My new Think Again column is called “When It Comes to Bruce Springsteen, Chris Christie Is a Big, Stupid Idiot,” and you can find it here.
I saw David Johansen at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett last weekend. It was the same two man show David’s been doing around town—I reviewed it when I saw him a few weeks ago at Terminal 5—and a grand time will be had by all, even if you see it every few weeks. Out of his many personas, David has developed into a grand old man of post-pre-punk and sings mostly blues standards and old David Johansen gems, to a bunch of people who really appear to appreciate it. I can’t imagine that he ever expected to end up like this, but it strikes me as a really pleasant way to make a living.
I came to town to attend Nora Ephron’s memorial service—which was so moving I lack the words—perfectly timed and (almost) scripted by Nora herself—and stayed to catch one of the three shows that Steve Earle has organized to celebrate the centenial birth of Woody Guthrie at City Winery. I caught Steve with Diana Jones, Tim Robbins and John Hammond Jr. If you can get in tonight, he’ll have Billy Bragg and Amy Helm among others. I am also hearing terrific things about the Ronny Spector show that is running there on Saturday nights—there are three more of them I believe—but I am back at the beach.
Punchlining the News
by Reed Richardson
Louie CK has one of the most nimble comedic minds in the business, yet he has rarely needed something so pedestrian as an old-fashioned punchline for his outrageously funny, and often just plain outrageous, routines to work. But what he’s now achieving on his eponymously-named TV show, “Louie,” on FX, transcends even his stellar stand-up work.
Having just starting its third season (the second season was recently released on DVD), the show, which Louie continues to write and direct, has pushed into newer, deeper, dramatic waters than in previous seasons. Indeed, to me, the short snippets of his character performing stand-up are now the least interesting part of the show. For, off the stage, he’s creating a world that combines the mundane, absurd, and crude into a sublime, why-am-I-laughing-so-hard amalgam. In short, it’s very good, though I’m not sure I’d go as far as Emily Nussbaum over at the New Yorker, whose rave review of the show is gushing, to put it mildly.
Still, there’s no denying that, as far as comedies on basic cable go, “Louie” is pretty much in a class by itself, as evidenced by the equal parts hilarious and disturbing final scene from this season’s second episode (so, so NSFW). Louie’s scene partner here, the fantastic Melissa Leo, is on fire, delivering a raunchy cri de coeur that bemoans a, shall we say, lack of reciprocity on Louie’s part when it comes to performing a certain act of sexual congress. During this tirade, Leo’s spurned character gathers up her frustration into a ball and, echoing so many rabid right-wingers, irrationally lobs it at the biggest, most convenient target she can think of. “What’s wrong with this country?” she asks rhetorically after being left unsatisfied, before concluding in disgust, “O-bahm-a.” (Oddly, the president’s name was also invoked in the season debut as well, when a fellow patient of Louie’s in the hospital—an old woman lying on a gurney in the scene’s background—incongruously screams out “What about Obama!”) It feels almost like a throwaway joke, tucked in so tight you could almost miss it, but that kind of effortlessness demonstrates the show’s pitch perfect writing and acting. And, mea culpa, this scene does end with a nice punchline, but that joke really arrives at the episode’s denouement rather than its—ahem—climax.