Louie, "The Road, Part 2" (Season 5, Episode 8): Barrelhouse Television Workshop

Today’s Panel

Becky Barnard is Web Manager at Barrelhouse. She lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where she fights off cabin fever by reading, self-propelling various pieces of sporting equipment around the outdoors, and consuming pop culture. Also bourbon. She always is looking to make new weird Internet friends @beckybarnard.

Myfanwy Collins lives in Massachusetts. Her latest novel is for young adults and called THE BOOK OF LANEY. For more information, please visit: www.myfanwycollis.com.

Erin Fitzgerald is Online Editor at Barrelhouse, and an associate editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. Her stories have appeared in fine publications such as Salt Hill, PANK, and the anthology Gigantic Worlds. She lives in Connecticut, and on Twitter as @gnomeloaf.

Dave Housley is one of the founding editors and all around do-stuff people at Barrelhouse. His third collection of short fiction, “If I Knew the Way, I Would Take You Home,” was released in January 2015 by Dzanc Books. His previous collections are “Commercial Fiction” (Outpost 19) and “Ryan Seacrest is Famous” (Impetus Press, Dzanc Books eBook Reprint Series). Sometimes he drinks boxed wine and tweets about the things on his television at@housleydave.

Toni Jensen lives in Arkansas with a husband, child, dog, and many ants. Her first story collection, From the Hilltop, was published through the Native Storiers Series at the University of Nebraska Press. Her stories have been published in journals and anthologized in New Stories from the South, Best of the Southwest, and Best of the West: Stories from the Wide Side of the Missouri. She follows the Oklahoma City Thunder like it’s her job, but it is not. She teaches creative writing at the University of Arkansas.

Caleb Michael Sarvis is a Maryland-spawned, North Florida-bred writer currently residing in Jacksonville where he teaches high school English. He is the author of the story collection Broken Record Nostalgia and the co-founder of www.benchpointsblog.com, a sports blog. His fiction has appeared in Empty Sink Publishing and his tweets have been favorited by himself. When he was seven he shit himself at a water park and that's all the explanation you'll need. You can read other such nonsense @calebmsarvis.

Benjamin Woodard is a Senior Editor at Numero Cinq Magazine and is the Editor-in-Chief at Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine. He writes fiction. Find him on Twitter @woodardwriter.

* * *

“The Road, Part 2”

Conclusion. The fifth season ends with Louie still working on the road.

Oklahoma City

Toni Jensen (TJ): I was really worried when Louie arrived and the city was Oklahoma City (it’s a city I like, near where I live, where my basketball team plays--go Thunder!). It’s middle America, absolutely. But there’s complexity in middle America/not all middle America is the same or is equal. I was worried Louie and the show would take the “NYC is so much superior route,” even if in small ways, even if for laughs. Instead, they layered on the complications. The club owner’s daughter April is a perfect example. Her racist comment about “sickies,” which we then learn means “Mexicans,” could have gone so far astray, into the “all middle America is dumb and racist” territory. Instead, in the last scene at the hospital, April gives Louie what he and we think is an epic staredown...until he moves off from her vantage point--and she’s still staring a big, dumb dagger into empty space. She’s full of hate, sure. She’s vacuous. But she’s interesting. What is she looking at? What in the world is she thinking (if anything)? The nice ladies in the flea market also serve as counterbalance to April and her dad. That scene is weird but so lovely, and those women come across as lovely, too, rather than as mawkish and embarrassing like the driver in the last episode. So OKC, then, includes both the racist, vacuous viciousness of April and also the gentle courtliness of those flea market ladies.

Benjamin Woodard (BW): If last week’s episode opened the doors to the ideas of obligation and identity, this week’s episode thrashes around in them until Louie is forced to reevaluate his entire existence. I love the opening few minutes: the drink-cart-to-the-knee callback (hasn’t Louie been on enough flights to know to tuck in his legs during drink service?) and the car scene with April. This drive is a fantastic counterbalance to last week’s ride with Mike, where now Louie becomes the talkative one (if only to draw April’s eyes to the road) and April refuses to be distracted from her phone. Fearing for his safety, Louie can’t be faceless in this moment. He has to engage, and the interaction is great.

