Tonight's episode of Louie highlighted exactly what makes it such a genius show, and also what differentiates it from Seinfeld. Seinfeld was a show about how life's little things created Jerry's comedy, Louie takes life's pain and makes it hilarious.
Back in the old days of Seinfeld when an episode's plot lines were closely connected to the stand up bit that opened and closed the show, we saw how funny things in life created funny comedy. The connection was sometimes direct, sometimes tangential, but never was it the case that the plot lines weren't hilarious; they were often more hilarious than the stand up bits. Undoubtedly, the eventual decision to cut them from the show proves that the comedy of the plot had begun to exceed in hilarity the jokes of the stand up sections. Seinfeld was a sitcom, after all, it was meant to have us laughing every three lines.
Louie has a similar structure but the feel and ethos are completely different. While the show follows the same notion of showing how life experiences create stand up material, Louie doesn't use the funniness of everyday life, it uses the difficulties and ugliness of it.
Tonight's episode introduced us to Louie's mother. In the skewed world that the show takes place in, she's a harsh woman and the characterization is pretty drastic and severe. But not quite drastic enough that surely she didn't remind some people of their own mothers.
When it turns out that the mother is in town to come out to her sons, the question of love takes on even more prominence. In a scene reminiscent of the most awkward Thanksgiving you've ever lived through, Louie's brother Robby is left rebuffed and heart-broken by his mother.
And what does it all create? A great stand up bit, delivered as the show's centerpiece. It's true and funny and slightly twisted in that classic Louie C.K. way, and fits perfectly into the episode. It shows how life's difficulties make create comedy, especially this one.