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It's amazing how much humor C.K. is able to squeeze out of both surreal and heartbreaking moments. He was at it again with “Subway/Pamela.” Louie's dual adventures take the audience on a journey to see where the comic's material comes from, as well as hanging out with Louie's friend, the always hilarious, Pamela Adlon. The character's underlying want for affection was present in both stories, and while it wasn't the funniest, the episode rose far above what is expected from a typical comedy.
While Louie's trip on the subway lasted only a few minutes, it was comprised of very impressionable scenes. Rather disturbing, there was still something to appreciate in the stunning contrast between the tranquil beauty of the violin player and the raw, repulsive vagrant washing himself. Louie -who has seen much worse- is less shocked by a man using a subway platform as his shower, than he is disgusted by having the violin music interrupted by such loathsome figure. What it says about the character, and likely much of the audience that felt the same way, is something we don't want to think about. Which is exactly why C.K. brings it up. We should feel pity, or at the very least not contempt for one who has fallen so low in society. But once the initial disbelief at the sheer bizarreness of it all passes, you can't help but think, “How dare he?” Which is soon replaced with the appropriate sense of guilt over so callously forgetting the man's misfortunes. Not exactly a humorous moment, but one that still had the comic's mark all over it.
Once aboard the subway, its clear Louie is there for the other passengers, not the ride. Absorbing their behavior while taking copious notes, Louie is looking for the everyday life that fuels his standup. Watching a young male teen flirt with his female counterpart -likely more effectively than Louie ever has- was the first big laugh of the episode. As the kid boasts about his academic achievements (Who knew girls would find that attractive?), Louie takes in his swagger and confidence like a man studying a life form that is more advanced than himself. It was Louie's daydream that made the segment so memorable however. The passengers reactions to his simply unheard of act of charity in cleaning up a mysterious spill resulted in some great laughs. Also worth a chuckle was Louie basking in their approval and salutations for his good deed. Louie is so starved for love from his family and friends, that affection shown by strangers becomes a fantasy. It made for a funny scene, but not without the subtle depressive aspect always present in the series.
Louie's day with Pamela saw the most laughs; which makes sense since it also saw the most screen time. The two actors have known each other for years, and though it's hard to believe from their roles in this series, actually played husband and wife on C.K.'s first show, Lucky Louie. Their real life friendship shows through in their on screen chemistry. Pamela's constant belittling of Louie comes off very naturally, which only adds to the humor of her insults. Louie is equally believable -and comical- in his failing attempts to give as good as gets. Adlon is also good for an improvised one-liner when called for; in this case her reaction to the soup: “Kick a Jesus in the face! This is delicious.”
The episode again shifted slightly from pure comedy, to the heartbreaking hilarity that's become the show's trademark. When Louie decides he can no longer hold in his feelings for Pamela, we all know how it's going to end. But Louie did surprise viewers, Pamela, and likely even himself, by passionately and eloquently expressing how deep his love for her goes. (Perhaps he gained some pointers from the kid back on the subway) Once again calling on something we've likely all experienced -a friend we wished was more than that- Louie's plight couldn't help but draw sympathy. The funniest moment from within the scene was Louie's insincere smile as Pamela turns him down while offering praise on his well-worded proclamation of love.
As has been becoming the norm for Louie, this episode was hardly dependent on C.K.'s stand up to provide laughs. The ratio has been shifting for most of the season -the exception being last week's episode- to a point where the standup is just icing on an already brilliantly funny episode, and not the main source of comedy. His small bit about old married couples was the bitter reality to the picturesque image his words to Pamela painted. (The same as the homeless man to the violinist.) He is really all the more pitiful though, for knowing the truth and still being that desperate for companionship.
The highs and lows in the life of “the unfunniest comedian in the world” -as Pamela calls him- have led to an equal number of awkward, uproarious, and downright mournful moments. Even when he is not making us laugh, C.K. is always making his audience feel something. “Subway/Pamela” was an excellent showcase of that ability, as well as the comedic talent he and Adlon possess.