The highlight, of course, is the sequence at the flea market. The violin (my wife tells me the song played is “Ashokan Farewell”), the costumes, the characters: it all works perfectly and is also kind of breathtaking. A sequence like this is what makes Louie one of the best shows on television. Yes, there’s a bit of a punchline, perhaps, when Louie dances with the photographer, but the sequence isn’t meant to be funny. The fact that Louis CK isn’t afraid of placing a simple, oddly emotional scene in the middle of an episode is what makes him a smart writer and director.

Myfanwy Collins (MC): Oh, man. This episode gave me major anxiety and it was so weird. I loved it. Starting with Oklahoma City and the daughter texting as she drove (ahhhh!) and being so emotionless. She was like everything Louie does not want to be. She also represents maybe the way men feel around women. That the are impenetrable. I found their interaction (or lack thereof) fascinating.

My favorite part, though, was the flea market. It was beautiful. The man playing the violin (mirroring his violin playing daughter). The gentle, quietness of it all. The club could have been any club, anywhere. The comedy clubs all seem to look the same. And Louie seemed off on stage. Like he knew he was out of element. Like he had lost something along the way. He doesn’t find what he’s lost until they are having the conversation about fart jokes and he realizes that farts are funny. But he is broken. Broken down. Still, despite all that happens, I don’t feel he’s made it to rock bottom. Rock bottom is still to come.

I’m trying to figure why Oklahoma City. Like, why end there? What is it about this location that brings us to a stopping point and then to have it all be so generic, except for the flea market is interesting. This is America. That is probably too simplistic and easy, because America is also New York. America is Louie and America is Captain Beauregard Whoever. America is about realizing identity or identifying. Finding what part of ourselves we want to bring home with us. What part of ourselves we want to leave behind.

Dave Housley (DH): I loved how generic everything was. It really could be anywhere, America -- the condo, the comedy club, the incredibly depressing little stretch of highway he’s walking on before he gets to the flea market. I love things that are set in these spaces (although, to be fair, I do write short stories based on television commercials, and in the first draft of Commercial Fiction there were eight references to Chili’s, so…).

The setting of a kind of null suburban everyspace can work really well, I think, to make those identity issues bubble to the surface. I’m thinking of some George Saunders stories -- “Sea Oak” in particular, and And Then We Came to the End, which is in my head because Toni references it below. I Both of those work that everyspace really well in service of the identity theme, and this episode of Louie does the same. I think it was Myfanwy who said last week that on the road Louie can’t hide from himself, and that everyspace setting is one of the things that puts him in that position.

Caleb Michael Sarvis (CS): I've been really conscious of the space as well. The comedy clubs of the last two episodes appear identical, as do the airports and the car rides. There's definitely a difference in people, and that may be the point Louie is trying to make. In NYC, if someone were to speak to Louie the way Kenny did, it would've been waved off like "fuck you!" But in OKC, that wouldn't work and it didn't. Louie was exposed and forced to listen because there wasn't the sounds of a city to drown any of it out.

* * * 

Captain Beauregard Whoever

Erin Fitzgerald (EF): In trying to capture a screen grab, I kept grabbing split-second moments where he looks uncomfortable. But in the scene as a complete piece, his body language changes dramatically. I didn’t realize until I watched it again that he also dances with the photographer. (And I agree, I don’t think it’s intended as a punchline at all.) I can’t think of another time in the series where Louie is this comfortable in his own skin, or this graceful. (If you can, please remind me.) Maybe it’s because I’ve been rewatching older seasons lately, but this scene reminded me: when Louie isn’t on his home turf, he’s more than willing to take social risks that he wouldn’t otherwise...always in the hopes of finding what he quietly and desperately wants the rest of the time. I’m thinking of his time in Miami and in Beijing...and also how Mexico, with all of its family associations, does not provide this for him. Those sojourns are completely separate from the NYC universe -- for all we know, none of the usual supporting characters know about them. I feel like in OKC, we’re supposed to see that he got closer to finding it than ever...which is also why it becomes pure fiction (but also: not!)  in the final scene. Louie’s perpetual quest for “home” is what makes this show conventionally literature-worthy, I think. Well, that and the fart jokes.

MC: This scene was so beautiful and tender and weird. First he’s walking on this sort of bleh street and then he finds this oasis and takes a chance walking in. In doing so, he walks back in time and ends up in some Ken Burns documentary type scene. The dancing! That he danced with all of them, even the man. And then the story he makes up at the end. It’s like he has fully reinvented himself into this person. Tried on this new persona.

