Sunday, November 30, 2014

How Louis CK's Daughters Influence "Louie"

As a divorced father of two, Louie follows around everyone's favorite comedian, Louis CK, as he survives as a single dad in New York City.  Louis, serving as writer, director, and star of the show has continued to do much of the work and funding himself to preserve the show's autonomy, which has built a foundation for him to create the show in a way that reflects much of his real-life and stand-up routine, making it anything but your average domestic comedy.  Just finishing its fourth season, the unique format and obscure situations in the show, along with its distinctive melancholy humor are enough to keep audiences always begging for the next episode. 
The things that seem to keep the comedian grounded in life are stand-up comedy, his group of friends, and most importantly his children.  As he makes his living as a stand-up comic, it is easy to see that he finds the inspiration for much of his material from his daughters.  Even though Louis CK talks about how shitty his kids are on stage, how nothing they say is ever important, and sometimes even flips them off when they turn their backs, it's easy to see that his children are glue holding his life together.  In the show, Louis is shameless, immature, awkward and solemn, creating a father figure that many can relate to, but one that has yet to have been seen on television.

In this scene, the look of devastation in Louis' eyes is obvious as he hears those hurtful words come out of his daughter's mouth.  This situation, which most  parents can relate to at one time or another, at first evokes sympathy from us, then makes us laugh even harder with his unexpected and immature response, creating a unique comedic situation in the episode. 
Despite the crass way that he deals with these occurrences, there is no doubt that his daughters are completely necessary to the comic's life and the development of the show.  The girls, Lilly and Jane, are the center of his life.  He revolves completely around them, as he walks them to school every morning, cooks for them every night, and tries to teach them everything he can, despite their frequent reluctance.

His depressive, bemused character in combination with his two happy-go-lucky young daughters and their constant antics creates many uniquely entertaining situations.  The way that he deals with them is incongruent with how many other parents in American culture would deal with similar issues.  While how he behaves in response to them is seemingly inappropriate and sometimes bizarre, it is obvious that he has deep love and care for them.  Despite his exhausted demeanor when he is around them, when they are gone, he seems nothing short of completely lost and clueless.
In one episode after Louis leaves the girls with their mother for a few days, he turns into an aimless wreck.  This set-up creates one of the most hilariously disastrous and stressful situations Louis finds himself in during the entire season, as he goes through great lengths just to fix a doll he bought for one of his daughters.

In the episode, after having an early Christmas with his daughters, Louis notices that one of the many presents that he gifted to his oldest daughter, a doll, has loose eyes.  Even though it went unnoticed by Jane, after the girls left to their mother's house for the remainder of the holidays, one of the first things he does is spend his alone time trying to perfect the doll for Jane.

This entire episode in season three shows just how much of a role his daughters partake in his life.  A few minutes after they depart, he is still doing things for them.  It seems he hardly feels a sense of relief to have a moment to himself even, and doesn't know what else to do besides something for them.  A few minutes forward in the episode, he has a phone conversation with his sister in which he voices his depression and states how he feels in his daughters' absence.

Whether he appears amused by them or not, it is an obvious fact that in the show, the daughters have shaping parts in every single episode.  Even in their absence, they still have quite an impact on Louie's life and the direction of the show.

In a prior episode in season three, after he leaves his daughters at their mother's for the weekend, he calls one of his friends, Pamela.  During the call, when Louie says that he just left his daughters off for the weekend in solemn tone, she contrasts it with excitement.  After a few moments, she seems to convince him that he has a weekend all to himself and that he needs to take complete advantage of it.

WIth a glint of excitement, he seems ready to do exactly what she said after hanging up the phone.  Though within a few minutes after that, not to our surprise, he stops off at a convenient store and purchases pints of ice cream, leaving the next scene to flash to him laying in the middle of a graveyard of Ben & Jerry's pints and New-York-style pizza boxes.

Without Lilly & Jane around, Louis is a total mess.  When they're there, he cooks every night, abstains from drugs and alcohol and manages to keep himself fairly put together.  When they're not, we usually get to witness him in less than ideal and even uncomfortable situations.  Without his daughters, Louis always seems to get himself in trouble.

While many other parents would give anything to have a few minutes apart from their children, Louis' tight dependence on these two young girls makes us view him differently than his appearance would lead us to believe.

As the show is somewhat parallel to his own life outside of show business, the role as an awkward single dad definitely seems to come naturally to him.  Though Lilly and Jane on the sitcom are not his actual daughters, the family bond between them always seems real and believable.  Lilly is constantly being silly, senseless and even annoying, as most other six-year-old girls behave, and Louis' constant, fruitless attempts to understand her and teach her are quite entertaining throughout the seasons.

There is constant tension between Louis and Lilly.  As she is a loud and audacious little girl, she always keeps Louie on his toes.  In an episode in season four, as Louie is escorting Lilly and Jane across town on the subway, he enforces certain rules for his daughters to follow while transferring through the subways in the hectic city.

Easy enough to foresee, Lilly pushes her luck and creates yet another stressful situation for her father.  As the trio is waiting for the right subway to pull up for boarding, she jumps on the wrong one seconds before the rapidly closing doors.  The intensity is felt as Louis and Jane sprint through the subway to fetch the little one in the dangerous city of New York.  Louis has no problem voicing his deep frustrations with Lilly upon finally finding her.

Without Lilly to create all of these frustrating situations for Louis and constantly pushing his buttons, the hilariously awkward responses that create the unique brand of humor in the show would be far less frequent.  Lilly's adorable and perceivable innocence in combination with Louis' burly, intense and seemingly out-of-line responses always give the situations a heightened level of humor.

The way Louis is so affected by a young, silly child makes us laugh at his insignificant attempts to change her.  Louie's immaturity in response to his Lilly is one of the constant and distinctive comedic elements of the show.

Being the father of two young girls makes people view him differently and accept him more.  An example can be seen in the episode where he travels to Afghanistan to perform comedy for the soldiers stationed there.  As Louis is eating lunch with the other performers, a cheerleader who was immediately turned off by his attempts to converse with her, became much more engaged and attentive to him after he mentioned his daughters.

Later on in the same episode, yet another instance of Lilly's mischief occurs, when unbeknownst to him, she actually snuck a few baby ducks into her father's travel bag for good luck.  The other characters in the episode, who would usually see Louis in a not-so-positive light because of his attitude and persona, find him humorous and likable after spotting the ducks and hearing the story about how his daughter snuck them into his bag.  Even the Afghani combatants change their attitudes from hostile to peaceful with the Americans upon hearing the story.

While Louis has been in comedy for decades, his career has just recently began to skyrocket, and it wouldn't be inaccurate to say that his daughters had a lot to with this success.  Since their introduction, his career has only continued to grow and expand as audiences love to watch a single, socially-awkward, middle-aged stand-up comic get by in New York City with two young daughters.

As the daughters promote many of the story lines of the show, create much of the conflict, and add to the awkward and despairing character of Louis, the show could not go on without their roles.  Their roles have opened many doors for the show, and have had a lot to do with making the show what it is today.  Audiences can relate, sympathize and laugh at situations in this show in a way that is distinct from many other sitcoms and domestic comedies. 

By watching even a single episode of the sitcom or hearing a few minutes of one of his recent stand-up routines, it wouldn't take long before he said something relating to his daughters or his role as a father.  Louie's daughters are about as necessary to his current television personality as can be.  WIthout them, his life and flourishing career would not be nearly the same.    

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