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Louis C.K. is back for a second season of his pet project, and from the first episode it's looking to be funnier, darker, and better than ever. “Pregnant” was the perfect way to kick off the new season as it highlighted what C.K. does so well. The way he blends hilarious, depressing, and poignant moments together is truly masterful. Whether you're just watching for his standup or can't get enough of seeing the world through the bitter and downtrodden eyes of one of comedies greatest assets; this episode was sure to entertain.
Not even letting the audience get to the opening credits without simultaneously feeling a tug at the heartstrings and busting a gut laughing, “Pregnant”'s cold open so perfectly embodied what Louie is all about. As Louie dutifully brushes his five-year-old daughter's teeth, she informs him she prefers staying at her mother's because she loves her more. Ever the good father, Louie says nothing sending her off to bed while flipping the bird to her as she walks away. Heartbreaking hilarity to say the least; which if this series can't take credit for inventing, it can certainly be said to have done more with the idea than any other show has. Finding humor in some decidedly unfunny situations is a skill deserving of admiration, and no one's better at it than C.K.
The episode's plot was as simple as it's production (only making use of two real settings outside of the standup segments), but a tremendous amount of comedy came from that. As Louie is preparing dinner for his two daughters, his sister, Gretchen, shows up unannounced and, as the title suggests, with child. Rusty Schwimmer was great as Gretchen, and it was hard not to believe that these two were siblings. Their back-&-forth is so natural and their chemistry comes off like two old friends that live by the motto, “If you can't say anything nice about anybody, come sit by me.” Whether it was eviscerating Louie's ex-wife or her own ex, Gretchen was an instant favorite. Her performance was aided by C.K. putting himself in the role of “straight man”, which is something he does often in the series. Knowing he'll be receiving plenty of laughs for his standup, it's both selfless and smart to let other actors deliver the funniest lines while writing his own character as a sounding board for their jokes.
Equally sensational was Louie's five year old daughter, Jane, played by Ursula Parker. The young actress is showing a sense of comedic timing that many adult actors have never mastered. She always waits just the right amount of time before interrupting her father and riding over his thoughts with her own. Though it was just their mere existence that led to comedy last season, so far in the second season, Louie's daughters are earning laughs themselves; well Jane is at least. Louie attempting to explain that life isn't fair and that she should only be concerned with what she has not what someone else has, was the highlight of their scenes together and perhaps of the episode. The way Louie talks to his kids, trying to impart life lessons on their impressionable minds, is heartwarming, but the way he fails so miserably at it is hilarious, if only for how true to life it is. Trying to make her understand a concept most grownups aren't able to wrap their heads around was a beautifully executed bit of comedy.
After Gretchen is rushed to the hospital for what turns out to be a bad case of gas, Louie receives his own life lesson. In a moving moment Louie realizes his neighbors aren't just the people he tries to avoid in the hallway, but potential friends. While leaving your two daughters with a stranger while you and his partner head to the hospital is by no means advisable (though if he inquires about the kids food allergies that's probably a good sign), it did lead to the takeaway for the audience. That being, that perhaps good fences don't make good neighbors, and as Louie's new friend explains, you need neighbors, someone outside of your family, to help you with your family. How Louie manages to deliver that kind of poignancy while still being absolutely hilarious is the most impressive thing about the series. Made more so by C.K. doing the writing, directing, and editing himself.
As with all the episodes, the biggest laughs in “Pregnant” came from the snippets of C.K.'s stand up sets, but it's peering into his offstage persona that makes each episode rise above being just another sitcom. All that pure comedy onstage must be born through untold misery, so for a show to not only finally detail that misery, but still find humor in it, is what really sets Louie apart from any other comedy on television. “Pregnant” was above even Louie's standard though, and one of the best episodes so far in the series.