This post contains spoilers for the two episodes of Louie that aired on Aug. 11.
I should note that I tend to hold jokes made by liberals about evangelical Christians to a higher standard. If you’re going to venture into an arena of humor where it’s easy to take low roads and cheap shots and still be rewarded fairly handsomely for it by your audience. So it’s evidence of Louis C.K.’s genius that he took a scenario where he could have relentlessly mocked a character who enters the episode declaring that masturbation’s as terrible as Hurricane Katrina or Rwanda because “those events, while certainly serious, affected people in only one region or area,” and made the entire episode an extended joke on himself.
“You don’t know the darkness that you live in,” the anti-masturbation advocate tells Louis. “Oh, I know the darkness,” he says, and it goes from there. What follows is possibly the most hilarious and depressing masturbation fantasy ever put to film, and that definitely includes anything in the first American Pie movie, which for all that it’s become kind of ridiculous is actually great that first time out. In trying to get himself off to a memory of a hot girl in an elevator, only to find himself imagining an absurd scenario involving a shopping bag full of penises, and another occupant in the elevator who ends up telling him that “American women are very complicated.”
I tend to think that C.K. is a little pessimistic (and underestimating the extent to which women have dirty minds) when he declares that “it’s really sad about men. That we can’t have a beautiful thought about a woman that’s not followed by a disgusting thought about that same woman.” But while he’s right when he tells the abstinence advocate that “Losing your virginity is supposed to be this tragic, silly, stupid moment, and you only get it once. For you it’s going to be this big grown-up thing,” the episode gives credence to the idea this evangelical chick gets Louis’ loneliness and isn’t afraid of it or disgusted by it. Christians may be wrong that holding out for the ideal sexual experience makes it better when it finally happens, but they’re right that whether you’re having it or not, sex is big and important and powerful.
Steven Hyden pointed out in a brilliant essay at the AV Club, that last week’s episode of Louie, where Louis C.K. and Dane Cook had it out over the accusations that Cook had stolen C.K.’s jokes, that self-awareness is the ultimate pop culture get out of jail free card. If that’s true, it explains why C.K. is so critically adored — his entire act consists of self-awareness.
And it’s very fitting that he’d follow up an episode where he’s the less powerful comic in the room but has right on his side with an episode where he’s vastly more successful but the comic that he’s in a room with has shed that last iota of self-mythology and enthusiasm about anything and plans to kill himself, perfectly self-aware. “I figured you for the one guy I can say adios to,” Eddie tells Louis, who after having been evangelized to in the last episode finds himself evangelizing in favor of keeping on going. “I got my reasons to live,” Louis says. “I work hard to figure out what they are. I’m not just handing them to you.” That reason to keep going, and in this case, to go home, may be his daughters. But Louis’ ending the night with just a little more ugly self-awareness, that he’s the kind of guy who can fight for himself, but not for everyone.