FX’s “Louie,” the hit summer sitcom that centers on a semi-autobiographical version of comedian Louis C.K.’s life as a stand-up comic and divorced father of two, is one of my guilty pleasures. And when I say “guilty,” it isn’t to insinuate that the show is in any way campy, cheesy, or outright bad. I just mean that some of the episodes leave me cringing, blushing, or recoiling, either in the narrative storytelling segments or in the stand-up routines interwoven throughout. Louis C.K. is known for his uncomfortable, blue, and, at times, depressive humor, but more often than not, the situations represented on his sitcom have a way of getting to the core of all awkward human interactions, from the exasperation of trying to reason with a 5-year-old to blurting out how much you love someone you know has zero feeling for you.
In the second season of his show, which begins this Thursday, Louie’s oft-discussed, never-seen wife will appear. And despite the fact that their onscreen kids show no physical signs of being biracial (and are played by white actresses), he has cast a black actress in the role.
On in a recent “Jimmy Kimmel Show” interview, Louis C.K. explained his rationale. As The Huffington Post explains:
Jimmy Kimmel wanted to know why he cast a black actress to play the mother of his children this season, when the kids have already been seen and “they’re extremely white,” as C.K. put it.
“If the character works for the show, I don’t care about the racial,” the show’s creator, writer, director, and star said. Plus, there was another reason he went with a black actress.
To C.K., it’s all about line delivery. “When a black woman tells you to get a job, it’s just more … ,” he explained with a laugh.
At Jezebel, commenters have already begun to react to the news. Jezebel‘s Dodai Stewart wonders: “So: color-blind casting or blaxsploitation? Will be interesting to see how this plays out.” Another commenter, Erin Gloria Ryan, added: “I’m bracing myself for the deluge of racist reactions to this. It’ll be like The Hunger Games, but with Louis C.K. fans, so they’ll think they’re being funny.”
Top Level Executive speculates on possible conclusions to Louis C.K.’s joke about black women telling men to get jobs: “When a black woman tells you to get a job, it’s just more…,” and trailed off, laughing. “‘More’ what? Sassiness? Eye-rolling? Neck-swiveling? Teeth-sucking? Because it sure seems that is what he is implying, and if so, I’ve no idea how having a black woman be the mother of his white children is ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘subversive.’ As a matter of fact, this reads like some modern-day Mammy/Sapphire bulls–t to me.”
Louis C.K. has broached the subject of race several times on “Louie.’ Most notably (and uncomfortably), he took his daughters to meet an aging aunt who told them not to trust black people (substitute “black people” with liberal use of the n-word). When she leaves the room, he promptly explains to his daughters that they shouldn’t repeat the word, that the aunt is old and from a generation that freely used it, and that sometimes old people say things we’re no longer allowed to say because those things are hateful and inappropriate. Interestingly, the n-word kerfuffle wasn’t even the point of the sketch; it was about waxing nostalgic about the importance of family, realizing family can be kind of despicable, and then having to face mortality (the aunt dies) and realize your detachment from a family member’s death. The race talk was icing.
Do you watch “Louie”? If so, how do you predict the casting will play out? Do you take issue with Louis C.K.’s treatment of race in his stand-up and writing?