Louie is an American comedy-drama television series on the FX network that began airing in 2010. It is written, directed, edited, and produced by the show's creator, stand-up comedianLouis C.K.. He also stars in the show as a fictionalized version of himself, a comedian and newly divorced father raising his two daughters in New York City. The show has a loose format atypical for television comedy series, consisting of largely unconnected storylines and segments (described by FX president John Landgraf as "extended vignettes") that revolve around Louie's life, punctuated by live stand-up performances.
Louie is loosely based on comedian Louis C.K.'s life, showing him doing his standup routine onstage, and depicting his life offstage as a divorced father of two girls. Each episode features either two stories (which may or may not connect thematically) or a longer full-episode story (often consisting of numerous connected shorter pieces). The stories of all episodes revolve around Louie.
The stage of the Comedy Cellar, which is often shown on the series.
The pieces are interspersed with segments of Louie's stand-up comedy, usually performed in small New York comedy clubs, mainly the Comedy Cellar and Carolines in Manhattan. The stand-up in the show consists of original material recorded for the series, and is usually shot from the stage rather than from the more traditional audience perspective. Sometimes these comedy segments are integrated into the stories themselves, whereas other times they simply serve to bookend them with a loosely connected topic. In the first season, short, awkward conversations between Louie and his therapist are also shown occasionally. Beginning in the third season, some episodes do not feature any stand-up performances or the opening credit sequence.
Episodes in the series have standalone plots, although some recurring roles (e.g. Louie's playdate friend Pamela, portrayed by Pamela Adlon, who was C.K.'s co-star in Lucky Louie) occasionally provide story arc continuity between episodes. Continuity is not enforced; for example, Louie's mother has been portrayed in two very different ways.[a] As C.K. explained, "Every episode has its own goal, and if it messes up the goal of another episode, [...] I just don't care." Some stories also take place outside of the show's main time frame. For two examples, the episode "God" depicts Louie's childhood, and the episode "Oh Louie" shows the comedian 9 years earlier in his career. Beginning in the third season, Louie has moved toward story continuity within the season, and it includes multi-episode story arcs.
The pilot episode includes segments depicting a school field trip and an awkward first date, with subsequent episodes covering a diverse range of material, including divorce, sex, depression, sexual orientation, and Catholic guilt.
C.K. serves as the show's star and plays the only character who appears in every episode. Louie lacks a regular fixed cast, and instead features many guest appearances by stand-up comedians and actors. As a stand-up comedian in New York, Louie's social circle on the show consists mainly of other comedians, and many notable comedians (such as Nick DiPaolo, Todd Barry, Jim Norton, Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld) have had recurring roles as fictionalized versions of themselves.
Most episodes tend to focus on Louie's interactions with new characters. However, the show features a number of recurring characters, including Louie's two daughters, Lilly (Hadley Delany) and Jane (Ursula Parker); his brother Robbie (Robert Kelly); his teenage-looking agent Doug (Edward Gelbinovich); Pamela (Pamela Adlon), the playdate friend and potential love interest; Ben Mitchell (Ricky Gervais), Louie's crude and inappropriate doctor; Louie's therapist (David Patrick Kelly); and his ex-wife, Janet (Susan Kelechi Watson).
Since Louie lacks a strictly enforced continuity between episodes, supporting actors occasionally reappear in multiple roles, as is the case with William Stephenson, who appears as a bus driver in the pilot and as himself in "Oh Louie/Tickets"; Amy Landecker, who appears as Louie's date in "Bully" and as a young Louie's mother in "God" and "In the Woods"; and F. Murray Abraham, who plays a swinger in "New Jersey/Airport", Louie's uncle Excelsior in "Dad" and Louie's father in "In the Woods". Furthermore, Louie's mother and children have each been portrayed by multiple actresses, although his children have been consistently portrayed by Delany and Parker since the middle of the first season.
Recurring guest stars
Hadley Delany as Lilly. Louie's older daughter.
Ursula Parker as Jane. Louie's younger daughter. Jane is originally portrayed by Ashley Gerasimovich for four episodes in the first season before Parker took over the role.
Pamela Adlon as Pamela. A friend of Louie's and love interest. Their children play together at the local playground, which is where Louie and Pamela form a friendship which eventually causes Louie to develop unrequited feelings for her. Pamela moves to Paris in the second season finale, but returns in the fourth season and says she is now ready for a relationship with Louie. Adlon also serves as a consulting producer and has co-written five episodes with C.K. and was nominated for an Emmy for writing.
Susan Kelechi Watson as Janet. Louie's ex-wife.
Todd Barry as Todd. A friend and rival of Louie's who constantly mocks and belittles him, albeit in jest.
Hannibal Buress as Hannibal. A friend of Louie's that he plays poker with on a regular basis.
Rick Crom as Rick. Another friend of Louie who plays poker with him regularly. He has dubbed himself "The supreme court judge on everything gay".