And when Kenny does an impression of him on stage, it is like he truly sees himself on stage for the first time. He is not the gentleman soldier. He is this angry guy from New York who has grown to think of comedy as art and fart jokes unfunny.

With that realization he is reborn into the new self that can have many sides. That we can be cynical and smart and still think fart jokes are funny.

BW: I think you’ve both zeroed in on something I didn’t completely catch. Captain Beauregard really is this kind of fantasy version of Louie that he strives for--full of grace, elegance, everything Louie fails to display in his everyday life--while Kenny’s impersonation of Louie is the man Louie sees himself as truly being. As I mentioned up top, part two of this road trip constantly forces Louie to shake off the facelessness he wears while traveling.

I was sad to learn that Captain Beauregard was eaten by snakes, though.

TJ: Louie does seem more comfortable as Captain Beauregard than as himself--I agree--until the very end when he’s back at home with his daughter, explaining the picture. In that moment, he’s the funniest he’s been the whole episode. It’s as partaking in if the Captain Beauregard moment brings him back to himself. After, he’s able to be both tender and absurd, to have a moment with his daughter that includes “family history” but also death by snake. It’s a joke meets art moment, which seems to be where both he and the show are ending up, at least this season, in terms of identity.

Becky Barnard (BB): That photo is inspiring volumes of fan fiction tonight. Funny and smart AND an elegant, dancing gentleman? What's up, Captain Beauregard? 

Visually, the show kept increasing the physical difference between Louie and Captain Beauregard throughout the episode, which was a nice touch. It starts with the owner’s complaint about Louie’s lack of a suit, and Louie’s wardrobe and camera angles get worse and worse as the show goes on. The shirt gets more ill-fitting, the makeup gets more pallid, he gets tears all over his shirt, and eventually he’s just laying on the bathroom floor covered in...sweat? I know it's not, but let’s just say it’s sweat.

Captain Beauregard, on the other hand, comes out in full uniform and remains dashing through the whole time we know him. We don’t see him dress or undress, he’s just white gloves and elegance. Until the snake got him. The whole other snake, on a Wednesday.

CS: This is some awesome stuff you're all touching on. I hadn't quite made the connection between Louie and Beauregard's wardrobe, but as I read everything above, I can't see how I missed it.

I was primarily focused on why he went back into time in the first place. The tent is titled "Go Back in Time" and my first thought was Pamela! Last week as I was trying to figure out the arc of the story. What does Louie want? And I think the tent captures that want. He wants to go back and be someone more deserving of the love he's now lost, several times, with different women.

DH: Last week we talked about the theme of obligation and a little bit about identity, and I think this episode really zeroed in on the notion of identity in some total writer move ways. First, there’s Kenny, who is kind of an anti-Louie. He’s comfortable in his own skin, he’s gauche, he tells fart and dick jokes that are beneath Louie (the comic’s comic). Even though Louie will later cop to being an asshole, Kenny is an asshole in all the ways we know Louie isn’t. I think it’s really smart how the writing sets Kenny up as the villain in this episode and then takes that really interesting turn in that last conversation, where Louie admits to acting like an asshole by moping around and taking himself seriously and being above fart jokes, which is pretty much admitting to being himself.

Then there’s the dashing Captain Beauregard (which turns out to be much easier to spell/type than I thought), who you all have done a nice job breaking down here. Also, total writer move! One of the things we all love about Louie is that it’s one of the only shows that constantly surprises us by taking these blind alleys and putting the protagonist into surreal or unexpected situations (Girls does this every now and then, but I wish they did it much more, and Togetherness also, and Broad City every now and then). One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten about writing is to think about what would make your protagonist uncomfortable, think about what kind of extreme situation you can put them in, keep on pushing them further toward the corner and watch what happens because that’s when the interesting things start to bleed out. I think Louie does this in really interesting, constantly rewarding and successful ways, and the flea market excursion was a perfect example. It felt like a separate world and everything about it worked for me.

And there’s also the Kenny version of Louie, which is a pretty devastating imitation (I thought it was interesting that Kenny’s been kind of a meatball up to this point, and this is where we start to see the intelligence behind that act), like the worst possible high school scenario.

