As Louie delves deeper into its fictionalized Late Night War, the picture is starting to come into focus more and more. Of course, C.K. is commentating on the nature of the late night business and the idea of how fierce competition, even amongst professionals and old friends, can bring out the selfish prick in anyone. A few episodes based on this idea alone would be worth watching, but throwing Louie in the mix shakes things up more than a little bit.
By nature, Louie is an empathetic person who, no matter how cynical he gets, generally trusts humanity. When Jay Leno calls him up to thank Louie for doing so well on The Tonight Show, he tells him that he’s heard about Letterman’s impending retirement and that he wouldn’t recommend Louie taking the offer. Jay used to be the cool, hip comic that everyone adored, and now he’s turned into a sellout that does 14 minutes five days a week.
Blind to the nature of the beast, Louie mistakes this conversation for a genuine human moment before he has a reality check from his good friend Chris Rock: “Jay’s a liar, he loves that job. He’s just trying to get rid of you. These are Late Night Wars, everyone’s out to get you. Don’t listen to nobody.” Of course, Louie takes his friend’s advice but doesn’t actually think it would be Chris he’d have to worry about. After Louie leaves the restaurant, Rock makes a phone call asking why he didn’t know about Letterman’s retirement. Then Louie has to find out the hard way that his friend has betrayed him while watching a gossip TV show later that night.
What makes this exploration so great is that deep down, Louie wants no part of this job, and he’s looking for excuses everywhere not to take it. He doesn’t want to wear a suit. The idea of pretending to enjoy people’s company that he wants no part of makes him sick. He’d see his kids less and less. But this is show business, after all. You’d be stupid not to give it a shot, says everyone from his ex-wife to his friends to the executives to his agent. Louie is trying to play the game, and he’s getting his ass handed to him just like he did in Alfonse’s boxing ring. After getting knocked out less than 10 seconds into the fight, Alfonse stands over him and says, “OK, come back tomorrow.”
Both physically and mentally, Louie is not cut out for being beat down day in and day out. Not only is he struggling with his inner battle between what’s right for his career and what’s right for his life, but now he’s been thrown into a dirty system that he’s not prepared to combat. It’s a lose-lose situation: he’ll either need to compromise his integrity to get a job he barely wants, or he’ll lose out and eventually fade into obscurity.
– It’s fitting that Isiah Whitlock, Jr., a.k.a. Clay Davis from The Wire, plays Alfonse the boxing trainer. Because the game is out there, and it’s either play, or get played. Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeiittt.
– Another fitting guest star in David Lynch, a fellow master of the weird and surreal, playing the eccentric CBS executive.
– Can’t give enough credit for Leno being a good sport about this. Who knows, maybe he was being sincere in his call to Louie.
– Louie’s ex: “Jerry Seinfeld? Booooooo. He’s not even that good.”
– Another human moment from Louie: feeling uncomfortable for having seen a lady shoplifting, but feeling equally terrible for Jane calling her out.
– Apparently, anyone can look good under the lights with music playing and a crowd cheering you on.