On June 1st I had the opportunity to be in the studio audience for Louis C.K.'s talk show scene from last night's episode, "Late Show: Part 3", but declined because I didn't want to stand on line for three hours on a ninety degree day all by my lonesome. Had I known that 1) I was going to be writing recaps for Louie on this website and 2) a good percentage of the crowd would actually be shown in the episode, I would have sucked it up and gone because I am a professional that would enjoy saying that he had appeared on Louie without technically lying. However, at the time I didn't know either of those things, and I didn't regret my decision in the least, because instead of sweating I had stayed home in my air conditioned apartment and witnessed the first no-hitter in the New York Mets' 51 year, 8,020 game history. The Mets being a team that I have been hopelessly a fan of for the past 24 seasons. Had I gone to see Susan Sarandon, Paul Rudd and Mr. C.K., I would have missed it.
Who cares right? Fair enough: the last time you checked you are not me, but there is some irony to all of this. If you are even a casual sports or movie fan you know of the power of an underdog story, of the individual pushing his or herself several extra miles more that most people would ever dream to to achieve some impossible goal, reminding us that if we ever got our act together that the world can sometimes be a true meritocracy, that you just have to work hard to get what you want, all that stuff. So it's weird that on the same night that Johan Santana didn't allow a St. Louis Cardinal hit after taking the previous year off to recover from a shoulder surgery that no previous baseball player had ever come back from, Louie, one of the most pessimistic shows in television history, taped scenes for the conclusion to the "Late Show" trilogy, which had C.K. finally deciding to stop flirting with the Rocky parallels that were just underneath the surface in Part 2 and went ahead and fooled around with them in the backseat of his car this time around. It resulted in one of the most emotionally satisfying episodes of comedic television in a long time, and while not proficiently the best work in the show's history, it most certainly was the most satisfying, because it hit the specific heart tugging beats that any exceptional sporting event or sports movie does.
This satisfying, make-you-want-to-run-through-a-brick-wall piece of work that I'm writing about began with C.K. being told that he was fat. Because it was from his super cute daughter however, it didn't have the same sting to it than if it had come out of Burgess Meredith's mouth. All the same, she asked a question that the viewers had been asking themselves throughout this trilogy: "You want this job, right?"
David Lynch's Jack Dahl character must have sensed Louie's ambivalence too, which is probably why he exhibited the toughest love yet in their next meeting. "Have you ever had experience being funny?" Dahl claimed that he had absolutely no idea that Louie was a professional comedian, arguing that he had not made him laugh once for the week he had been training him. After giving C.K. the impossible task of saying something funny right there on the spot, he called him scared, "like a rookie" (after calling him "champ" and elaborating that champ was short for "champion", just to really lay hammer home the sports metaphors) and told him to get out. It pissed C.K. off enough to get him out of his chair and head for the door, and then to dramatically turn around and finally tell Dahl and himself that replacing David Letterman was what he truly wanted. "This is either a door or a wall for me." Dahl insisted again that he make him laugh on the count of three or GTFO. C.K. obliged by randomly calling him a pencil…peeeeeenis….parade. It was very the weirdest triumph in the history of human civilization.
It earned him some more time.
But Dahl's abuse continued when he forced C.K. to practice the art of the interview with Elaine, the cleaning lady. Things were going well for approximately fifteen seconds before Louie made the mistake of asking a follow-up question. The memory of Elaine's ballet dancing mother who died tragically young brought out the tears. Dahl was upset. "Tune in every night folks it's The Crying Cleaning Lady Show!" That might work on Public Access, but certainly not for the octogenarian crowd that CBS covets.
And in the quick scene that followed, C.K. took a lot of punches at the gym. This time he was taking a beating *literally*. This is the part of the movie where the audience wonders if this guy is *ever* going to get it together.
After unsatisfactorily practicing the monologue at home, the doorbell rang. For the first time in the show's history Louie's two daughters and their mother were with Louie in the same room at the same time. The girls explained that they made their father a card. It looked like this.
It brought C.K., and some people watching to the verge of tears.
Louie's ex wife was all like
Louie went for a run, and as the music becomes more and more overtly as close to "Gonna Fly Now" as possible, a group of kids run along with him.
At this point, the audience knows that it.is.on.
In the dressing room before the big test show, Jack Dahl said goodbye, but not before departing with reciting the three rules of show business.
