Is Louie a sitcom? Is it even funny? Is it supposed to be? (Kristina)

Why so many questions in the title? Maybe it’s because so often I find myself asking them during and after each episode; maybe it’s because some of us are taking rhetorical theory and it’s causing us to question EVERYTHING. Who knows.

What I DO know is that I love Louie, and I’m excited to write about it for my final paper. I’ve loved Louis C.K.’s standup for a very very long time, and his show on FX (or Netflix, for most of us) is like 5 seasons of 30-minute snippets of his bits. There’s even actual scenes of standup in there – because Louis plays Louie, an overweight/self-deprecating divorced dad of two who is a working comic, the show is heavily based on his real life. It’s been praised for the inclusion of standup in the show, and is perhaps the first of its kind; in that case, it could be seen as a comedy variety show, as the textbook defines.


Image from Neon Tommy

That being said, for anyone familiar with C.K.’s standup material, they know that it is often dark. For some, too dark. But he has this uncanny way of saying something completely deranged that not only lets the audience know he doesn’t really believe it, but has them laughing at it at the same time. And even if you don’t agree with what he’s saying (see: C.K.’s and subsequently, the young, straight white male’s justification for the use of the derogatory F-word), you still get a general idea of his mindset (i.e. he’s offensive, but maybe he’s not a homophobe).

Louie takes these bleak, unhinged concepts and exaggerates them so much that you’re not even sure if it’s supposed to be funny anymore. With standup, C.K.’s sole purpose is to stand onstage and make people laugh; however, with Louie, the comic gets an hour on a non-major network with liberal censorship policies and full creative control. I would speculate that if C.K. was socially and professionally allowed to make people emote things other than laughter while he’s onstage, he would. Louie is just his outlet to do so.

I do not suggest reading this entire article, because I find it to be very pretentious, but there is one part of it I liked: the author defines a new kind of audience, the “Laptop Loner,” who sits in bed at odd hours and binge watches television shows alone (a.k.a. all of us). He goes on to say that “Not only does Louie’s audience not know when to laugh, they don’t even know if what they’re watching is supposed to be funny. For the Laptop Loner, this ambiguity is made all the more palpable by the absence of viewing partners; we use other people’s reactions to gauge the correctness of our own. But it also makes the ambiguity less assaulting. Alone, we can be comfortable in our discomfort.”

Louie can be categorized as a sitcom, a variety show, a comedy-drama (or “dramedy,” if you want to be cutting-edge) or whatever else you want it to be. That’s the beauty of it. Is it supposed to be funny? We may never know, but we will keep watching.

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7 Responses to Is Louie a sitcom? Is it even funny? Is it supposed to be? (Kristina)

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I love Louis CK. He is by far my favorite comedian, and I actually didn’t know about his TV show in FX so that is definitely something that made me happy. I agree with you and his humor is sometimes too dark, but I feel what makes him special is the way he says it and because there is always a little bit of truth on what he says. – Jon

  2. mediaphiles says:

    On Max’s post about “Atlanta” I wrote that I’m impressed my comedy that fully acknowledges the crappier parts of life but still allows us to find the humor in them. That’s what Louie does. Louis CK’s ability to engage in self-deprecating humor without coming across as whiny and/or seeking validation is part of what I think makes the show so successful and authentic.

  3. marymdalton says:

    Excellent post!

  4. mediaphiles says:

    I thoroughly enjoy Louis CK for the sole reason that he is brutually honest whether it is positive towards his image and likeness or, as said earlier, self-deprecating. His humor causes you to actually devote a second longer to analyzing what he said instead and as you said, questioning whether it is actually funny or not.

    -meghan murphy

  5. Ayla says:

    I have never gotten around to actually watching the show, but I remember when it was first being promoted that I was disturbed by the show. I was thinking that it would be an idiotic sitcom that would not last longer than one season. But, now I might have to watch an episode or two in order to fully understand that point of the show.

  6. mediaphiles says:

    Louis is a great comedian, and I agree that sometimes he does get too dark for me. I can tell from your post that he is able to take all parts of his stand up and turn it into this show, even the darker parts of his act, and that shows that he is fairly well-rounded as an actor.

    – turner arrington

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