On last night’s episode of Louie, it’s Louie’s daughter’s birthday, so he gives her tickets to some make-believe bubble gum pop star’s concert, but it turns out his daughter prefers Lady Gaga. So Louie talks to his agent (played perfectly by a 9-year-old) to see if there’s a way to get tickets to see Lady Gaga, but the only comedian who shares her promotion company is Dane Cook. Wanting so badly to please his daughter, Louie goes to Madison Square Garden (or whatever) and visits him backstage. And what follows is the scene that I have posted after the jump, and it is amazing. (You almost certainly know the history behind this scene, but Dane Cook has very famously been accused of stealing Louis C.K.’s material.) First of all, it’s just a very good scene. It’s funny and well done and it makes for a good TV show. Second of all, it is important. For real. Not only is this one of the more interesting things to happen on television in a long time, but it has a lot of really important things to say about the way that we lead our lives that people do not really talk about very much even just in the world much less on a basic cable sitcom. Let’s watch the scene (again) and then let us unpack it, yes? Sure!

Man. OK, so, first of all, congratulations to everyone involved on this. I am not a Dane Cook fan personally but he gets Big Points for this. Yes, it allows him to tell his side of the story, which he has never really done before (unless he did it on Marc Maron’s podcast or something, but that episode was before my time and I do not pay for podcasts, no offense podcasts none taken) and he comes off looking much better for it, but somehow the scene is impressively generous to BOTH of these dudes. They both seem reliable and decent and it doesn’t feel like any sacrifices were made in order to score a “television event.” (Also, let’s keep this in perspective. The number of people who actually care about the Louis C.K. vs. Dane Cook thing could probably fit inside of a gas station.) The jokes that Louis pokes at Dane about the way he says 2006 or his Time magazine cover are funny but they are also gentle. No one is getting away with any secret cruelty. The scene does not play out at anyone else’s expense. It really is as open and honest of a thing as scripted television can be.

None of that, of course, explains why this scene might be IMPORTANT. So here is why: in the end, this is not a scene about Louis C.K. and Dane Cook talking about joke stealing, this is a scene about forgiveness, acceptance, self-examination, fatherhood, fame, courage, honesty, and mortality. That’s a lot! Those are REALLY important things! What this scene says, at least I think, is that no matter what other people do in life, you need to be responsible for your own behavior. There are people in this world who are victims of terrible crimes, that is not what we are talking about here. This is about confronting and acknowledging the thousand cuts that we are constantly exchanging on the way to our mutually assured destruction. As often as not, our reaction to being injured is to injure others, and ultimately that is wrong. That is a losing scenario for everyone involved. Of course, what makes this scene even more interesting is a momentary consideration of the history leading up to it. Not just the “Dane Cook is a joke thief” thing, but the fact that is ultimately ancient herstory at this point, and that Louis C.K. continued to press on and do his job, and he now has a successful television show and sells out Carnegie Hall. He is, by all accounts, hugely successful in his own right. This doesn’t diminish what Dane may or may not have done (and I think the itchy asshole moment in this scene is one of the better descriptions of the ways in which sometimes people do just get the same ideas about things because no duh) but it does suggest that at the end of the day everyone needs to just keep going, and if you wallow in self-pity or you focus on negative things that might slow you down you will never get to confront your own Dane Cook on your own FX show. You know what I mean.

It would be grandiose to suggest that anyone should take any serious life lesson from a scene in which two comedians hash out their professional grievances on a TV show, but I do think that it’s at least a welcome reminder that there are more important things in life than, well, just about everything we spend our time worrying about. It just doesn’t matter that much! When all is said and done, whatever you are concerned with and obsessing about today will be completely unimportant when it comes time to give your daughter a meaningful gift on her 10th birthday. When all is said and done, you will be dead.

So there’s that.

