“Oh Louie/Tickets.”

FX

Louie managed one of its most surreal moments during “Oh Louie/Tickets” with a confrontation based on a real-life source of tension.  The show regularly dabbles in surreal moments–whether it’s an elderly woman angrily showing her naked body to Louie in a hallway or Louie’s mother talking about her newfound lesbianism and crying loudly in a restaurant. But while the basic premise of the show is based on a real-life scenario (Louis CK dealing with newly-single life after divorce and raising his two daughters), the bulk of the show is a farcical look at the world through Louis CK’s mind. A confrontation between Dane Cook, the biggest-selling comic of the moment, and Louis CK, the most talented comic of the moment, over real joke stealing was an unexpected, flawed effort.

Louie enters the encounter with Dane Cook as a beggar. After learning that his daughter idolizes Lady Gaga, Louie hears through his prepubescent agent that Dane Cook and Lady Gaga share the same management company.  Louie goes to a giant arena to meet with Dane Cook, a real-life comedian who really stole jokes from Louis CK and sells out Madison Square Garden by screaming and making funny faces for college audiences.  We’re not-so-subtly reminded of the joke stealing during a hamfisted scene with standup Jim Norton, who tells Louie that “everybody says he stole your jokes.” Immediately, he’s in Dane Cook’s world. He’s escorted through a series of giant hallways by men in dark suits wearing ear pieces and carrying walkie-talkies. The scene of Louie walking through the giant halls is a stark contrast from the unglamorous entrance we see Louis CK make to a small comedy club every week during the opening credits for Louie.

The scene between Louis CK and Dane Cook was particularly enthralling on a first viewing. There’s the initial shock that Dane Cook, who is almost unanimously loathed among comedians, agreed to come on the show written and directed by a comedian who is almost unanimously loved by comedians (his motivation for appearing on the show was no clearer after the scene, either). There’s also the excitement of fan service for comedy nerds like myself who have long followed allegations of joke stealing by Dane Cook, Carlos Mencia, Robin Williams and this guy. With the advent of Youtube, joke stealing has gone from allegations and shaming among comedy peers to spectator sport. People can upload video for millions to watch Carlos Mencia steal a famous Bill Cosby bit. The fact that the joke thief and victim actually MEET and discuss the sin on a scripted television program is unprecedented.

Dane tells Louie that he can “totally” get Lady Gaga tickets.  “Easily. I know Lady Gaga,” he says. All Louie has to do is upload a video to Youtube telling the world that Dane Cook did not steal his jokes.  It’s a preposterous request. Consciously or subconsciously (I lean toward the former), Dane Cook DID parrot Louis CK’s material. But Louie needs Lady Gaga tickets. The scene continues to unfold with Dane asking Louie why he thinks he would risk his reputation by stealing three jokes when he has “hours of material.” Dane gets to play the victim throughout the scene as he tells Louie that the year that he began selling out arenas was tarnished by allegations of joke thievery. Dane Cook was hurt by the fact that people noticed that Dane Cook  stole jokes. The conversation gives Dane every opportunity to make his case that he wouldn’t steal jokes, couldn’t steal jokes and—and—and– why would he steal jokes? The problem with his argument and the scene is that he did steal jokes. It tries to give Dane the upper hand, but he comes across as an emotionally manipulative creep with a martyr complex and millions of dollars.

While the excitement of the scene begins to build early, the dialogue between the pair ultimately falls a bit flat and feels too scripted. The problem may have been that the scene was between two standup comedians with limited acting abilities. It may have been some of the silly asides almost certainly thrown in to make Louie look petty–he bickers with Dane’s use of”Two-Thousand AND Six” and recommends he switch to a natural laundry detergent. It’s a heavy-handed way to try to even the scales between Dane and Louie, but it doesn’t necessarily work. I have only seen the episode once, but I can’t imagine that it will hold up as well on a second viewing. The potential for greatness was all over the scene, but ultimately, the scene will stand more on its spectacle than its skill.

“Oh Louie/Tickets” begins with Louis CK deconstructing the family sitcom. Louie stars in a TGIFesque sitcom called “Oh Louie.” He walks in to the scene to loud studio applause, huge laughs follow every joke and his attractive wife laughs off his bad behavior. The “Oh Louie” scene is stopped when Louie questions why his sitcom wife would say she loved him after he said something mean. It’s well-worn territory and unfortunately, the episode does little to add to the conversation. It feels a little like a rejected sketch from another show. There are laughs–the studio audience erupts with applause after he asks if they are “buying this shit” and Louie walks into the scene with a backwards hat befitting the schlubbiest character in television history. While the second half of the episode feels like a lost opportunity of great ambition, the first half feels a little lazy.  The biggest laugh of the episode came during the credits, when the words “Guest Starring Dane Cook and Bob Saget” appear on the screen for the first— but presumably, not the last— time in television history.

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