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What I Did With My Summer Vacation: Louie


Alex Russell

In What I Did With My Summer Vacation we explore shows you should catch up on during TV’s slowest season. This week: Louie, Louie, Louie, Louie.

FX just announced that Louie and Fargo are coming back with new seasons. This is great news for anyone that loves TV. You have roughly a year to prepare. Go watch all of Fargo, I already told you to do that last week. This week’s column is just an extension of the same argument I have with people every week: you have to watch Louie.

There is a ton of ink spilled over Louis CK every year. We’re certainly guilty of spilling ink sometimes at Reading at Recess (to the point where we specifically defended it) but overall, it’s just important to make an argument and to defend it. I don’t mind the thinkpieces about how Louie isn’t funny anymore. I think it’s definitely something worth discussing.

I’m not going to argue over if Louie is or isn’t a funny show. I’m going to tell you it’s a show that’s out to do something else. If you want jokes, Bob’s Burgers, Broad City, Inside Amy Schumer, and Review are all also coming back. Louie wants you to be uncomfortable.

This last season was hard to watch, but that’s what I want out of it. Louie made poor decisions as a protagonist. He approached feminism and body image and consent as topics, because those are the topics we’re talking about. I don’t think he always did so with as much grace as he could have. I do think he did it when no one else really was.

Right now Louis CK has the mic in pop culture. Your mom knows who he is and he’s the most popular stand up with your friend who has some actual cultural cred. His show isn’t wildly popular, but he’s the subject of thinkpieces (I hate that term and now I’ve used it twice, but it’s really all that works) because there’s something in his show that’s worth thinking about.

This last season was not my favorite season of Louie. I think Parker Posey’s character from season three will be my favorite part of my favorite show for a long time to come. My favorite moments in Louie have always felt to me like I wasn’t exactly sure what was being intended by them. What Louie is to me is not what Louie is to you. It’s not because I’m special; it’s because everyone is going to take away something else from that strange view of the world.

Louie isn’t very funny anymore. There are still great moments — this, the opening to the season with the garbage truck, is the hardest I’ve laughed in 2014 — but I don’t need to laugh at Louis CK on his show. I need him to take some risks. I need him to try to talk about delicate topics and not always do a great job. I need a full world that’s uncomfortable, like the couple next to you at the restaurant getting rude with the waiter. It’s awful, but that’s what actually happens when you go outside sometimes.

Louie can be dark or light, depending on the episode and your personal temperament, but it is always something considering. Season four had big character development (and undevelopment, at times) but it can also be the story of learning how to talk to your kid about drugs. It’s a lumbering beast at this point, and I totally understand if you don’t like what you see. Just keep in mind that for some of us, that’s part of the point.

You can watch Louie on FX’s website or on Hulu. You can also read our recap series about season four where we tried to find larger life lessons in each episode.

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

Tough Questions: If You Had to Do Something Every Day for a Year that You Don’t Already Do, What Would You Pick?


Every week we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:

If You Had to Do Something Every Day for a Year that You Don’t Already Do, What Would You Pick?

Rules are simple: When are you gonna finally shape up? This tough question forces you to collect your aspirations and put them into one actionable damn thing. What would you fix about the crumbling house that is your life, if you had to pick one daily thing? Would you do good deeds? Or would you at least stop doing evil ones as often? Look, it’s rough out there. You don’t know my life.

Alex Russell

Pete Holmes (comedian, TV host, and fictional advertizing baby) often talks about the idea that to create an hour of stand up you only need to write a minute a day. It’s an easy idea, but we’re all terrible at compartmentalizing ourselves. We don’t think in chunks; we think in finish lines. I would want to write one joke every day. I’m a weird obsessive about stand up comedy and I liked the (VERY, VERY) brief experiences I had trying to sell my own bullshit on a microphone. A kick in the ass every day to do some more would do me some good and a lot of audiences a whole lotta bad.