Nick DiPaolo as Nick. One of Louie's closest friends whom he sees regularly to play poker.
Jim Norton as Jim. One of Louie's poker buddies and close friends.
Chris Rock as himself. He appears in various episodes playing himself as a friend and confidant of Louie. He accidentally spreads the news about Louie being a potential David Letterman successor.
Jerry Seinfeld as himself. Seinfeld portrays a fictionalized version of himself who is a rival to Louie. Seinfeld first appeared in "Late Show Part 3" as another potential replacement for David Letterman. He later appears in "Model", where he invites Louie to open for him at a heart disease research benefit in the Hamptons.
Sarah Silverman as herself. Another friend of Louie that dates back to their days starting out as comedians in the 1980s.
Bobby Cannavale as Chris. A personal trainer whose child attends the same school as Louie's children. He attempts to get Louie into shape, but fails. He appears in "So Old/Playdate" and "Gym".
Ricky Gervais as Dr. Ben Mitchell. Louie's doctor who is a sadistic practical joker but considers himself a friend to Louie nonetheless. His death is vaguely implied in season 4. Gervais appears in "Dr. Ben/Nick" and "Gym".
Megan Hilty as a heckler in the episode "Heckler/Cop Movie".
David Patrick Kelly as Louie's Therapist. Louie's psychologist who appears in "Double Date/Mom" and "So Old/Playdate".
Tom Noonan as Dr. Haveford. A mysterious doctor brought in by Louie's Catholic school as a child who graphically describes Jesus Christ's crucifixion. He appears in the episode "God".
Stephen Root as Dr. Hepa. A dentophobic dentist that takes advantage of a sedated Louie. He appears in "Dentist/Tarese".
F. Murray Abraham as Jonathan. A mysterious swinger from New Jersey in the episode "New Jersey/Airport".
Dane Cook as himself. Cook plays a fictionalized version of himself in the episode "Oh Louie/Tickets". Louie meets with him and they wind up addressing a silent feud inspired by real life as to whether or not Dane plagiarized his jokes.
Joan Rivers as herself. Louie wanders into one of her shows, and later goes up to her room in the hotel, where she speaks to him about her career before they sleep together. She appears in the second season episode "Joan".
Bob Saget as himself. He plays the "best friend" role of a stereotypical sitcom about Louie, as a parody of the short lived show Lucky Louie. He appears in the episode "Oh Louie/Tickets".
Doug Stanhope as Eddie. An old friend of Louie and fellow comedian. After 20 years absence, he and Louie reconnect, where Eddie reveals how he is planning to commit suicide. He appears in the episode "Eddie".
Keni Thomas as himself. A country musician who joins Louie on a USO tour in Iraq.
F. Murray Abraham as Excelsior Szekely. Louie's Mexican uncle who meets with him at a tea room to discuss Louie's estranged father. Abraham appears in the episode "Dad".
Maria Bamford as Maria. A friend of Louie's and fellow comic. After a sexual encounter, both she and Louie contract crabs. She appears in "Daddy's Girlfriend" and "Ikea/Piano Lessons".
Jay Leno as himself. He appears in the "Late Show" arc when Louie appears on his show. He interviews Louie, and later on when Louie is offered the job of David Letterman's successor, he calls Louie and congratulates him and gives him advice.
Melissa Leo as Laurie Brent. A friend of a fellow comic of Louie's who is at a dinner party Louie attends. They are not compatible at first, but then later they have a conversation in Laurie's truck where she pleasures him and demands he reciprocates. Leo won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance as Laurie. She appears in the episode "Telling Jokes/Set Up".
David Lynch as Jack Dall. A friend of the head of CBS and notable television producer. He is a brash and tough leader assigned to help coach Louie to become the next host of the Late Show. He succeeds in taking Louie from a gruff comedian to a capably suited late night show host. He appears in the "Late Show" arc. C.K. said that Ben Gazzara was the first person considered for the role, but died the same day they considered casting him. Other performers considered included Jerry Lewis, Al Pacino, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese until it was finally settled that David Lynch would play Dall.
Marc Maron as himself. An old friend of Louie's that he hasn't spoken to in years for some unknown reason. He goes to Maron's apartment and tries to apologize, only to have Maron tell him that he came over years before and said the exact same thing.
Amy Poehler as Debbie. Louie's sister who tries to convince him to come spend New Year's with her and the family in Mexico. She appears in the third season finale "New Year's Eve".
Parker Posey as Liz. An eccentric woman who works at a bookstore in New York that Louie falls in love with, but loses touch with her and spends the rest of the season trying to find again. She appears in the two-part "Daddy's Girlfriend" episode and the third season finale "New Year's Eve".
Paul Rudd as himself. He is interviewed by Louie on his trial talk show. He appears in "Late Show Part 3".
Susan Sarandon as herself. She is interviewed by Louie on his trial talk show. She appears in "Late Show Part 3".
