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Brother Louie: Louis C.K.’s “Louie” Theme

September 27, 2010

He may be heavy, but he's still my brother

“Louie, Louie you’re gonna die.”

–”Brother Louis” by Hot Chocolate/Ian Lloyd/Roy Ayers

The theme music for “Louie,” Louis C.K.’s loosely autobiographical FX sitcom, provides some clues as to the psychological state of its comedian/writer/director/editor namesake. As the opening credits roll, we watch a somber-faced Louie (born Louis Szekely), clad in a black T-shirt, as he navigates the indifferent streets of NYC.  The song snippet that forms the soundtrack for his trek, a left-field adaptation of the chorus of Hot Chocolate’s story of an interracial love, consists of a female singer repeating his first name, ending with “you’re gonna cry” in the first instance and “youre’ gonna die” in the last. We reach the “you’re gonna die” bit right as Louie reaches his destination: a comedy club called the Comedy Cellar.

What are we to make of the theme?

For starters, repetition would indicate a certain level of self-preoccupation on the part of the lead “character” (the show isn’t based all that loosely, really). Like the chorus sticks on his given name, the implication is that he’s a bit stuck in a cycle of self-examination and criticism, with a little bit of tentative self-aggrandizement thrown in. He deserves credit for being the primary driving force on the show, and I’m more envious than judgemental about this, but there’s no modesty, whether visual or textual, in the opening credits. He nearly does it all; this is by and about him.

Secondly, the self-absorbed state he’s in tends to the negative: crying and dying, or sadness and mortality. We’re supposed to intuit that Louis (not pronounced “Lewis,” he wants you to know) has rather weighty, emotion-fraught subjects on his mind. He casts his gaze about, somewhat gravely, as if he’s expecting fresh hardship from unexpected corners, and it’s not just from the literal and figurative menace of the city streets.

So, the weather’s heavy inside his head, and the streets offer callousness with a threat of violence. Where does he go? To perform at the Comedy Cellar, which could offer another kind of death as easily as it could provide a measure of personal and artistic redemption.

Louis C.K.’s solace in the face of an uncaring universe, his place to vent and self-deprecate and heal and escape, is revealed to be an environment that would cause the average person a great deal of anxiety: the stage. Sure he could die soon (he’s pudgy and no longer young), he might break into tears (he’s alone and on edge), and he could completely bomb up there in front of the drunks and hecklers and hungry competitors/friends.

But, up there in front of the hot lights amid the din, he can offer his bawdy tales of sexual misadventure, morbidity and middle-age melancholy as fodder for rock-solid comedy. He can truly live in the world of the performer, and do so fearlessly.

The FX network has renewed “Louie” for 13 more episodes, slated to air next summer.

One Comment
  1. August 16, 2014 7:24 pm

    It’s difficult to find well-informed people for this subject,
    but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

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