Louis C.K.'s sitcom Louie has a reputation of mixing humor with equal parts poignancy and last night's episode "So Did the Fat Lady" was no exception.
In the episode, Louis meets Vanessa (played by Sarah Baker) — a funny, vivacious, pretty and open-hearted woman — at the Comedy Cellar where she is working as a waitress and he, as usual, is performing standup. After his set, she asks him out on a date, but — despite all her appealing attributes — he declines. The next time they bump into her, she once again charms, asks him out again and he says no. The chemistry is there, but Vanessa is fatter than women he's gone out with in the past and the idea of dating her makes him uncomfortable.
On their third encounter, Louis ends up asking Vanessa out for a casual coffee, leading to one of those perfect not-dates where they wander around the city, getting to know each other and laughing at each other's jokes. When Louis starts complaining about how hard it is to date in the city, Vanessa counters that his challenges are nothing compared to hers. "Try dating in New York in your late 30s as a fat girl," she says.
Louis' immediate reaction is to tell her that she's not fat, but Vanessa, who knows she's fat and is okay with it, isn't having it and proceeds to deliver one of the best dressing downs ever seen on television.
Vanessa: Ugh, dammit. That is so goddamn disappointing, Louie.
Louie, you know what the meanest thing is you can say to a fat girl? "You're not fat." I mean, come on, buddy. It just sucks. It really really sucks. You have no idea. And the worst part is, I'm not even supposed to do this. Tell anyone how bad it sucks, because it's too much for people. I mean, you, you can talk into the microphone and say you can't get a date, you're overweight. It's adorable. But if I say it, they call the suicide hotline on me.
I mean, can I just say it? I'm fat. It sucks to be a fat girl. Can people just let me say it? It sucks. It really sucks. And I'm going to go ahead and say it. It's your fault.
Look, I really like you, you're truly a good guy, I think. I'm so sorry. I'm picking you. On behalf of all the fat girls, I'm making you represent all the guys. Why do you hate us so much? What is is about the basics of human happiness, feeling attractive, feeling loved, having guys chase after us, that's just not in the cards for us? Nope. Not for us.
How is that fair? And why am I supposed to just accept it?
Louie: You know, Vanessa, you're a very, really beautiful—
Vanessa: If I was a very, really beautiful, then you would have said yes when I asked you out. I mean, come on, Louie, be honest here. You know what's funny? I flirt with guys all the time. And I mean the great looking ones, the really high-caliber studs? They flirt right back, no problem. Because they know their status will never be questioned. But guys like you never flirt with me, because you get scared that maybe you should be with a girl like me.
And why not? You know, if you were standing over there looking at us, you know what you'd see? That we totally match. We're actually a great couple together. And yet, you would never date a girl like me. Have you ever dated a girl that was heavier than you? Have you?
Louie: Yes I have, yes I have.
Vanessa: No no no, I didn't say have you ever fucked a fat girl, Louie. I'm sure you have. Every guy has. I mean, when I met you, if I had said, "Hey, do you want to go to the bathroom and screw on a big can of peaches?" you would have gone for it. No, I'm saying, have you ever dated a fat girl. Have you ever kissed a fat girl? Have you ever wooed a fat girl? Have you ever held hands with a fat girl? Have you ever walked down the street in the light of day, holding hands, with a big girl like me?
Go ahead. Hold my hand. What do you think is going to happen? You think your dick is going to fall off if you hold hands with a fat girl? You know what the sad thing is? It's all I want. I mean, I can get laid. Any woman who is willing can get laid. I don't want that. I don't even need a boyfriend or a husband. All I want is to hold hands with a nice guy, and walk and talk —
If you haven't seen the episode, I highly recommend that you at least watch the clip (posted below) to understand Vanessa's intonation and the drive behind her speech. While it might read like another "sad fat woman puts on a happy face to hide the pain" trope, Vanessa — in her delivery — is completely lacking in self pity. She doesn't hate being the fat girl, but she hates what it means to other people and she hates that society has dubbed her as not being good enough to even be the girlfriend of a schlubby divorced dad in his forties.
Of course, Louis C.K. is all too aware of the television double standard where average looking dudes get to hook up with modelesque women (last week's episode was about him hooking up with an actual model) and how women like Vanessa are rarely represented, especially not as a love interest. This episode, proving once again that C.K. is one of the greatest comic minds of our generation, is his way of addressing that.
The episode ends with Louis taking Vanessa's hand. The pair fall back into their easy repartee as they walk along the river. Where their relationship will go, we don't know, but this is certainly a good start.