Chloë Sevigny as Jeanie. Liz's replacement at the bookstore. She obsessively helps Louie in trying to find Liz, having some sort of sexual fixation with the situation, and then leaves.
Robin Williams as Robin. A mutual friend of Louie and Barney, a proprietor of a comedy club. They encounter each other at Barney's funeral which no one else attended, and then later at a diner. They mention their mutual dislike of Barney, and go to a strip club that Barney used to frequent. They promise each other that whoever dies first, the other will attend their funeral. He appears in the episode "Barney/Never".
Sarah Baker as Vanessa. A waitress at the Comedy Cellar who strikes up a friendship with Louie. She appears in "So Did the Fat Lady".
Ellen Burstyn as Evanka. A neighbor of Louie who gets stuck in an elevator in the building, and Louie assists her. She tells Louie that in her youth, she used to be part of a family comedy revue that would entertain Hungarian troupes during the war. She appears in the "Elevator" arc.
Eszter Balint as Amia. Evanka's non-English speaking niece who Louie is trying to court. She appears in the "Elevator" arc.
Victor Garber as Louie's Lawyer. He is a friend of Jerry Seinfeld and Louie's lawyer in the battery case the family of a supermodel dump on Louie after he accidentally punches and blinds her. He appears in the episode "Model".
Charles Grodin as Dr. Bigelow. A doctor in Louie's building who has complete disregard for Louie's back problems, instead preferring "interesting diseases" such as blood illnesses. He becomes Louie's doctor after it is implied that Dr. Ben died. He appears in multiple episodes in the season.
Yvonne Strahovski as Blake. A wealthy socialite and supermodel who takes Louie back to her home after his ill-fated opening at the benefit. She falls in love with Louie, but after tickling him, he accidentally punches her, thus blinding her in one eye, causing her family to drop a huge court case on Louie.
Jeremy Renner as Jeff Davis. He appears in two episodes: 11th and 12th ("In the Woods" Part 1 and Part 2). He is the dealer who sells young Louie weed in change of the scales he made him rob from his school.
Rather than accepting a bigger-budget production deal with a larger network, C.K. accepted the modest offer of $200,000 (covering his own fee as well as production costs) to do a pilot with FX, which was because FX allowed him full creative control. The show is shot on a Red camera setup, and C.K. edits many of the episodes on his personal laptop. In addition to starring, C.K. serves as the show's sole writer and director, an unusual combination in American TV production. Referring to John Landgraf, who convinced C.K. to accept a deal with FX, C.K. said:
He had a very loose idea of what he wanted. I said, "Let me shoot a pilot and you don't have anything to do with it. I won't even pitch you the idea or show you the script or show you the footage or show you the casting. Just wire me the money and let me do the show." And he was willing to do that. One of the reasons it was done that way was he only gave me $200,000 for the thing all in. Since I was able to prove this was a way to do it and they liked what they got, I was able to keep doing it that way.
Dave Becky also serves as executive producer. C.K. directed, cast, and edited the first episode of the show with a budget of $250,000, provided by FX. In the second season, the budget was increased to $300,000 per episode.
Production began in November 2009. C.K. said of his show, "It's very vignette-y. It's very vérité. All those French words. I use 'em all." C.K.'s Lucky Louie co-star Pamela Adlon serves as consulting producer of the series.
On February 27, 2012, C.K. announced on his Twitter page that he would be handing off some editing duties to longtime Woody Allen collaborator Susan E. Morse, beginning with Season 3.
Louie has received widespread critical acclaim. On Metacritic, the first season scored 70 out of 100, based on 20 reviews. The stand-up segments received strong praise, as did the show's perceived "indie film" style, with some likening the show to the work of Woody Allen. Criticisms largely centered on the pacing and low-key delivery of the show's jokes, which often include long setups compared to the rapid-fire punchlines of a traditional sitcom.
Critical response to Louie improved since its debut. Of the "top TV" lists tracked by Metacritic, Louie appeared on 9 of 28 in 2010 and 22 of 39 in 2011, the latter of which includes 3 lists where the show was ranked 1st. The first four episodes of the second season scored 90 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 7 reviews. The third season has received very positive reviews, scoring 94 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 16 reviews. The fourth season also received critical acclaim, scoring 93 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 29 reviews.
Five deleted/extended scenes with introductions by Louis C.K.
Fox Movie Channel Presents: Louie – Writer's Draft
Commentary on 11 episodes by Louis C.K.
The Complete Second Season
June 19, 2012
Fox Movie Channel Presents: World Premiere Louie Season 2
Commentary on 5 episodes by Louis C.K.
^In the first season's seventh episode, "Double Date/Mom", Louie's mother is played by Mary Louise Wilson and is portrayed as a very unpleasant woman. By contrast, in that season's eleventh episode, "God", a flashback to Louie's childhood shows the young Louie's mother as a very different woman with a nice personality, and she is played by Amy Landecker. Landecker also portrayed present-day Louie's date earlier in the season, in episode 9, "Bully".