I’m in LA which means I’m in the US which means my Netflix overnight became exponentially more awesome. And as a result I’ve binged on the first two seasons of Louie like Louie bingeing on ice cream and masturbation. Sadly, the Ritz-Carlton room service is light on ice cream options, but they do have a nice turndown.
The last series I binged on before Louie was Seinfeld. Four months ago, I'd seen no episodes. Now I’ve seen them all: DVDs bought, videos ripped, and all hundred-and-whatever living on my iTunes. I don’t get why people hate on the the finale, but it’s pretty unarguable that the show lost something in the later seasons. For me, things started to shift when they got rid of the opening stand-up pieces. Those bits made the show honest, they set the tone, and also – underratedly – gave context for the studio laughter. I don’t believe in the whole “laugh track bad, no laugh track good” argument; but I do think a laugh track that begins with a piece of stand-up equals better.
Then it struck me (as it's no doubt struck dozens of people, but I'm late to this, I'm a fast catching up binger), it struck me that Louie and Seinfeld are basically completely the same show told through comics who are basically completely different.
And yet not. The Ricky Gervais Talking Funny HBO special is pretty good value throughout, but my favourite section is where Jerry gives a completely “Seinfeld-ed” version of one of his favourite Louis CK bits (the vacation walking around the car). Then Chris Rock complains about kids who underestimate the value of good jokes underpinning any comedy (alternative or otherwise). Then Louis reminiscing about opening for Jerry in the 80s, getting freaked out by applause, and the career-changing advice Jerry gave him on how to handle the applause. “Stay in the bit.” Then Ricky jokes in all honesty about how that lesson had been second nature to him and, it’s implied, all Brits.
And that is the beautiful, beautiful thing about Louie. It allows us to stay in the bit, beyond the confines of a stage. Especially since, as “Louie” the comic says on stage at one point, 80% of his life is made up of moments that he’d never ever share with anyone, and just take to his grave. I think it’s also “staying in the bit” that makes for all those great moments where we keep with a song from beginning to end. That busker on the subway, and “Who are you?” on the freeway.
As a final point, I love how Louie like Seinfeld builds up its universe with each episode. Whether it’s that mom who wants to be spanked and called Daddy in one episode who pops up much later in the season just to give Louie a filthy look, or the “bag of dicks”, or wanking off to Hotlips out of M*A*S*H which pre-empts the crazy good Duckling Afghanistan episodes.
I look forward to seeing Jerry in season 3 – I read somewhere that that happens. And I look forward to Louie’s neighbour popping up again (played by the same actor as Seinfeld’s aggressive Puerto Rican armoire stealer Bob) – I haven’t read anywhere that that happens, it’s just a hope. And I hope season 3 will be good, but I’m sure it will be. I’m a bit sad that I’ll probably have to wait until I’m back on Netflix USA soil to see it. But that’s the flipside with binges: you’ve got to build up to them. And besides, I could probably do with going out a bit.