UPDATE: I just had a discussion with a friend of mine who disagreed with me on pretty much all points about this scene, and that is totally reasonable and he had a lot of very good things to say in defense of his position, but one of his main grievances besides everything that I said was of my use of the word “important” and I do think that our discussion helped clarify for me a little what I mean by that, because in a lot of ways it is clearly the least “important” thing that has ever happened. I guess what I mean is that, for me, this scene was interesting and meaningful, and that somehow seems like a huge accomplishment considering that we are talking about a sitcom. A sitcom dealing with very niche subject matter. And so the way that this scene is “important” is as an example of what is possible in terms of creating resonance within the context of television, or comedy, or narrative, or art, or what have you. More things should be like that. I don’t know, I just felt like adding this clarification. Donate to children living in war-torn Sudan here.

Comments (76)
  1. Vgum Poll: How much of this do you think is scripted?

  2. This reminds me of the time on Fear Factor when Joe Rogan ate Carlos Mencia’s liver right out of his body.

  3. So when is Gabe’s wedding to this scene, and am I invited?

  4. Last night, from the instant that Louis walked into the dressing room all the way up until the commercial break, I sat and watched this scene intently. Not looking at my phone, not pausing to get anything from the fridge, not doing else. At the end of it, I realized that I almost never feel riveted to a television show. Thoughts?

    • My thought is that it IS only six minutes long. Have you really NEVER been compelled to watch six straight minutes of television before?

    • You should watch Breaking Bad?

      • Break-ing… Bad? I’m… I’m not familiar with this. Is it anything like Raising Hope?

        No, I absolutely watch Breaking Bad. Not only that, but I also smugly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t watch it. I’m that guy.

        Speaking of that, does anyone here not watch Breaking Bad? You.. *closes eyes* .. you are not complete without it in your life.

        • I watched the first season. I think it’s well made and I always loved Vince Gilligan’s writing on the X-Files.

          But Breaking Bad is not interesting. It’s about stupid people doing stupid things for stupid reasons.

    • Depends on the show I think. Some shows I’m checking Twitter or making a snack or something. But the stuff I really love (Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones) I just sit and WATCH. Louie is one of those shows too.

    • I play my Nintendo DS while I watch every show. And I get the smug satisfaction that I’m multitasking.

    • Mrs. Dish and I are into season 3 of the Wire and we are both riveted by it. We literally stop facebooking for the whole hour if you can believe it! (We often joke that if we want to talk to each other, we’ll just do it fb chat…:( ["Great social commentary, Dish!" - No one])

      But, I think you’re right. Most TV is not riveting. That’s why Monsters errywhere get excited for Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, FNL, etc. They are shows worth being riveted to.

  5. I’m looking forward to when Gwyneth Paltrow makes her landmark appearance on Gabe and Max Like The Internet.

  6. I was really impressed with this scene for all of the reasons that Gabe mentioned. Louis C.K. is the best forever and always.

  7. I never thought I would say this but I was super impressed that Dane Cook did this. First of all, most of the people who watch the show at the very least don’t care for him very much. And to allow the whole setup of all the security at his show, and the lines about how famous he was in 200 and 6, and the way he let Louie subtly take him down a notch about that very fame, and discussing his anger about being labeled a rock star when Louie is a Comedians Comedian. Especially after Joan Rivers called him an asshole on Louie’s show a few weeks ago. It was all extremely honest and candid. I definitely gained a lot of respect for him.

    • Once saw Dane Cook do a surprise set at the Comedy Cellar. I was predisposed to hate him but he was actually quite funny in the scaled down environment. Sure, he goes for easy stupid jokes to have a wider market and hit the audience that made him a double platinum seller. But compared to what I do just to pay the rent (as opposed to being a star) I don’t know how much I can fault him.

      That being said, maybe the Black Eyed Peas are in the same camp, but I’ll never think of them with anything less than total disgust.

  8. I don’t take Dane Cook’s Side, nor Louis,’ but Cryptomnesia is real, I have been guilty of it, and I can’t fault Dane for that. That said, Dane is not very funny. He is just a hyperactive goof. Congrats to him for making it big.

