So I was tapping out this whole little thing on rebellion on Friday (what? Me procrastinate?), and what I realized was that I didn’t have that much to say on the subject. I never rebelled. No, really. In order to rebel, you must have something to rebel against. There must be an opposing force, and I faced very little parental, institutional, or societal opposition. I mostly did what I wanted and everyone pretty much left me alone.
So instead, I’m going to write about Lucky Louie. Have you seen Lucky Louie? If not, Lucky Louie is a half-hour original show on HBO. It stars the comedian Louis C.K., who, with his fictional wife (Pamela S. Adlon, playing a brilliant straightman) and daughter, is struggling through life, paycheck to paycheck, humiliation to humiliation. It’s a tough life for the family, and there’s an assortment of odd friends, relatives, and neighbors who alternately make things easier and harder.
I love this show. It is profane, and it is, let’s say it, as low-brow as it comes. But it is also extraordinarily funny, in a subversive and biting way that makes me laugh, hard and silently, because I don’t want to miss the next line, and because I am also just a little horrified at how much I personally identify with this profane, low-brow show.
Do you remember when Roseanne first came out? Remember the first couple of seasons? We might not want to admit it now, in 2007, but that show was groundbreaking. It showed, with unflinching and low-brow humor, exactly what was really happening to the majority of American families. Lucky Louie is the Roseanne of a new age. And like Roseanne (in those initial seasons), if we pay attention, we’ll find that under the profanity (which, admittedly some people can’t get past) are some delicate issues and profound truths.
Tonight, the show opened with Louie sitting at the breakfast table with his five year old daughter, Lucy. The bit begins with a standard routine, parent giving explanation, child repeating “Why?” after each comment. The standard ending to this sit-com stand-by is the parent growing frustrated and saying something like “Because I said so!” cue laughter, kid is put in place, parent wins.
On Lucky Louie, the parent gives answers. Every time Lucy asks a question, Louie gives an answer. Again, and again, and again, longer than you would think possible, Louie gives a thoughtful, truthful (for him), engaging and funny answer. He never speaks down to Lucy. He never pulls rank because he’s tired of talking to her. Her one question “Why?” is not a frivolous question and he never treats it as such. “Why?” is a valid, important thing to ask. For a child, and for adults.
“Why?” is not merely an irritant.
“Why?” is not unpatriotic.
“Why?” is not a rebellion.
P.S. Lucky Louie was cancelled after one season. But you can pick it up here.