Jonathan May

Since there’s no way I’m going to start doing CrossFit or yoga on the regular, I’m going to have to go with prank-calling people from the payphone in the mall. The calls will be short, so I really just need a little spare change every day. Now you may say, “Jon, the mall isn’t open every day,” and you would be right. So on days following holidays, I would make up the calls I’d missed. Heading into my thirties, it seems like I should pick something more sensible like doing crunches or household chores, but honestly, this will be much better for the soul.

Andrew Findlay

I would go to bed by 10:30 every weeknight. This is just the lamest personal goal ever, but six hours versus eight hours of sleep makes a huge difference in overall levels of happiness and effectiveness in life. The problem is, I never, ever recognize that at 10:3011:30, or 12:30. It always seems like reading a little bit more, watching some television, or wasting time on the internet will make my life better, then I wake up very sad in the morning. Seeing as how the phrasing of the question is if you had to, this unfortunate pattern probably won’t change anytime soon.

Austin Duck

If there was something I could commit to for a year but haven’t yet, it’d definitely be doing something every day that I’m proud of. I spend so much time making stupid fucking mistakes, but if I could exercise, read, and write every day (if I had the fucking willpower), I’d love to commit to it. 

Brent Hopkins

The one thing I would commit to would be some flavor of art. As a kid I always wanted to learn an instrument but after failing repeatedly I completely gave it up and it has been a chip on my shoulder for years. With the time to do it every day, I think I could will myself to stop being awful and at least learn something simple to play like the recorder or ukulele. That being said, I am also terrible at general art, so I wouldn’t mind learning to draw or learning to paint either. I like solo relaxing activities so these would meld best with my personality.

Mike Hannemann

The easy answer here is exercise. But if I went with the easy answer, this wouldn’t be a tough question.  I would probably commit to reading War & Peace, every day, for 30 minutes. Being able to claim that I have read that monstrous tome has been on my bucket list for years. However, when a book has over 130 characters and you’re used to consuming media with a character called “The Ice King,” this can be extremely daunting. At the end of the day, doing this every day for a year may not get me to the end of the seventh longest novel ever written, but maybe I’d be able to tell who at least four of the characters are. That’s something I can’t boast about the recent season of The Walking Dead.

Scott Phillips

I read every single day. No, I’m not talking about Twitter and Facebook and other internet material, I’m talking biographies and a lot of nonfiction books. As a career sports writer, I tend to be fascinated by nonfiction writing because I want to mold my writing to emulate some of my favorite authors that have followed sports teams or athletes like Jeff Pearlman, Jack McCallum, or David Halberstam.

But between my job(s), my social life, and those nonfiction entries it doesn’t leave me a lot of time to read great works of fiction. I wish I read fiction every single day; it pains me deeply that I don’t. Most of my fiction reading comes in the form of the television shows that I digest while I work around the house or to give myself a break from writing or researching. I would love to dive into George R.R. Martin or Stephen King, or even re-discover Tolkien after my childhood hobbit fixation.

So I know I could easily commit to reading great works of fiction every day for a year, I just wish there was more time in a day.

Tough Questions: What Are You Most Excited for in 2014 That You’re Sure Will Disappoint You?


Every Monday we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week?

What Are You Most Excited for in 2014 That You’re Sure Will Disappoint You?

Rules are simple: what do you have hope for that you know you’re wrong about? What are you fired up for early in the year that you will be miserable about once it happens? As a note here, Brent answered before the game. His pick of the Seahawks flopping in the Super Bowl looks hilarious for that reason.

Alex Marino

I speak for a lot of people when I say that I was hoping George R. R. Martin was going to release the next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series called The Winds of Winter.  But it’s looking more and more like it’s not going to be released anytime soon. With his last release A Dance with Dragons, his original goal completion date was late 2006. Then his publisher said it would be released in the fall of 2008. Then in early 2009 he said he would get it finished by June of the same year. By July 2010 he had yet to have the book finished. It wasn’t until July 2011 that the book was finally published. And in 2011 with regards to The Winds of Winter Martin said that he could have it finished in three years at a good writing pace. But given how everything went down with A Dance with Dragons, who knows how accurate that is. It’s now to the point where people are getting worried the TV show is going to catch up to the novels before they’re all finished. I still believe that the remaining books are going to be excellent, but my biggest 2014 disappointment that I’m most excited for is Martin’s eventual statement that things are taking longer than he anticipated.

