Season 3 of Louie is shaping up as a lesson in trust. Despite Louis C.K.’s notoriety as a stand-up comedian, his FX show dares casual viewers to tune out in the absence of sitcom conventions and punchlines. This week’s adventure, following Louie to a weekend gig in Miami, was an experiment in filmmaking. ”Miami” was equal parts travelogue, social commentary, and think piece.
When I first read that parts of Season 3 would be filmed in new locations, including this Miami experiment, I assumed that these excursions would be used as a backdrop to showcase Louie’s upward career arc. Since the show lags behind the comedian’s real-life experiences by a few years, it seemed reasonable that hopping on a plane to the Sunshine State would lead to bikini beauties, larger audiences, and a higher profile for our favorite schlub. Instead, the episode featured Louie’s confusing emotional bond with a strapping Cuban lifeguard named Ramon.
Confused? You shouldn’t be.
As a comedy nerd myself, I have heard dozens of comedians rail against the lackluster audiences in South Florida. Were it not for a handful of corporate comedy clubs and deep-pocketed Indian casinos, residents of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and the Palm Beaches would never get to see the funniest performers in America perform. Floridians are lazy, entitled, and resentful of all things clever. As a result, we pack rooms for simple, derivative performers like Bill Engvall or Gabriel Iglesias, and turn out in embarrassingly low numbers for craftsmen like Marc Maron, Greg Behrendt, and (ironically) Louis C.K.
Though the episode only delves into that stereotype briefly, when Louie’s ex-wife explains that he’s always hated Florida, it actually informs the rest of the episode’s story brilliantly. Louie has been hopping on planes to earn a paycheck for 20 years, and there are places around the United States that absolutely depress him. But why?
Most of us would be thrilled to spend a year living the life of a comedian. Seeing new places, working for an hour or two per night, avoiding the shackles of a desk or a daily routine. In fact, many comedians stay on the road precisely for that reason. They like the freshness of new women, available weed, and hotel beds, and exist for the sole purpose of avoiding responsibility.
For Louie (the real and fictional guy), life has become all about his children, and the time spent away from his daughters is part commerce, part imposition. He is past the phase of waking up with cocktail waitresses and channel surfing for hours on end. Louie can’t enjoy the trappings of Miami, because they aren’t available to a 40-something guy with extra pounds and insufficient hair.
This is why the Ramon saga unravels in such an interesting way. Brought together by a miscommunication over Louie’s flailing arms in the Atlantic Ocean, an unlikely, yet charming friendship forms. Louie is clearly envious of a younger, handsome guy who can function effectively in the suave, fat-free undercurrent of South Beach, while Ramon is genuinely impressed by Louie’s sense of humor and professional success.
When Ramon offers to show Louie the “real Miami,” our hero really steps out of his comfort zone. Louie sees a world that was hidden on previous trips, with new people and new friends opening their minds and their homes to him. In one day, Louie had been welcomed into a community, and it struck an emotional chord that he was flummoxed to explain, even to his ex-wife.
Then, like all things masculine, it fell apart because of machismo and poor communication. In the episode’s centerpiece, as Louie tried to explain to Ramon why he extended his trip, pages of dialogue were replaced by powerful, awkward sentence fragments. How does a 42 year old man explain to a young adonis that he wants to spend more time with him? Go back and watch that scene again, and notice that the word “gay” is never uttered by either man. That seemed purposeful, in order to showcase how politely both Louie and Ramon wanted to treat one another. Yet, the cloud of insecurity that men feel about encountering new male friends, outside of the mutual pursuit of women, loomed heavy.
It is a shame that men act in this way, because we do. Aside from a “safe list” of topics that shed any homoerotic discomfort, like football or Kate Upton, guys are not just bad at communicating with the women in their lives, but also the objects of their bromantic affections.
Louie took a shot, overcame his fears, and reached out for a new friend. It’s a shame that his only “real” friends will continue to be the selfish, paranoid, overly competitive comics that hate to follow him in New York City.
“Miami” was an interesting half hour of television, occasionally tough to watch, only because most men who don’t look like Ramon can understand how Louie must feel. When our imperfections become our most recognizable characteristics, the world can really be a son of a bitch.
Did you enjoy Louie’s trip to the Sunshine State? What takeaways did you have from the story? For viewers who are new to the show, are you having any reservations? What were your favorite moments? I’m fascinated by the thematic chances Louis C.K. is taking with this season, so please comment early and often!