Louis C.K.’s FX show, Louie, has been a breath of fresh air in the world of situation comedies. That fresh air, though, sometimes steals the wind out of my sails and leaves me drifting in open water, alone with my thoughts, convicted, waiting for rescue. I have noticed that episode 3—“So Did The Fat Lady”—struck a chord with many since it aired on Monday night. It has the classic Louie setup, with all of the awkwardness and profound insights that are part of who Louis C.K. is as a comedian.
Vanessa, a waitress at the Comedy Cellar where Louie does his standup, is, throughout the episode, trying to get him to go out with her or, even, just truly acknowledge her existence in some real way. Louie finally concedes to hanging out with her, though it was probably more out of guilt for accepting playoff hockey tickets from her. They end up going to get coffee and walking around the city, and the overall feel of the “not-date” is joyful: they both seem to be having a good time. Then the last seven minutes happen, something that you just need to watch (some coarse language):
My heart dropped as Jennifer Baker, the actress playing Vanessa, delivered that hard, heart-rending speech towards Louie. When the scene finished, I felt like I had been standing in Louie’s place, that I had just been handed Vanessa’s blow to the gut.
I felt that way because I have been in Louie’s shoes, ignored the women Louie ignores, placated the feelings of women with half-truths just like Louie does, and done it all while justifying my actions with whatever seemed the most convenient and logical excuse at the time. I, like Louie—especially in this episode—allowed myself to objectify women by their outward appearance at the expense of seeing their personality, their God-given value, in seeing who they are.
These are hard-fought truths to deliver to people in our society in which perfect bodies, perfect faces, perfect everything are held up as what is really to be valued. The fact that Louis C.K. had the heart to address such an issue (shall I say: an unglamorous issue?) that is taken for granted and passed over by most men, in general, and me, specifically, is a testament to the power of his comedy. It shows the capabilities comedy has as a means for speaking truth in a world that doesn’t want to know it or question it. He does it in such a way that our defenses are rendered useless. I know mine were.
After that episode, all of the justifications about how I viewed women came rushing out in a parade of broken illusions, showing the mere facades they were for the actual truth of the matter. I had never connected with a TV show in such a way that my self-delusions about how I view women and which women I give time to were so accosted and broken down. I mean, I actually felt the tension in that scene as if it were me instead of Louie. And, boy, if I didn’t have a heavy, penitent heart after the credits started rolling. Looking back on the experience, as abrupt and unexpected as it was, I think that connection with the show cemented Louis C.K. and his show as my favorite comedian and situation comedy.
The moment when Louie grabs Vanessa’s hand did not feel forced; it felt like a moment of pure grace. But I am at a loss in distinguishing who, in that scene, received it. I know, even in the light of a very real moment of confession and repentance on account of this episode, that I won’t change overnight and correct my wrongs. I can still feel the justifications coming back up to the surface, making myself feel better about my actions. I don’t have that kind of control over my behavior, my sanctification. But I, sincerely, hope that one day, sooner rather than later, my heart will be moved by the Spirit and that I, too, can grab that hand like Louie did. That my identity will not be so wrapped up in appearances and that I can see every woman I interact with as the image-bearer of God that they are.
Keep up the work, Louis C.K. You are doing something I have never seen before and, just taking me as an example, what you do does help people.