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Lucky Louie, Ep. 1.11, “Louie Quits”

Lucky Louie, Ep. 1.11, “Louie Quits”

Lucky Louie, Season 1, Episode 11: “Louie Quits”
Written by Dan Mintz
Directed by Andrew D. Weyman
Aired on August 20th, 2006 on HBO

Too often, Lucky Louie has come across as a great concept with poor execution. The idea of one of the funniest living comedians showing the contemporary relevance of a seemingly dated storytelling style by featuring modern language and topics of conversation is the sort of of thing which, hypothetically, I’d be very much on board with. Unfortunately, Louis C.K. too often forgets to update the attitudes associated with the form, leaving Lucky Louie often feeling like an ugly excuse to retread perspectives that television should’ve left behind long ago.

This is brought up as a way to discuss the cold open of “Louie Quits,” which has a promising start but eventually succumbs to the same problems which have been dragging down the series from the first episode. As with the show’s style, the idea of Rich getting married seems like a funny idea, and it gets funnier as we find out that he’s marrying his mother’s eighty year-old friend to use her health insurance. But like too much of Lucky Louie, the joke eventually starts to feel malicious (in this case, it’s when he calls her a “twat”), and the scene quickly drains itself of any possible humor.

After the commercial break, too much of the episode doesn’t even have the highwire absurdity that almost saves the opening scene. Rather, it uses yet another subject, Louie and Kim’s poverty, which doesn’t make for an appropriate or particularly funny punchline, keeping “Louie Quits” from ever getting off the ground.

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The mockery of their class begins in the first scene, where the joke is on Kim for not being able to afford the $60 haircut Tina recommends (haha!). Rather, she’s stuck with Louie cutting her hair, which could work as a gag if it weren’t so directly related to their income problems. To make matters worse, Tina makes a snide remark about Kim’s hairy legs, adding a nasty bit of sexism to go with the classism. Not only is Kim poor, but her poverty prevents her from living up to female beauty standards (again, haha!).

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Still, the episode is much more focused on Louie, as he’s the ostensible reason for their poverty, and it doesn’t pull any punches with him either. After he quits his job with Mike in frustration, he’s no happier when his new gig forces him to look like “Fanta.” Sure, the scene mocks Louie’s disappointment, but the joke appears to be just as much on the job itself. Given the American unemployment rate (yes, the show came out ten years ago, but there was unemployment then, too), one imagines many people would love to have the “Fanta” job, and it’s hard to see the humor in Louie’s position. He’s in a tough spot, and one in which doesn’t deserve to be laughed at.

Luckily, Jerry does deserve to be laughed at, and his “welcome aboard” rant in the job interview makes for far and away the episode’s funniest moment. Unlike the Rich scene, which taints its silliness with an offensive slur, writer Dan Mintz is happy to leave Jerry’s absurdity as the butt of the joke. Rick Shapiro works wonders here, doing all he can to sell Jerry’s sleaziness while still grounding the character in something resembling human behavior, enough to allow the viewer to buy it. The gag also works well thanks to its length, as the extent of Jerry’s fascination with the phrase becomes as much a part of the comedy as the very fact that he’s at all intrigued. (In this way, the joke functions in a similar way to the blissful ten plus minutes of Too Many Cooks.)

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But “Louie Quits,” like Lucky Louie as a whole, has far too few jokes which are that removed from retrograde attitudes about underprivileged people of all kinds. Whenever the show moves in a less offensive direction, as it does in the cold open, it too often tacks towards the kind of mindset which keeps it from realizing its comic potential. The result is a series which feels just as dated as the style it attempts to update.