Louie: A Strangely Structured Show


What a strange show. Not at all in a bad way, but watching this is really a bit more like watching a comedy routine with pictures than an actual TV show. Actually, Louie reminds me a lot of shows like Kim Possible and The Weekenders, both cartoons I used to watch as a kid. These are done in two or more acts and each snippet usually has some kind of message/theme. Obviously the themes and topics of Louie are not the same as those of Kim Possible or The Weekenders, but the structure is very similar.

Where Kim acts have a moral, Louie acts just draw comedy from one thing in each act. There’s the one where Louis C.K., the title character, is old, one where he’s in the South, one where the waitress is racist. See where I’m going? Each act of Louie has a thing—be it a theme, place, whatever—that it builds its comedy from. Interestingly, this more like a comedy routine than a typical TV show. Continuity of any kind is irrelevant (comedians, in my experience, don’t focus on making logical steps from one bit to the next) and each bit is a self-contained anecdote. Sitcoms sometimes work like this too; Seinfeld, for example, had very few serialized story arcs. But unlike on Louie, when you return from an act break in Seinfeld, you still know where you’ll be.

I can imagine each vignette as a comedy routine. “So I had to travel to the South, and…” Louis might say. And as the vignettes progress, we usually see the bits you would imagine a comic would touch upon. The times when weird stuff is going on: when the guy pulls a gun on Louis for not talking to his sister more, when the lady on the plane is trying to put her oversized bag into the compartment (add quote here), that kind of thing.

Watching this show as though it were a comedy routine also lets me brush off one of my complaints about the latest episode. Everything that happened was a little bit over the top/ridiculous, so I had trouble seeing it as a show based in reality. Where the earlier episodes felt more down to earth, like when we see Louis going to a PTA meeting, etc. people in “Travel Day/South” are just more crazy, such as the woman on the plane, the brother with the gun, the airline employee who doesn’t seem to function as a normal human, etc. (“Dr. Ben/Nick” is also another example of a low-key/realistic episode.)

The shorts also mirror what Louis talks about in his routines. By saying to myself “this whole show is a comedy routine” I am looking past weird unrealistic events and treating them as comedic embellishments rather than a failure to imitate real life better.

2 Responses to “Louie: A Strangely Structured Show”
  1. Lindsay Edwards says:

    “As a kid …” I definitely still watch Kim Possible and The Weekenders (Recess and Fillmore too, but they never seem to be on …) As for intelligent feedback, I apologize, for I have none.

    • I still watch Kim Possible if I see it on TV — but I rarely watch TV except to see a specific new show, so I haven’t seen it in a while. It was one of the more awesome cartoons though.

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