  9. *sigh*

    I am usually working too hard (looking at puppy pics) at my real job to comment, but I feel the need to say how much I love you, Gabe. I love you, Videogum.

  10. I used to really like Cook, but like a lot of things you like when you’re 21, I grew out of him. He’s funny and talented and I don’t think he’s a joke-stealing monster like Carlos Mencia or that douche who ripped off Patton Oswalt. I think he takes a lot of shit in the same way that a lot of mainstream bands take a lot of shit from people who listen to “good” music.

    We all had a Bush CD growing up and we all listened to it on repeat on the way to our family’s cottage on Pickeral Lake in Baldwin, Michigan, is what I’m saying.

  11. I think this scene is a great example of how Louie (the show and the man) experiments with tone in ways other TV comedies don’t and succeeds as a result. Even other slightly artsy or high brow-ish shows like 30 Rock don’t sit and meditate on moods like this scene did. I’m not trying to diminish 30 Rock–because part of its appeal is its restlessness–but I just think it’s admirable and fresh in a way that Louie doesn’t just throw in as many jokes as possible in 22 minutes. Instead, the show will make you sit through a pretty long lip sync/car ride bit or a wordless scene that juxtaposes an angelic violinist with America’s next top hobo. The show just takes its time to build these moods and tones, and then there are some jokes that creep in, too, and play on what the audience is already feeling.
    Also, can I just mention that “I love you / you wreck me” speech from episode 6? Crimeny.

    • Yes. This. That speech destroyed me. Has anyone found a clip of it online? Because I feel like watching it on a loop for the rest of my life.

  12. I want to see the outtakes of this scene. I want to see what those two are like in a room together, for real.

  13. Also, it’s a little tragic that because of the reaction the second half of this episode is getting/will get, most people will gloss over the brilliant and fantastic first half (‘Oh Louie’). I’d love to watch a sitcom where the main character suddenly realizes he’s in a shitty sitcom and gets pissed off about it.

    • Wasn’t that awesomely Roger Rabbit-esque?

    • That Dane Cook scene is one of my favorite things I’ve seen all year, and I love “Louie” generally, but that “Oh Louie” segment was a rare moment of feeling a little let down by the show — not because all the things he was saying weren’t true, but because it felt a bit too self-congratulatory, in the sense of, “Oh, look at this shitty show I could be doing and making a lot of money, but I’m not, I turned my back on that world, and I’m actually making the weird, unconventional show that I’m describing in this scene.” It’s a case where I actually agreed with CK’s description of what was wrong with the network sitcom, and what’s so great about his own show — it just felt a little weird having him come right out and say it himself. (It’s sort of the way I felt during season 5 of “The Wire”, when David Simon kept having the pompous news editor say that he wanted something “Dickensian” in his newspaper, which felt like David Simon’s way of backdoor bragging about leaving newspapers, going to work in television, and actually producing something Dickensian.)

      • It’s not a shitty show he COULD be doing, it was Lucky Louie. Which you can say you liked or whatever, but was still laugh track bullplop.

      • See, I understood it as a huge jab to his own sitcom, “Lucky Louie”. Which was, admittedly, so terrible.
        I think that also makes sense because then his daughter was just a baby in the following scene, which I took as further proof that we were kind of timewarping back to Louis’ own situation in 2000-and-six. (Versus Dane Cook.)

    • Extras, right?

  14. Thank you for posting this Gabe. I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. This is why I read videogum!

  15. I never cared for Dane Cook. This doesn’t make me care any more or any less, but I tell you my love fro Louis C.K. is up even higher. To eleven, people. To eleven.

  16. I thought the write up was brilliant, the scene was brilliant, the update, not so much. I appreciate your friends point of view, and I appreciate that you appreciate your friends point of view, but the fact that you called the scene important is irrelevant to what you wrote. It’s a grabber/headline, and for fans of comedy and this particular situation it was an incredibly enlightening read.

