Louie is a semi-autobiographic comedy show written by, directed by and starring stand-up comedian Louis CK, shown on FX.
In it, Louis C.K. is shown performing stand up material in clubs in New York (which is slightly reminiscent of Seinfeld), while also showing his post-divorce life with two daughters, set to a mostly dry soundtrack (or silence) and no Laugh Track. Most episodes have two stories. The stories deal with stuff like his issues with his aging mom, going back into the dating game at age 42, and his asshole doctor Ben (played by Ricky Gervais). Some of the material is based loosely on stuff he's put on Youtube before, and there's a surrealistic twist to a lot of the material, but overall the show gives the impression of being fairly true to life.
The show is somewhat similar to Curb Your Enthusiasm in that it features no laugh track, and most of the humor is derived from excruciatingly awkward or painful situations. However, it doesn't have the season arcs that that show has, and each piece can be seen on its own. It's a pretty divisive show, with some people really hating it while others adore its frank and realistic feeling. Some episodes (like Season 1 Episode 11 "God") are less funny and more about significant experiences in Louis C.K.'s life that made him who he is. Two seasons of the series have aired on FX, with a third greenlit.
- Adorkable: Louie.
- Adult Fear: A couple of thugs are following you? Scary. A couple of thugs catch up to you and start threatening your children? Terrifying.
- Aerith and Bob: There is a student in one of Louie's girls' class named Never.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Hoo boy, Louie's mom....
- As Himself: Louie obviously, but Todd Barry, Nick Di Paolo and a few other stand-up comedians appear as themselves.
- The most notable real-life cameos from the second season are Joan Rivers, Dane Cook, and Chris Rock.
- Bittersweet Ending: Frequently, but especially the end of "Night Out".
- Black Comedy: One of the main sources of humour.
- Black Comedy Rape: While at a dentist's appointment, Louie find himself under the influence of some laughing gas. He has hallucination of being fed a banana by the dentist. As he comes out of his hallucination, the audience can see the dentist zipping his pants back up....
- Brother-Brother Incest: Louie's brother Robbie tries to rope him into a threeway with a girl he's been seeing (she claims that a single guy won't get her horny).
- Bumbling Dad: Louie loves his daughters, and claims to be good at dealing with them, but his interactions with them can evoke this trope from time to time.
- Butt Monkey/Chew Toy: Louie.
- Calling the Old Bag Out: Louie's mom comes out as a lesbian. Louie is more concerned with his mom's really cruel neglectful behavior in the past, all of which she handwaves. Finally, he lets her have it with both barrels.
Mom: Don't you want to hear about how I met my wife?
- Comically Missing the Point: Christians Against Masturbation leader Ellen Farber, when Louie rants at her about how she doesn't have the right to tell him that masturbation is wrong:
Louie: And later I'm gonna masturbate and I'm gonna think about you, and there's nothing you can do about it.
- Crapsack World
- Cringe Comedy: The entire show.
- Cuteness Proximity: Louie's duckling is cute enough to defuse a possible shootout between Afghani nationals and US soldiers.
- The Cutie: Ellen Farber.
- A Date with Rosie Palms:
- "Here's the thing: I'm 42, I'm really good at masturbating."
- Masturbation and a bit of premarital sex is basically the whole premise of "Come On, God".
- Disproportionate Retribution: A young bully named Sean threatens to put Louie in the hospital. Why? Because Louie asked him (and his friends) to be quiet while he was out on a date.
- The Dog Bites Back: Depending on whether or not he can, Louie will attempt to get back at the people who've wronged him. It can be petty at times.
- Dramatic Irony: Dear god, the second season finale. Pamela leaves for Paris and makes it extremely clear that Louie shouldn't keep pining for her Then after she crosses the turnstile, she yells halfway across the airport at Louie to "wave at me!" only for him to mishear it as "wait for me!". Louie goes home in high spirits.
- Dr. Jerk: Dr. Ben, who insults Louie for being out of shape and having "the worst penis ever."
- Holy shit, he takes this trope to Up to Eleven. He's the second biggest jerk in the series.
- "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Happens in "Poker". After gay comedian Rick Crom explained the serious implications of freely using the word "faggot" for comedic purposes, the room goes silent... until Nick breaks the tension by trash talking Rick using the very slur. The laughing doesn't feel contrived here or the rest of the sketch, because the viewers are, more than likely laughing along with the comedians.
