Last week’s “The Road, Pt. 1” felt a bit unsubstantial, but given CK’s strong track record with season finales, I was confident this week’s conclusion would reveal the larger picture to last week’s hazy, bleak portrayal of the monotony of life as a touring comic. Unfortunately, “The Road, Pt. 2” doesn’t provide much of a payoff and, like last week, too often takes us to places we’ve been before on this show. That’s not to say that there aren’t some bright moments scattered throughout, but overall “The Road” fails to hit the heights of previous season closers and serves as a fairly weak way to cap off Louie’s intermittently brilliant fifth season.
As part two opens, we see Louie is still unhappily slugging through his dreary tour, en route to Oklahoma City, the ongoing monotony of traveling evident as yet another flight attendant slams his into his ankle with the bar cart. He’s met at the airport by the club owner’s daughter, who (unlike the over-eager and too friendly Mike) is utterly uninterested in Louie, only glancing up from her phone as she drives him to the condo to complain about the Mexicans (“sickies”) that populate Oklahoma City.
It’s just as well because, as he hammered home to a crying Mike last week, Louie is here to make money, not friends and has no interest in connecting, or even really talking, to anyone on this tour (aside from a brief stand-in as an antebellum general for a pair of mother/daughter tourists taking novelty old-timey photos – the only time Louie seems to be even remotely enjoying himself on his trip down south). Louie’s fellow comedian roommate, Kenny (Jim Florentine), welcomes him into the condo with an invitation to join him in day drinking and chilling with some random chicks, but Louie brusquely declines and shuts himself in his bedroom.
Although Louie was similarly miserable at his stop in Cincinnati, at least his performances were successful, his material met by receptive, laughing audiences. From the moment Louie enters OKC’s Jokers Club and the owner announces he’s expected to wear a suit and refrain from swearing (Louie refuses to acquiesce on both accounts, of course), it’s clear that Louie’s an ill-fit for both venue and crowd. While opening act Kenny (Jim Florentine) slays the crowd with abysmal fart jokes and audience interaction, Louie’s jokes about getting old and the shifting racial makeup of the majority and minority fall totally flat. Not only is he soon demoted from headliner (Louie: “Am I getting paid the same? Then I don’t care.” Club owner: “You should.”), but he’s only able to get any laughs as serving as the butt of someone else’s jokes, when Kenny gets up on stage to mimic him, donning an orange clown wig and whining, “I’m forty seven. I’m from New York. I’m depressing,” a bit which, of course, kills. We’ve seen Louie bomb before on the show, most notably at the Hamptons benefit last season, but it’s always uncomfortable to watch.
Back at the condo, Louie, ego still bruised, tries to ignore Kenny, who calls him out on his unfriendliness and pretty much hits the nail on the head when he asks, “You think you’re better than me?” Yes, Louie does believe he’s better than Kenny, but as the audience, we are often inclined to go along with Louie’s misanthropy and have spent the episode similarly looking down our noses at the out of touch club owner and his vacant daughter, the audiences who just don’t get Louie’s material, and hacky Kenny, as well. While Louie’s comedic snobbery towards Kenny is somewhat justified, Kenny isn’t wrong when he points out that, “You’re totally unfriendly. I don’t know what they call it where you’re from (another dig on Louie’s New York aesthetic), but you’re not friendly.”
What follows is the highlight of the episode, as Louie goes on to call Kenny a hack and criticize his low-brow preference for fart jokes. Kenny offers the irrefutable retort that, unlike Louie’s, his jokes are getting laughs and demands Louie, “look me in the eye and tell me fart jokes aren’t funny.” Of course, a now sobbing, broken-down Louie can’t do that because, really, who in their right mind doesn’t enjoy fart jokes? (Let’s not forget that this very season included a scene where Louie shit his pants on the city streets.) Kenny is a hack – his jokes aren’t well-crafted or insightful and his act is entirely based on reaching for the low-hanging fruit of tit jokes and potty humor, but the those jokes get laughs because they’re universally relatable. Everyone laughs at farts, but Louie’s more cerebral, self-deprecation just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I always enjoy the Louie scenes that feature comedians talking shop and this one (reminiscent of the Louie/Dane Cook meeting back in season two) proposes the interesting question of whether the material itself or the audience response is more important. Both installments of “The Road” have shown that comedy is Louie’s job and like any job, there are days when you don’t want to be there and are just trudging through until your shift ends. Yet Louie still views comedy as an art and aspires to be good at what he does, whereas Kenny is happy to get on stage and make people laugh in the easiest way possible. The laugh, not the joke is the goal for Kenny, who offers Louie the questionable advice that comedy “is not an art, it’s a bar trick. You gotta get outta your head. The funny is in your ass.”
After the two get drunk and eat pizza, a vomiting Louie and a pizza-shit impending Kenny attempt to share the toilet, resulting in Kenny’s falling and cracking his skull open and dying on the condo’s bathroom floor (it’s poetic justice that such a staunch proponent of toilet humor like Kenny would meet his ultimate end while trying to take a shit in the toilet tank -he truly died as he lived). After being berated once again by the club owner and ignored by his catatonically apathetic daughter, Louie finally returns home and the brief fifth season thus comes to a somewhat unsatisfying end. While there were some bright spots on “The Road,” the two installments ultimately suffer from a lack of momentum and purpose and feel emptier than previous Louie finales, like “Duckling,” “New Year’s Eve,” or even last season’s uneven “Pam.” Louie‘s fifth season often saw a return to form and was more laugh out loud funny than it’s been in recent years, so it’s a bit disappointing to end here with “The Road,” but all in all, a solid season from Louis CK.
Louie, The Road Pt 2 Rating: 6 out of 10
Kimberlee Rossi-Fuchs is a Senior Writer for Pop-Break, regularly covering Game of Thrones, Louie, Futurama, and Boardwalk Empire, as well as other delectable nuggets of TV, film, and music throughout the year. Since graduating with Highest Honors from Rutgers University with a degree in English, Kimberlee currently finds herself in a financially comfortable, yet stifling corporate environment where her witty and insightful literary and pop culture references are largely met with confused silence and requests to, “Get away from me, weirdo.” Still, she’s often thought of as a modern-day Oscar Wilde (by herself) and one day hopes her wit, charm, and intellect (again, self-perceived) will make her a very wealthy, very drunk woman. She’s also the mother of a darling little boy, Charlie Miles (aka Young Chizzy) who she hopes will grow up to not be too embarrassed of all of the baby pics she relentlessly shares of him on various social media sites.