Lucky Louie, Season 1, Episode 10: “Confession”
Written by Mary Fitzgerald and Aaron Shure
Directed by Andrew D. Weyman
Aired on August 13th, 2006 on HBO
Maybe Lucky Louie has just been searching for the right material for its jokes. Over the past few weeks, these reviews have derided the show for being racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and using subjects such as rape and alcoholism for comedic material. For too much of the season, Lucky Louie has come across as a way for a white man to crack jokes at the expense of those less fortunate than him. In Louie, Louis C.K. reveals an overwhelming amount of empathy, but his earlier series often feels burdened by his failure to understand anyone’s perspective other than his own.
“Confession” doesn’t find C.K. being any more empathetic, but it does show him aiming his humor in a more suitable (and funnier) direction. Rather than laugh at those who don’t deserve it, C.K. (along with writers Mary Fitzgerald and Aaron Shure) picks a relatively innocuous target (Louie’s struggle with religion), and the result is one of the funniest episodes of the season.
Even the cold open, usually a minor bit of a Lucky Louie episode, is among the finest the show’s had to offer. Although the joke of Rich saying something stupid has been used fairly frequently, it usually doesn’t revolve around a gag as absurd as him peeing his pants to try and attract women. Unlike too many of the Rich jokes, it clearly makes him the punchline, giving it a welcome clarity.
Beyond the lack of ambiguity, there’s a lovable immaturity on display here, which is sadly missed in C.K.’s later work. As brilliant as Louie can be, there’s something refreshing about him not showing an open with a French New Wave influence, instead merely making a joke about a guy peeing his pants. C.K. tackles this disparity in thrilling fashion in “The Road: Part Two,” from Louie‘s fifth season, but the meta self-awareness of the episode still feels miles away from what happens in “Confession.” The cold open merely revolves around mocking a guy for peeing his pants, and Fitzgerald and Shure aren’t above the gag in the slightest.
The lightheartedness endures after the opening credits, and “Confession” is all the better for it. Once again, Louie falling asleep after staying up all night is in some ways another lame attempt to laugh at boorishness, but the absurdity of him staying up in order to masturbate to stolen basic cable propels the joke beyond most of the other similar gags. Lucky Louie ultimately fails at being much more than a stylistic exercise, but seeing jokes of this nature in a format which traditionally would never allow them does make for a few good chuckles, and they come through the best when the jokes are as absurd as this one.
Of course, it’s only a set-up for the core of the episode, which is also among the better plots of the season. Whereas so much of Lucky Louie fails by attempting to wring humor from a subject which simply doesn’t bear it, Fitzgerald and Shure find a good situation for the comedy in the tale of Louie using confession as a means to complain about his marriage. Rather then use someone’s suffering as a source of laughs, “Confession” merely takes a ridiculous situation, then finds its comic elements.
When those comic elements include moments as sublime as Louie’s rant about his dream of performing oral sex on a demon in hell, it’s hard to complain too much. The joke isn’t totally free from being offensive (it suggests that hell for a man involves having a penis in his mouth), but it’s so over the top that taking issue with it seems unfairly nit-picky. That it comes in a church confession booth makes it all the funnier, and even C.K.’s break of character isn’t enough to ruin the joke.
And beyond the comedy, “Confession” also has a psychological depth beyond most of the rest of Lucky Louie by exploring the relationship between Louie and Kim. In showing the couple confront their deepest issues with one another, “Confession” gives the viewer an understanding of their relationship in a way the show has too often avoided.
That being said, “Confession” still leaves space for the comedy, avoiding self-seriousness and keeping the tone consistent. By applying the show’s comedic touch in a way that avoids subjects who don’t deserve it, “Confession” becomes one of the strongest episodes of the series.