John S: The fact that “Come on, God” and “Eddie” aired as a double billing will inevitably leave some viewers looking for some grand thematic connection between masturbation and suicide—I tried to come up with one myself—but it’s probably best not to force the issue. In fact, both “Come on, God” and “Eddie” were uniquely great episodes, continuing Louie’s stellar second season. Television episodes about masturbation are tricky for two reasons. The first, obviously, is that it is a touchy subject—but that’s never really been an issue for C.K. The second, more relevant, reason is that any episode about masturbation will inevitably be compared with Seinfeld’s “The Contest,” (and similarities between C.K.’s show and Seinfeld’s are already easy to make) a comparison that usually ends unfavorably. But while “The Contest” handled the subject with a playful, everybody-does-it attitude, “Come on, God” delved deeply into the personal nature of the hobby. The first set piece, framing the debate as a segment on Fox News, was hilariously absurd—the line of the night was Louie’s claim that sometimes he’ll stop for a week “but only so that when [he does] it again it’s way better”—while also framing it as a referendum on what the habit says about his happiness (Ellen: “Wow, masturbation must be really important to you.”). Of course, the most personal section of the story was Louie’s own masturbation fantasy, which—unlike most cleaned-up, sophisticated sexual fantasies you see on TV—was a comically asexual blend of depravity and Louie’s own subconscious (including a bit from his own act). Contrast that with Ellen’s own pure, emotional sexual fantasy at the end of the episode—which Louie of course appropriates for his own…uses.
The next episode, “Eddie,” was not nearly as funny (although it did have Louie’s great line about the senselessness of making fun of water), but it may have been the best dramatic episode of the series. C.K. has come into his own as an actor on this show, but most of that has been through intelligent use of his ability to react to the absurd and maintain his passivity in almost all scenarios. This episode required a lot more than that, and C.K. delivered each time. Whether Louie was having fun with his old friend, apologizing on his behalf, or, most impressively, refusing to give him a reason to live (“I worked hard for my reasons—I’m not just going to give them to you”), C.K. played it totally natural and realistically. Just as impressive was Doug Stanhope as Eddie, who nailed the sense of failure, desperation, and indignation that the character called for. The two of them together had a chemistry that conveyed both an old camaraderie, and the feelings of resentment that so often plague comics. Their final scene together was as well-written and moving as any scene you’ll on television, and is a perfect example of why Louie is such an unpredictable and exciting show. This double feature showed both ends of the spectrum, and did both perfectly.
Josh: Like John, I thought both episodes were incredibly strong, perhaps the strongest double-episode of the decade so far. I love how unpredictable the show could be: I was surprised to see the opening in a Fox News studio, but then thought it was typical of C.K. to mix things up. I thought the funniest throwaway bit was when Louie was going through everyone who has masturbated and chose to include Joan Jett in between Gandhi and Shakespeare. Ellen may be the best guest character on the show so far: Louie honestly and effectively builds a character with a consistent and genuine religiously-motivated ethic of celibacy. When she explains to Louie why she won’t kiss him, her schpiel is internally consistent even if you don’t buy into a premise of hers, and that’s what’s so great about her character: C.K. understood her premises and built an honest character that flowed from them. Then, when you see the image of Louie masturbating, C.K. forces the viewer to consider whether there are elements of truth to Ellen’s sentiments. The bag of dicks bit in the elevator is also hilariously absurd.
On “Eddie”: the standup in “Eddie” was excellent, from the bit on how the doctor should have informed the weak-spined woman to avoid obscuring her head with an unfortunate clothing arrangement to his use of the phrase “creative amount of limbs.” The standup got right at the heart of the social norm of ignoring disability. Is this norm optimal? On the one hand, it surely would not be better if every time a physically disabled individual walked into a store, he were accosted with questions. But, on the other hand, the inability to talk about physical disability—particularly with the disabled itself—may just further ostracize the disabled. Back to the show: I think the most daring part of this episode wasn’t confronting suicide, but rather the show’s treatment of drunk driving. There are seemingly no negative consequences flow from Eddie driving drunk: abstaining from even making that an issue is sure to drive M.A.D.D. mad. And the frank suicide discussion was a fitting cap off for this double-episode.