In perhaps the strongest scene in the great three-season history of "Louie," Louis C.K. cursed (not exactly foreign to him) and smiled (a rarity) as he took a Pyrrhic victory leap outside the Ed Sullivan Theater after his fictional bid to replace David Letterman landed on the broken-dream scrapheap.
What he likely didn't know when he shot the scene for September’s penultimate episode of the season was that he'd soon end up with an equally weighty, if decidedly more temporary, late-night hosting gig on "Saturday Night Live
If his timing wasn't right for the Letterman job in C.K.'s alternate reality on FX, it's proving great in real life: The reigning comic king of cynicism is the perfect host for the last pre-election "SNL," which arrives Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
C.K., whose TV and standup persona is seemingly dogged by internal storm clouds, isn't a pure political comic, along the lines of, say, Bill Maher. But the combustible mix of pessimism, annoyance and angst that fuels his caustic wit (“I know too much about life to have any optimism,” C.K. declared early on in "Louie") is a zeitgeist fit as late night TV fires some of the final comic cannonballs of a divisive campaign.
For C.K., the stint also marks another sign of that his often-morose brand of humor is going mainstream. He's coming off Emmy wins
for his show and for a stand-up special that he made a nice profit on by selling online. The critically acclaimed "Louie," doesn't have a huge audience by major network standards, but C.K. apparently is secure enough to recently announce that he's taking off
about a year to recharge his TV battery and return with more ambitious plotlines.
If fans were worried that he was just going to disappear, his latest standup shows and the "SNL" appearance should put any fears to rest – especially with Saturday’s broadcast shaping up to be a prime star vehicle for C.K.
Unlike the 2008 pre-election "SNL" installment, which featured guest shots
by John McCain and Sarah Palin, we're not expecting any "surprise" cameos by either candidate. Mitt Romney turned down an invitation from “SNL,” saying in his secretly taped "47 Percent
" talk that the show might make him look " slapstick" and "not presidential." And while President Obama, as we've noted
, has worked the late-night TV comedy circuit unlike any other sitting president, it's a good bet he'll sit out this one amid Sandy’s aftermath.
C.K.’s Letterman arc had some roost in reality: He was a former writer for Letterman, and believes he was banned
from “Late Show” for 15 years for reasons unknown. While he was invited on the program last year, we’re not expecting to see him on Letterman’s couch again after the “Louie” episodes, which didn’t portray the host in a particularly flattering light. We’ll see on Saturday whether C.K. puts on performance that earns him a return trip to “SNL.” In the meantime, check out a strip of promos below:
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.
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