Alex Russell

Every year I set four basic goals for myself. They’re simple but important, and keeping them in mind all year allows me to keep my year on track. It’s easier to quit smoking when it’s one of four things to do in a year than it is to “quit smoking.” I quit last year and haven’t had a cigarette in just under a whole year. This year? The one I’m going to miss is losing 20 pounds. I was rail thin growing up and time caught up with me in my late twenties. Through portion control, salads for lunch, and just outright misery I’ve managed to get my diet under control, but there’s just no damn way I’ll make it to 20 pounds. It’s fun to live in a world where that’s still possible, and that’s where February finds me. Oh, and stand up. There’s no way anyone can follow 2013, which had some of the greatest album releases of the last decade. The only way to go is down.

Andrew Findlay

The University of Tennessee’s football season. God. Damn. It. Go Vols.

Brent Hopkins

This is strange (because by the time this is posted it will already have passed) but I think the thing that I am most excited for this year is the Super Bowl. The reason I am so into the Super Bowl this year is because I am a huge Seahawks fan and have been for years. I got to sadly watch the last Super Bowl they were in where Pittsburgh benefited from less than stellar refereeing (yes, I know the Seahawks had quite a few games go their way unfairly this year, also). The reason I think this year will disappoint me is two-fold. One is I have work. Like any sane company though, we aren’t allowed to just sit and watch TV so I’m probably not going to be able to watch it. I will be sitting at work, doing nothing, in Korea. Second is this sinking feeling that the Manning two-headed dragon needs four rings to satiate the football gods in their family. One for the father and one for the unknown brother as well. The stars seem to be aligning for them to place their fists together in this strange Planeteer formation made with four Super Bowl rings  and Mr. Football will come down from the skies  and erase rugby and soccer from history and the new sports chairgroup will be the Mannings… or maybe I am a smidge neurotic. WOOOO HAWKS (if they won).

Scott Phillips

I always get fired up for the Olympics, but I just know that I’m going to be disappointed by this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi. I mean, can Russia do anything right? There are still Olympic structures that have yet to be completed. There’s the fiasco about stray dogs and whether Russia actually believes if non-heterosexuals are “people.”

And we haven’t even gotten to the actual playing of the games. In the summer of 2008, I had the time of my life playing drinking games to the Olympics nearly every night while I was living at my Mom’s house and hanging with my friends from high school. It was fantastic. But, ever since, I can’t find good drinking partners for these games and the Winter Olympics, in particular, are a difficult sell.

Drinking games during the Olympics are fantastic and I encourage people to join me at any point during the Sochi games, I just know I’m going to be disappointed while doing it.

Mike Hannemann

The event in 2014 I’m most looking forward to being disappointed by has boiled down to the third and final Hobbit movie.  I don’t mean that in the sense that I thought the prior two were particularly bad films. Quite the contrary, in fact. They were flawed and directionless at times, but they still were fun. And as a nerd who made that large transition into adulthood during the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, any chance I get to return to that world is already a win in my book. Hell, I’m going to fight kicking and screaming to hold onto that belief when an inevitable sequel to the original trilogy comes out in 15 years. The disappointment is instead going to come from longing to return not to a place, but a time. I’m going to see this movie with my best friend at midnight in the same theater we saw the original films in, and I’m going to hope beyond hope that it’ll feel like I’m 19 again, and there’s still a whole lot about the world I haven’t figured out yet. But in the end, I’ll probably just end up mildly entertain and thinking that maybe taking the next day off of work just to see a movie was a bad idea. Also that I probably shouldn’t have drank 64 ounces of Mountain Dew at one in the damned morning.