- Future Me Scares Me: The subject of a tag. Present!Louie appears to child!Louie and shows him that he'll grow up to be fat and ugly ("you're gonna be bald, too"), but when child!Louie asks what the hell happened, present!Louie simply says, "I dunno, man. You'll see."
- Gang of Bullies: Sean and his friends could qualify as this.
- Going Cosmic: Episode 11 of the first season. Apart from two short segments of Louis' stand up, the entire episode is a very personal story of Louis' early experiences with religion.
- Good Samaritan: "Brother, do not let your sister die from pain or lose her baby because you are awkward with strangers."
- Heroic Blue Screen of Death:
- Louie has an epic one while dealing with his sister's pregnancy scare in the Season 2 premier.
- Another bad one in the next episode, where Louie dodging a crazy hobo causes the guy to get hit by a garbage truck full-on.
- Hollywood Atheist: Surprisingly averted with Louie's mother, who, despite not having any strong belief in God or Jesus, seems to find it unfair to totally deprive Louie of religion just because she's not a believer and stresses that treating everyone kindly is good enough.
- Hypocritical Humor: One of Louie's dates reveals that she already has a kid, something she assumes will frighten Louie. When he reveals that he's cool with it and he has two daughters himself, the woman says that she "can't take this all right now." What.
- I Didn't Mean to Turn You On: Ellen from "Come On, God", despite completely meaning to stay celibate until marriage, invites Louie to drinks and then to her apartment, where she changes into a silk robe.
- Imagine Spot: "Come On, God" demonstrates that Louie has really lame masturbation fantasies.
- Jerkass: ...pretty much everybody, but Louie's mother is a standout. She's impossible to please and doesn't care about a single person in any capacity but herself. Hell, she invited Louie and his daughters to her house for Christmas once and stood them up to go to Phoenix! It takes a real piece of work for someone telling his own mother that he doesn't love her and to get out of his life forever in public after she comes out as a lesbian to him to not come across as a Kick the Dog moment.
Louie: My kids spent Christmas in a Holiday Inn. And Santa brought them each a bag of M&Ms.
- Jittercam: Used on occasion.
- Kick the Dog: Louie's youngest daughter expresses her greater love for her mother, while he's in the middle of brushing her teeth. This is when Louie previously expressed the idea of suicide when his daughters grow too old to need him. This happens to Louie in general.
- Lipstick Lesbian: Louie's mother's wife, Jasmine.
- Literal-Minded: When Louie tells his therapist that sometimes he sees his mother when he looks at his daughter, the therapist keeps asking in confusion as to whether she's in the house.
- Love Confession: Louie to Pamela in "Pamela".
- Malaproper: Robbie consistently says "lesbonian".
- Marijuana Is LSD: Probably done for comedic effect, but the pot that Louie smokes with his neighbor in Season 1 apparently can make a dog appear to change breed and replace his neighbor's face with freaky animal masks.
- Matzo Fever: Louie claims to have it in a stand-up routine, apparently because they're very no-nonsense sexually.
- N-Word Privileges: Acceptable usage of "faggot" is discussed in "Poker" at the beginning of season one's second episode.
- Negative Continuity: Continuity in characterization, et cetera is of little concern to Louis C.K., and he's explicitly stated that if he gets bored of some element of the show, he'll change it without any kind of announcement. For example, in the episode "Mom", Louie's mother is a callous, self-centered, and unloving black hole of a person, while in "God", she's kind and reasonable. Louie also goes from having a brother in Season 1 to having two sisters in Season 2.
- Nightmare Dreams: Louie has a terrible nightmare after the incident described in Scare'Em Straight.
- No Social Skills: Louie is a pretty awkward guy. His difficulty connecting with other people is the main point of "Niece".
- One Steve Limit: The name Ellen (and variations such as Ellie) show up frequently as the names of various unrelated female characters.
- Overly Long Gag: Louie rocking out to the entirety of The Who's "Who Are You?" in "Country Road".
- Parent with New Paramour: Louie's mother shows up out of the blue midway through the first season with a new sexuality and a new wife to match.
Robbie: So let me get this straight...my mother's married to a girl who's younger than me, and way hotter than any chick I've ever dated--or ever will date--in my life.
- Pet the Dog: While she's very much a jerk in the present, Louie's mom is there to calm him down as a kid after a doctor scares him with a graphic description of how crucifixion works. Speaking of which....