What I’m really interested in is what Louie takes from this particular moment of clarity. Has he changed? Do we want him to be changed? I think he is that person who mopes around and worries about whether he can get out of his obligations to strangers in the world (actually interesting how courtly that photograph scene was -- that’s one way of establishing and maintaining obligations in the world), who takes comedy as an art form. I don’t really buy that Louie had a fart joke epiphany. I do buy that he brings some of Captain Beauregard back home with him, and by making that story a family story (even a totally made up, bullshitty story) maybe he is internalizing, or saving, part of Captain Beauregard. I guess we’ll see…

CS: I think you're absolutely right, Dave, in that the fart joke epiphany was just a mechanism for something larger. There is a pretentiousness that comes with being any kind of artist that we wield as a double-edged sword. On one side, we're giving ourselves a bar to live up to, and on the other we're alienating those around us. For Louie it digs a little deeper. He's perpetually evaluating himself from the inside out, closing himself off to a lot. I think the obligation / identity stuff the last few episodes has become almost mountainous. He had nightmares until he helped the woman with the tank, the sleepover episode didn't have a happy note until he obliged to help his brother and grab those sundaes, and he had a real moment of serenity when he played Captain for those women. I think that the scene with Kenny is where this mountain comes crashing down, and his moment at home represents the next step. There is certainly a longer lasting change in effect here.

BW: And we all have to wait until next season to see what that change will be! What an anti-cliffhanger, you know?

Even if the fart joke epiphany did result in a moment of change in Louie, the result of that clarity left a man bleeding out on a bathroom floor, then dying. I doubt Louie will remember that part of Oklahoma in a fond light.

EF: I think it is literally an anti-cliffhanger. This isn’t the first time a character has died in front of Louie in a season finale...

DH: I’m realizing there are a lot of similarities between the Don arc on this past season of Mad Men and Louie this season. I think we noticed more in Mad Men because, well first because there was just a lot of well-earned anticipation about this season and especially around how they were going to end the series. Both characters went on a road trip that -- obvious metaphor alert -- steadily stripped them of their possessions, had an epiphany, and then went back to some version of business as usual. Louie brings back some of Beauregard and Don brings back some hippie, I don’t know, knowledge that he can use to sell them sugar water made by a massive corporation? In execution obviously pretty different, but that basic journey is very similar.

* * *

Kenny

BW: Jim Florentine’s Kenny is one of those classic “we thought he was an asshole until we learned his valuable lesson” characters that I think we’ve all seen in movies and books. As Louie spirals on stage and off, I was waiting for a scene where he and Kenny finally come to blows. And when this scene did appear near the end of the episode, I thought it was played with just the right amount of quirk to hit the bullseye. Plus, with the added “upper decker” death sequence, Louie turned the whole “epiphany” into a super dark joke: two men, laughing about fart and shit jokes until one dies in a situation that could easily be the setup for a fart or shit joke.

MC: Gosh. I did not expect any of Kenny’s ending. He began as I anticipated he would. Brash and obnoxious and gross. But when they have that moment of tenderness between them and you sort of feel like things are going to turn out okay. It’s not all that satisfying, frankly. It wasn’t for me anyway. However, I really thought there was going to be a huge explosion between them and so in that it worked. I think it worked anyway. What am I saying? I think my reaction (that their tenderness wasn’t satisfying) was the intended reaction because what happens next is so FUCKED UP. What the hell is an upper decker? Is that really a thing? My god, I was so relieved when he fell on the floor before taking a dump in the toilet tank, I can’t even tell you. And then when he died, it was completely anticlimactic. Everyone was so blasé about it. That was painful to witness.

What Kenny made me consider is this multi-sided Louie. This other part of him that likes fart jokes and isn’t such an artiste. But then that part of Louie died in Oklahoma City. Louie left him there and instead brought home the Captain Beauregard part of himself. He brought home the tender part. The part that loves and is gallant and whatever.

CS: Upper deckers are very real. My little brother did it in Denny's. I was so appalled and a little jealous I never thought of it. But you poop in the top so that when they flush it just flushes more poop water. Total dick move.

MC: I cannot even handle this news that upper deckers are real! I am so glad Kenny’s did not come to fruition. Thank you for clarifying.

EF: Seconding the thanks. I spent way too much time trying to figure out the likelihood of that being an actual real world thing.

