Louis CK very much thinks of his show as a series of short films, and one of the premises he returns to for these is a person coming into his life briefly and shaking it up. “Cop Story” is most directly comparable to the Doug Stanhope episode “Eddie” because it brings in a character from Louie’s (off-screen) past—someone he feels socially obligated to humor and spend some time with— and they make his life terribly uncomfortable for 22 minutes.
In this case, it’s Lenny, an incredibly obnoxious, loud, and intimidating police officer who was once engaged to Louie’s sister. Lenny is played by Michael Rapaport who does an amazing job with this character by not holding back at all. Lenny is the type of guy who never grew out of being a jerky little kid. He’s physically and verbally aggressive. He casually insults Louie almost constantly by telling him he lives in a way nicer apartment and disparaging his looks (“You got no kind of face at all and you’re fat”). When Lenny arrives at Louie’s apartment, Louie answers the door only to find Lenny pointing his gun in Louie’s face as a “joke.”
Lenny is a far dissimilar character to Stanhope’s suicidal Eddie, but both are tragic figures and, kind schmuck that Louie is, he doesn’t feel like he can just blow these types of people off. Forced into hanging out with Lenny (after Lenny, being a cop, gets Louie’s phone number by basically frisking him for his phone), Louie’s time with Lenny is a matter of endurance. Lenny has a history with Louie’s family and he’s not a “bad” guy, so to speak. How long before Louie’s social obligation to Lenny is trumped by his obvious dislike of the guy?
I’ve known people a lot like Lenny, and they are difficult goddamn people to be around. “Cop Story” captures extraordinarily well what being stuck indulging people like this really is like. And, to that end, it’s not often a funny episode. The bulk of the episode had me on edge, just as I’ve been when around someone like Lenny. It’s just such an uncomfortable position to be in, not wanting to offend a person you find inherently abrasive. Mostly, Lenny is intense and overbearing, which is bad enough, but there’s also always the looming hint of the possibility that he might cause genuine physical harm to Louie, whether by accident or not (I mean, the jackass does have a gun after all).
Louie isn’t a show that feels the need to crack you up all the time. This is an episode that goes for discomfort more than comedy and it does a fantastic job of it. I empathized with Louie so much, watching the obvious anxiety playing across his face the entire time. Further, it ends brilliantly by giving us reasons to feel something more than hate for Lenny; we learn that of course he knows he’s a pain in the ass to be around, but it’s who he is and he has no clue how to act differently.
When Lenny loses his gun, he (like a kid) throws a desperate tantrum. And when Louie finds it for him, he’s so intensely thankful you can’t help but feel a bit glad for the poor idiot. It’s also great the way Louie points the gun to Lenny’s head, a small revenge for Lenny joke-threatening him earlier. It’s also ingenious and hilarious that the scene cuts there. Obviously Louie doesn’t shoot Lenny, but it’s funny the scene is edited in such a way to hint at the possibility.
I’m loving the alternating progression of this season. We’re getting episodes that progress Louie’s life (e.g., developments with Pamela, stuff with his daughters) interspersed with standalone short films like this one. It’s a great mix and this is another really solid episode. The only reason I’m not making it a perfect five stars is the unrelated opening scene about Louie at a cookware store, which while kind of funny (Louie kissing the mannequin is great) and well-observed, falls into that occasional pitfall that Louis CK’s scripts have where a character monologues in a way that just feels like the writer working out his thoughts on the page. Maybe CK is aware of that and doesn’t mind giving the viewer that impression, but I personally find it a little schlocky.
That aside, this is another solid episode for what’s shaping up to be an awesome season.