- Racist Great-Great-Aunt: Louie's great-aunt Ellen. It's initially implied to be a simple case of Have a Gay Old Time (she calls Brazil nuts "nigger toes"), but when she hears that Louie and his daughters live in New York...
Ellen: Oh, my. That's no place to have two young girls! There's nothing but niggers--and even worse today, I hear!
- Real Life Writes the Plot:
- It's very possible that the episode where he tries to play a cop for an all-Jewish remake of The Godfather is a reference to his role in Parks and Recreation.
- Certain moments on the show feel all too specific and detailed to be that made up, the shining example of this being "God".
- "Poker" fits this description as well. Louis C.K. admitted that the skit was inspired by a discussion he had with gay comedian Rick Crom.
- Real Song Theme Tune "Brother Louie" by Stories, also qualifies as an Ear Worm.
- Refuge in Audacity: Louie does this in his comedy sets, but Ricky Gervais' doctor Ben character excels.
- Religious Stereotype: Subverted. Several Christian characters have appeared on the show that didn't see eye-to-eye with Louie (at all), but were shown to otherwise be decent, friendly people.
- Right Through His Pants: Louie always wears a shirt during sex. In a stand-up routine in Season 2 Episode 2, he claims that it's for the woman's benefit.
- Scare'Em Straight: Back in Louie's Catholic school days, when someone laughs during a lecture on the crucifixion, the nun calls in a doctor to provide a painstaking description of injuries involved in the scourging and crucifixion. Louie continues to have nightmares about it into adulthood.
- Skyward Scream: Louie when he realizes that he just passed up a chance for sex with Pamela.
- Spiritual Successor: The show has often been described as basically being Seinfeld IF IT WAS ACTUALLY ABOUT NOTHING!
- Stand Up Comedy: The show's main stories are interspersed with Louie's material performed at (mostly) a small club in New York.
- Surrounded by Idiots: Louie learns this in the very first episode. He's chaperoning a school field trip to the Bronx Botanical Gardens and has to deal with a bus driver who knows neither how to get there nor which roads are bus-legal and a teacher who apparently thinks it's wise to have a classful of children walk on foot to a subway station in Harlem.
- The Tag: Might be Hilarious Outtakes, another standup segment, or a short scene tying up loose ends.
- Tear Jerker: Robbie starts sobbing quietly after his mother abjectly refuses to say "I love you" to him and walks out of the restaurant they were in.
- There Are No Therapists: Louie has one, sure, but he seems to be impressively useless.
Therapist: Do think it might be because you're fat?
- A Threesome Is Manly: Robbie doesn't seem to mind the idea of a two-man three-way. He doesn't even seem to mind the idea of his own brother being the second man.
- Truth in Television
- Tsundere: Pamela could qualify as this. She's abrasive, cynical, and jerky towards Louie. But she does care about him and enjoys having him as a friend, though Louie would like to be something more. Too bad he blows it.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Louie and Nick DiPaolo (their characters, at least).
- Louis and Dr. Ben might qualify, as Louis never seems to get particularly upset at the doc, but will call him an ass.
- There are also cases, as which Louie's friendship with Pamela and Eddie, where there's a lot of bile directed at Louie, and he barely reprises because he values their friendship (and he probably finds it funny).
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Osama is shown to think he is one during Louie's laughing gas hallucination in Episode 10. Louie calls it bullshit.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Louie's brother Robbie loves their mother very much and just wants to hear her say that she loves him. Not only does she not say it, she storms out of the restaurant very visibly offended.
- What Could Have Been: In-show example: Once Louie's divorce from his wife is finalized, he looks up an old high school crush. After they sit down for coffee and talk for a bit, she comes right out and says that he's been playing coulda-been. They do end up having sex, however.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Louie has a strong phobia of seeing the dentist.
- Women Prefer Strong Men: In the episode "Bully", Louie is on a date with another middle-aged woman. It goes well until a teenager whom Louie asked to quiet down comes over and threatens to beat Louie up. Louie backs down and his date explains in brutally honest fashion that while she understands intellectually that Louie made the sensible, adult choice, at some gut level for her he's simply not a sexual or romantic prospect anymore because he wasn't "strong". They exchange awkward, mutually unhappy goodbyes, with both of them acknowledging that this is a screwed up situation, and the date ends.