1) Look em in the eye and speak from the heart. Aw. Yeah totally.
2)You gotta go away to come back. Sure, I guess?
3)If someone asks you to keep a secret, that secret is a lie. Weird. This sounds like a god awful business to get into.
In all fairness, that third rule came up more than once in the final ten minutes of the "Late Show." Moments after David Lynch departed to wherever the hell it is David Lynchs go, Jerry Seinfeld waltzed in.
Jerry, the evil bastard that he is, told Louie that he got the Letterman gig, but hey you know, have fun tonight for the thing that wont matter anyway. Hey is that your heart on the floor? Oh weird it's still beating, lemme just stomp it out. Before he left he made the mistake of saying that his getting the show was a secret, so don't tell anyone. If someone asks you to keep a secret…
He's still alive!
This is war, and thus to a triumphant score we got a glimpse into what a late night talk show starring Louis C.K. would probably look like. The Late Show with Louis C.K., from the 90 seconds or so we saw of it, looked pretty decent, doing a pretty good job of fitting Louie's vibe and sense of humor into the format. It was best exemplified when C.K. told guest Susan Sarandon that the first time he pleasured himself was to Susan Sarandon after seeing The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which Sarandon pretended to be incredibly flattered by. It's dirty, but kind of suspiciously too convenient that she happened to be his guest for her to have been his first, and it felt like something you had seen before, even though you might not have. Also, after a joke that bombed in a tired looking unidentified desk bit, this was the next card.
It sure beats The Crying Cleaning Lady Show. And also Paul Rudd.
How nice are Susan Sarandon and Paul Rudd to appear on a show that they know will never air? Anyway Garry Marshall, watching a live feed from his office, makes a phone call to presumably someone to say that he was pleased with what he was seeing, and that now CBS had options. Celebrating at the bar with Nick DiPaolo, Todd Barry and Jim Norton, we discovered what he meant by that exactly. As explained by the nice lady from Extra and from Doug the agent, Letterman wasn't retiring; Louie was being used by CBS all along to drive Letterman's price down.
If someone asks you to keep a secret…
Re-upping for 10 years at $40 million, but not getting the $60 million he wanted, the folks at The Late Show declared Louie dead to them, and dead people can never appear on the show. Well shit. DiPaolo, who will never be more likable than when he said what he said next, framed it this way: "You took 20 million out of that asshole's pocket. That's how good you were."
Even though Norton and Barry weren't as nice, Louie decided to continue his celebration anyway, screaming in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater that he did it. He added a few loud "Fuck yous" to Letterman, but they were happy fuck yous. Louis C.K. lived the dream. It was fleeting, but dammit, he won, and he knew it. Louis C.K. smiled.
The triumphant music returned, and as the closing credits ran Louie was back at the boxing gym. He felt the joys of victory, and he wants to feel it again.
I smell sequel.
Things to Say Instead of Asking About a Dead Ballet Dancer
– "I thought you were a newsman."
– "Asshole. Shit. Cock. Tits!"
– "Obama said the economy will improve in the next four years. He also said he promises to kill Bin Laden a few more times."
– "It's a really unique thing to be reading jokes off cards, because you just see your death in front of you."
– " It's official: You suck man." – Classic Todd Barry.
Things to Ponder While Seeing if Darby Was a Character's Name in The Pelican Brief
– The only other half hour episode of television recently that I could remember feeling all of the feelings over was the season finale of Parks and Recreation, particularly when Leslie Knope got to vote for herself, and when she found out she had won. Since everything is a competition, was that episode better than this one?
– Had I known that Paul Rudd would be at the taping would that have added to my desire to go? No, because I had seen Rudd once before when he was in front of a camera. Let's just say that I'm one of the few people that could recall that Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis were sitting next to Artie Lange the night Lange hijacked the series premiere and penultimate episode of Joe Buck Live.
– Who's the bigger asshole? Chris Rock or Jerry Seinfeld?
– Should we give Louie's agent Doug more credit? Because Conan O'Brien's big guest on his test show forLate Night in 1993 was Mimi Rogers, and Rogers was represented by O'Brien's agent at the time, Gavin Polone. Does Doug rep Sarandon and Rudd? That'd be damn impressive.
– Season finale is next week, but don't you think this would have been a great way to end season three?
Roger Cormier needs a more triumphant soundtrack.