    • Judging by Gabe’s tweet last night “I think that the Louis CK conversation with Dane Cook on tonight’s episode of Louie is genuinely IMPORTANT.” I would say that the usage of the word “important” is a little more meaningful than a headline, and while Gabe certainly has the right to change his mind, I would agree that it’s important. Sure, there’re more important things in the world, but this is a pretty good window into how people (should?) act.

      Maybe, for all I know, Louis C.K. and Dane Cook have been talking weekly about this for years and are acquaintances, if not friends, and that this whole thing is just manufactured drama for the show. I don’t know. But the scene itself is heartfelt and honest and real, and that’s a lot from any TV show, even one that is normally pretty great.

  17. Mark it down. 8/5/11, the day Videogum deployed ‘unpack.’ I thought this was a safe place. *Balls up naked in the shower, weeping.*

  18. Communication. Actually saying things you mean out loud and accepting that it might make you uncomfortable. That’s what I think makes this scene important.

    Although of course anything most of us say ever can easily be trivialized by insinuating they’re White People Problems, or something like that (I’m looking at you, Gabe’s friend).

  19. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95JrmEPIc7Y&NR=1

    There’s Dane Cook talking to Marc Maron on WTF. It was a recommended video linking from the video you posted!

  20. Probably about 80% of my friends and current acquaintances are comedians of some sort, and they are practically unanimous in their love of Louis C.K. and their hatred of Dane Cook. I get it. Louie is a comedian’s comedian, no doubt.

    I have to say, though, that I listened to Dane Cook’s first couple of albums before I knew who he was, and that I was contractually obligated as a comedian to hate him, and you know what? I thought they were funny. He’s not a philosopher, like Louie, or a precise wordsmith, like Steven Wright or Jerry Seinfeld or Demetri Martin. He’s more like Bill Cosby: he tells stories with an infectious, childish energy. His material may not be smart, exactly, but his delivery — at least before he became mega-famous — is playful and apparently owes a little to his days as an improvisor. If he’s not the kind of guy I would necessarily be friends with, he’s at least the frattish friend of my sister’s that I’m surprised to find is actually a pretty fun guy to party with once or twice a year.

    That being said, that HBO special where he’s on a round stage surrounded by screaming teenagers was awful, and I would like to never see him in a lead role of a movie ever again.

    Sincere kudos to both of them for doing this scene, and to Gabe for snarklessly singing its praises.

    • “If he’s not the kind of guy I would necessarily be friends with, he’s at least the frattish friend of my sister’s that I’m surprised to find is actually a pretty fun guy to party with once or twice a year.” -That is an incredibly astute description. Nicely done.

    • If it wasn’t for Dane Cook’s bit about ‘nothing fights’ I would have never had so much goddamn fun getting into fake nothing fights with my 2006 girlfriend in public places. I heard his first album while driving across the country to go to college. I enjoyed his first two albums quite a bit. Saw him live twice, I think? Pretty sure it was twice and not three times. I got a kick out of him for a while.

  21. This kinda reminds me of when David Cross did that stand up bit where he just RAILED against James Lipton and, to a small extent, James Lipton’s wife, but then they played opposite a few years later on Arrested Development. I always wondered if Lipton ever even knew about Cross’s bit, but no matter what it must have been pretty damn awkward for Cross.

    • Cross does an awesome bit on one of his albums where he talks about running into a singer he harshed on in his act and wondering kind of nervously, “I wonder if he knows…”

    • He says (according to a wikipedia entry or something I’m probably paraphrasing to death) that he was nervous before doing that AD scene with him because of the Mr. Show bit and the standup act he did that attacked James Lipton, but after working with him in the scene they became good friends and Cross respected his professionalism. Plus, his role was essentially doing the same thing Cross did: call attention to Actor’s Studio’s deification of celebrities.

  22. By the way, Louis correcting Dane on “2000 and 6″ — that is the kind of correction I can hardly ever stop myself from issuing in conversation. If you want to get invited to a lot of parties, you should start doing it too.

  23. ech, I don’t know. I really like Louis C.K. and I don’t totally dislike Dane Cook.

