Louie CK’s show gets a lot of acclaim.  It makes sense because he’s funny, disarmingly honest, and self-deprecating in the best possible way.  Probably my favorite comedian of the last ten years, too.

Some (and here I’m looking at you, AV Club) are too quick to call his show groundbreaking, but there are some great unexpected things in almost any episode.  One of my favorite scenes ever came recently in Season 4’s Episode 5, “Elevator (Part 2).”  Louie is arguing with his ex-wife Janet about their daughter’s behavioral problems in school, and while Janet is pushing her case for putting their daughter in private school, Louie is mostly pushing his case for being unable to figure out what to say in response.

Here’s the scene:


It’s a surprisingly serious scene.  But what I love is his honesty in understanding that, at this moment, he’s completely unable to argue in any rational way.  Some of his lines, all delivered with his trademark angry confusion:

I know I’m out of line… I’m too emotional and I’m too upset now to contribute anything real to the conversation…

I’m saying that I can’t say anything worthwhile anymore…

There’s no way for me to say anything but shit now.

I’ve been in arguments with way too many moving parts, where there are too many ways for me to misunderstand things or misunderstand myself, and I know they can quickly spiral out of control, even after I’ve recognized that I’m no longer being a reasonable person. There’s a terrible inertia to that kind of argument.  You wish someone would take you aside and just say Look, you can’t say anything but shit right now.  So don’t say anything else, please.  It’s not that you need to always be reasonable.  Sometimes, maybe most of the time, you can’t help how you respond to things.  But you can just stop talking.  That’s something you can do.  You’re in over your head.  So take a fucking break.

About the author

Tom Howard

Tom Howard is the author of Fierce Pretty Things (Indiana University Press, 2019).

He received his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Fierce Pretty Things won the 2018 Blue Light Books Fiction Prize, and his individual stories have won the Ninth Letter Literary Award in Fiction, the Indiana Review Fiction Prize, the Robert and Adele Schiff Award for Fiction, the Carve Magazine Prose & Poetry Contest, the Tobias Wolff Award in Fiction, the Innovative Short Fiction Prize, the Willow Springs Ficiton Prize, the Rash Award in Fiction, and the Robert J. DeMott Award for Short Prose.

He lives with his wife in Arlington, Virginia.

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