TJ: Oh, Kenny. They killed Kenny! Those bastards. This bathroom death scene was the narrative turn that each episode I eagerly await and worry won’t arrive. Each week, I want the show to give me something so unexpected that I wander around the house exclaiming or swearing or muttering under my breath. And this was that moment. At first, it seems as if the crying, “farts really are funny” scene is going to lead to the climax, that the resolution will be some moment with Louie and Kenny: either Louie will embrace his “Kenny-ness” or will come to terms with his ultimate rejection of this part of himself. Instead, Louie and Kenny have a mostly genuine moment, drink too much, and then that scene. We’re set up for the narrative moment--the aha moment--to be between art and comedy (Louie and Kenny), but then the real moment turns on something so mundane and comic, this “upper decker.” They’re middle-aged men. We’re all prepared to laugh and move toward pathos or resolution, at least, alongside the toilet humor. Instead, the narrative offers this surprise and moves fast toward the hospital hallway scene. The look on Kenny’s face when the blood spreads out and then the look on April’s face in that hallway! Both moments are painful but interesting.

CS: What stuck out to me about Kenny, in addition to his being an obvious FOIL, was the self-awareness he had about it. Despite being an asshole, he's a well adjusted guy with an acute sense of what's happening around him. I firmly believe he didn't do his Louie impersonation because he was an asshole, but rather because he read the room perfectly. He gave the people what they wanted. Louie doesn't tend to think about what the people want, but rather what about himself he can express.

This is a real humbling moment for Louie but it's representative of what writers face everyday, I think. But I'll save that for the fart jokes section below.

DH: Great call about Kenny being assholish but also well-adjusted. I also believe him when he says he’s a great dad (although most great dads do wait until, I don’t know, let’s say “after lunch” to start drinking straight from the bottle), so even Louie’s most readily accessible “good guy trait” doesn’t work in his back/forth with Kenny. Also, Kenny’s hair was amazing and deserves it’s own show, although I worry that the title of that show would be “Dave Housley in Eighth Grade.”

* * *

Fart Jokes

BB: I admit, 70% of the reason why I added this topic is because writing the words “fart jokes” in a literary analysis is funny to me. But: how do you, as writers, balance broad appeal with higher goals? Do you have a personal version of fart jokes in writing - either what you write yourself, or what you read - that you feel a little too good for? And yet, you enjoy it? As a writer, how do you balance your inner New Yorker with your fart babies?

(I can find an unintentional double entendre in the dullest of business meetings. They are my fart babies.)

MC: NO fair to add fart jokes as a topic so late in the game! I do enjoy some good bathroom humor. I sort of feel like this is where all humor comes from and maybe that’s why it was part of the dialectic in this episode.

I just used fart jokes and dialectic in the same paragraph. That’s a moment for me.

TJ: Some of my favorite writers like Gerald Vizenor use scatalogical humor, and maybe I don’t as much in my own writing, but I do enjoy it. Maybe this makes me part of the dialectic? Are we defining the dialectic of the scatalogical here? If so, hooray.

MC: I do believe we may be! This is exciting.

BW: I’m always surprised when moments in my writing that I find funny, yet super specific, work on a broader level. This tends to happen every time I do a reading (which, admittedly, isn’t all that often). People laugh at some seriously dark, dark, pitch black humor, and maybe this is a defensive strategy, or a crowd mindset, but it catches me every time. So, while I don’t write actual fart jokes in my stories (not yet, anyway), I do have plenty of fart babies, I guess.

DH: Toni ran a panel at AWP about using pop culture in your fiction (thanks, Toni!) and we didn’t talk about fart jokes, necessarily (opportunity missed!) but we did talk about the place of pop culture in fiction, and I think about that kind of like fart jokes, in that sometimes it might be easy to put in a reference or a pop culture joke, but if it’s not done in the service of the story, if it’s just there because you’re cracking yourself up or establishing your cred with the hipsters or the juggalos or whatever, it generally doesn’t work.

I have a story where there are some references to John Mayer and the Dave Matthews Band and I they’re intended to underscore the idea that these cool kids aren’t actually very cool. I think there are other things in the story that do the bulk of that work -- well, they’re having a party where they just eat McDonalds cheddar and onion burgers and one of them yells “cheddar and ONION!” -- so I hope that is fairly established and it’s not up to the music references to do that work, but those are probably my equivalent of fart jokes. It’s kind of easy and kind of lazy, maybe, or at least, it certainly would be if there wasn’t anything else in there to working at that function, so hopefully those references are just the cheddar and onion to the burger of the overall story.