    I’m always interested in the truth of what really happened, and what I wondered was: what jokes in particular? And: I’d like to be the judge of whether he stole them or whatever.

    It IS nice that they managed to get beyond whatever gripe they had between them, and I think this was Gabe’s point…but…

    I’m still stuck on the gripe! I mean, I wasn’t before this post, but now I am! What 3 jokes?! It’s nice that adults can get along. This I knew. It happens every day in my line of work. I guess I’m not into the whole comedy scene, I don’t know much about it.

  24. Late comment. But I actually appreciated the first half of the episode more. Example… The Big Bang Theory is a sitcom that pulls in a ton of audience that clap at crap. It goes for the easy joke and not the actually funny. But Community is original and goes for the funny. Yet, BBT is way more popular than Community. I felt like Louie was telling us not to sell out and that there is something more awesome out there.

    Also, maybe I read into it to much and I’m about to start Luther on my Netflix.

  25. I thought the previous week’s opening scene with the violinist and fat bathing homeless dude was importanter, but I agree, important.

  26. Before I read your update, Gabe, I wanted to say this: How is this important to anyone but them? I mean, it’s decently to well acted (I say that only because I have been known to enjoy poorly acted films for their acting, exclaiming to my friends how well-acted they are) and the history behind the scene certainly gives it truth. But I really don’t care about whether or not Dane Cook stole Louis CK’s jokes. One: If you like Louis, then you know they’re his jokes and you’ll keep liking him. And who cares if people like Dane Cook? And Two: It may be unfair that Dane Cook has in some way earned money off of someone else’s work, but it seems odd that people would care so much about that situation when a similar situation COULD happen to me at my job and no one could (or should) give a shit. It’s their problem to figure out, just as it would be my problem to figure out in my fictional work-fraud situation.

    So then I read your update and I still think those things. I’m glad you helped clarify your thoughts and have put things into perspective, but I would also like to point out that it’s hard to find things to resonate with in pop culture and that if you’re really craving or are in need of that, you might find some elsewhere (i.e. not sitcoms).

  27. Oh man, I gotta say it, I’ve been feelin’ it for a while, but one of the best things about Gabe/Videogum (the two are equivalent, right, Kelly?) is that the funny is important, the funny is why we’re here, but when Gabe has a message to speak, he speaks it fo realz. And he makes it part of the funny. Thank you for the happy marriage of humor and ethics, Gabe. Also, the internet. And people. It’s a polyamorous marriage.

  28. I like you more than your friend, Gabe.

  29. In a way, all of us has a Dane Cook to face. For some, shyness might be their Dane Cook. For others, a lack of education might be their Dane Cook. For Louis CK, Dane Cook is a rich, popular comic who steals jokes. But the Louis CK can conquer his own personal Dane Cook, who also happens to be *the actual* Dane Cook!

    Is that joke thievery? Or just joke paraphrasing?

  30. re: the UPDATE…

    retch. your friend is a pretentious asshat. He’s very confused about cause and effect.

    TV is a mass communication media, and, It’s ridiculous to imply that nothing it does is important unless it directly feeds starving kids or ends war. It’s a false dichotomy. TV comedy, e.g., Stephen Colbert, affects things like society and politics, which affects the world. Daily starvation and killing are themselves just collateral damage of these larger forces.

    How we tell our stories is who we are.

  31. Can’t believe no one’s mentioned my favorite part of this scene: The WPA poster (“Federal Varieties”) lying behind Dane. In a time of profound economic hardship, this is a truly IMPORTANT (yet subtly delivered) message!

  32. I wonder if the writer would feel different if another writer plagarized his work, got lots of accolades for it. Would Gabe say “you know what? What’s done is done” or would Gabe harbor some resentment for it and expose the thief?

    Of course Louie shouldn’t be looked down upon for letting this particular thing go. He should totally forget about that situation and Cook (to the point that he shouldn’t have acknowledged it or Cook on his show). Everyone else has pretty much forgotten about Cook, so why not let that has been fade into the sunset?

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