house. Oscar winner Melissa Leo’s Laurie is way too serious and put-together for Louie’s taste; she owns a landscaping business and a couple of clam shacks, and drives a pickup truck in which a number of things will soon transpire.
But first there’s an awkward knives-scraping-plates dinner — “Yes, I’m a comedian,” Louie deadpans through a mouthful of chicken and spinach when prodded to talk about himself. A marriage-fight between Havey and his onscreen wife drives Louie and Laurie to a bar, where they’re warmly lit and having a blast — Leo laughs beautifully; C.K. chuckles harder than we’ve ever seen him do. The two land on their mutual opposition to marriage as the perfect grounds for a hookup … just as soon as Laurie drives them, almost certainly drunkenly, to a Dumpster alley.
“Whip it out!” Laurie entices Louie, which, as Tammy Wickilinis will attest, you don’t have to tell the guy twice. Next comes payback time — “strap on the feedbag,” Laurie insinuates, getting comfy. In a catastrophically ill-timed moment of soapbox-ing, Louie opines that that’s “very intimate,” he “doesn’t really know” her, and he’s just flat-out not going there. “[Fellating me] doesn’t seem like a big deal for you, but for me it would be, to do that, to you. We just have different values about that,” he says, so sincere and so unaware. We’re in Michael Scott forehead-smacking territory here, and only going deeper. Louie, un-self-consciously deep in his mire of life values, says Laurie’s totally not a whore, only that he’d feel whorish in her position. Would’ve been nice to see C.K. more overtly acknowledge the uncomfortable oral sex double standard at play, but the scene’s got a lot going for it, and both of them are shown pretty squarely equally in the right and wrong.
Laurie sears through a handful of stages — anger, Obama-blaming, bargaining, accusing Louie of homosexuality — before finally arriving at the logical endpoint, which is rape. Argue this if you want, but a woman smashing a man’s head into a car window, climbing upon his stunned head and growling “lick it or I’ll break your finger!” with a bloodthirsty war face … is female-on-male rape, making a rare televised appearance. The shock is so strong it raises the question of why Louie is cool with going out again.
Then we’re closing with a wonderful transition from the head-smashing-and-mounting rape back to the C.K. family dinner table. And here, almost like a DVD extra, is Lilly’s telling of the gorilla joke. And it’s just as good as Louie said it was.
• My wife tried out Louie’s daughter’s “Who didn’t let the gorilla into the ballet?” on our 5-year-old; she first tried “the gorilla’s mom?” and then moved onto Lilly’s exact punch line, which she didn’t “get,” although she guessed. Takeaway: C.K. knows kids.
• The stand-up bit about Louie being the first asshole his daughter will ever have to cope with. Transcendent. And Louie calling his daughter man, too.
• For one of the first times, Louie’s offspring have become the source material for something to laugh with rather than at. We’ll take either, but this new take is fresh and welcome.
• Prior to season two, C.K. told New York he wanted to film in a Gray’s Papaya. Here we’ve got a Papaya Dog scene.
• Laurie invokes the F-word — fairness — when Louie won’t reciprocate her oral favor. Last time Louie spoke on fairness was to his daughter, over a mango pop.
• C.K. will show himself as a thoughtful and present father, but he’s also happy to show that the thanklessness of the job grates on him. “Yeah, daddy, it’s really nice how you make food for us all the time and clean up afterwards. Well, jeez, girls, your appreciation really makes it all worth it, y’know.”