CS: I think "fart jokes" as a theme of the episode operates as a representative for all things essentially "low brow." I mentioned above that there's a double-edged sword we artists yield, and we are constantly fighting that argument of "give the people what they want" that Kenny represents. I believe Louie may have written "fart jokes" to represent anything commercial. Whether it's 50 Shades of Grey, Twilight, or Dane Cook. After all, in the end, that's what people are consuming.

MC: You know whose use of the scatalogical doesn’t work for me? Jonathan Franzen. The whole anthropomorphized poo thing in The Corrections was just not funny to me. It was sad and, frankly, boring. Maybe it was supposed to be?

TJ: That Franzen scatology was the worst, I agree. I think it was supposed to be interesting, but some writers don’t have a low brow; their eyebrows are in the permanently raised position and cannot be lowered without undue harm to their literariness. Or something.

Since Dave posed the question, I’ve been trying to think of what the lowbrow tendencies are in my fiction, and I’ve come to the conclusion that my initial inability to pinpoint those tendencies means they’re pervasive--they’re so ingrained I don’t even separate them from my more “literary” impulses anymore. I don’t cringe over them or whinge about them, and I’m glad I’ve (maybe) gotten over the tendency to worry too much about what’s “literary” or highbrow enough. My characters run around and chase each other an awful lot (a la Benny Hill), they try to out-stupid each other instead of out-smarting each other, and they are pop culture obsessed in petty, small ways much of the time. So these are some of my fart babies. And did you all know that we’re discussing the dialectic of the scatalogical on Obscura Day? Double hooray.

* * * 

Other writing

EF: If you could tell Louie (the character or the writer/comedian, up to you) to read something between now and season 6, what would you pick?

MC: Oh, my god. I love this question! I think I would have him read some poetry. Maybe some Jane Kenyon. I relate to where he’s at right now (the character). I’m at that same age and, I’ve got to tell you, it’s a weird time in my life. I’m feeling the same sort of shifting anxieties I had when I was 27. This staring into the abyss of the unknown of reaching this other decade and wondering if I’ve done with my life what I wanted to so far. Intellectually, I know I have, but emotionally, I am left wondering where I am and where have I been? And who I am. Who am I? So when I feel like that, I turn to the poets. Jane Kenyon has helped me through a lot. I mean, this poem alone resurrects me every time I read it: Let Evening Come.

And then also, Mary Oliver. Her poem, “Wild Geese,” in particular.

I find these lines so moving and that the bring such clarity and offer me forgiveness:

“You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”

This poem has always brought me a feeling of peace and I think Louie needs some peace. Peace, Louie. You are forgiven. Love what you love.

BW: Not sure what I would recommend to Louie the character. If he’s on a kick thanks to Captain Beauregard, he could check out Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. I think Louis CK might enjoy something like Amelia Gray’s new story collection, Gutshot. Lots of strange little scenes and stories that could inspire more of the surreal moments that crop up on Louie.

MC: I love Confederates in the Attic. That is a great choice!

BW: My wife, a historian, is big on that book.

TJ: I love this question, too! I’d recommend Richard Russo’s Straight Man, for sure. It’s my favorite middle-aged man has a crisis book and is so, so funny. I think both the person and the character would like this book. Louie the character might also need to read something like Josh Ferris’s Then We Came to the End before season 6. Ferris’s novel is inventive and fun but also sad/poignant in its focus on the nature of work, the collective vs. the individual, and despair.

DH: I’ll second Straight Man. Great call. I would also tell him to re-read some of the stuff that mattered to him when he was a serious and brooding young man, stuff that would make Kenny make that jack-off hand gesture, stuff like (okay, this is my list) On the Road, Desolation Angels, Winesburg Ohio, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Catcher in the Rye (even I’m making the jackoff hand gesture to that one). I think if the character reread some of those books, he’d find that they don’t really hold up for him any more, that they worked for mopey teenage Louie but 47 year old Louie (goddamit I’m one year older than Louie!) has learned along the way that he’s actually got more Kenny in him than he would have thought.

CS: I don't mean this to be a joke, but I'd recommend he read Calvin and Hobbes, all of it. I own every single strip, it was my go-to as a kid, and I have real moving moment each time I reread. Some of it's nostalgia, some of it's realizing something I missed the first time I read. I'd recommend it because there's a real child like innocence mixed with philosophical questions we still ask as adults. I think it may appeal to this revelation he's felt, as well as turn into something he shares with his daughters.