Life Lessons from Episodes of Louie: “So Did the Fat Lady” and “Elevator (Part 1)”


Alex Russell

Louis C.K.’s critically acclaimed show Louie’s fourth season runs as two episodes every Monday night. Rather than just answering the question of “are these episodes good,” (because the answer is always yes) we’ll talk about the big lessons imparted in each episode. This week: Louie reluctantly goes on a date and almost loses his daughter.

Episode 3: “So Did the Fat Lady”

No one has perspective immediately. Right after watching a particular episode of a particular show, it feels more important. That one episode isn’t just 22 minutes of entertainment, it’s your Monday. It’s the time you sat in one specific chair and felt one specific way because someone who made something made you pay attention.

The third episode of Louie will get mentioned a ton this year as one of the best episodes of the show, and that makes it tough to digest fully just a few hours after its debut. In it, Louie presents the story of how he’s worn down into a date by a compelling woman at a comedy club that doesn’t fit the standard “expected weight” of a woman on television. It’s not an overdrawn morality play about how weight shouldn’t matter. It’s a story about how weight does matter (even when it shouldn’t), but how we treat people in life matters a heullva lot more.

Everyone will draw the obvious from it: It’s about being kind but still being realistic. It’s about how we think of ourselves as good people even though we sometimes click the “no thanks” button when Walgreens asks for money for breast cancer research. It’s about why we think of ourselves as honest even though we go without mentioning faults to our friends. It’s the story of the faults we all have that we don’t even always consider faults.

The episode will be a smash hit (as much as a Louie episode can be) because a 30-something woman talking about body issues in a real way is great television. It will stick with me because one of the secondary lessons is that it’s important to be a good person, whatever that means to you.

Episode 4: “Elevator (Part 1)

The second episode is a big step down in the “cultural issues” department, but it comes out of the gate with a ton of energy just the same. Louie tells his girls to repeat the “rules of the subway” as they get on the subway. Chekhov taught us that means that the subway rules are going to be broken, and sure enough…

…but the episode’s not really about losing the girls. It’s about Louie finding a woman stuck in an elevator and trying to help in a situation where he doesn’t have any real answers. There will assuredly be more in next week’s second part of this episode that explains how the subway scene relates to the scared woman in the stalled elevator, but right now we need to leave this one somewhat unfinished. It’s a great episode and it has something really sweet to say about language and shared experiences, though it isn’t a finished story yet. Both stories in it have the same lesson so far, though: Don’t bother running away from anything that can catch you.

Alex Russell lives in Chicago and is set in his ways. Disagree with him about anything at or on Twitter at @alexbad.

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