The furniture department
We find a comfortable leather couch and take a seat, watching the store's constant flow of humanity. Almost immediately, as if cued from offstage, a harried-looking woman jogs by carrying a precariously balanced chocolate cake in one hand. We anxiously watch the set-up in anticipation of a messy punchline, but she rounds the corner with the confection still intact.
"There's bravery right there," Louie says. "Am I wrong? A waitress for sure. Nothing would make us happier, though, right? Anybody you see carrying any kind of pastry, you know it should end up in their face somehow. It's meant to be."
Put that way, the cake lady almost seems like a cosmic signal from some higher power of stoogery, a reminder that comedy might be lurking right around any corner. Louie of all people understands this better than anyone. Walking through Costco you can hear him working through potential material, testing things out, and peppering the conversation with a stand-up's arsenal of rhetorical questions: am I right? Am I wrong? Have you ever noticed...? Isn't it strange...?
"A great comic is great at searching their soul for what they want to talk about," Louie says. In all of his work, there's one topic that the comedian has visited and revisited more than any other: family. Louie has become the binding force for his numerous siblings over the years, the gravitational center around which the rest of the family orbits. (No doubt Louie would make a weight joke here.) When I first visited him at his house, his brother Jim was chilling in the basement watching the New Hampshire primaries.
"I'm so close to my family," he says. "I lost six you know. That's heartbreaking, that's a heartbreaking thing." His voice catches slightly as his eyes start to tear up. "And I just lost my niece. You know, that loss stuff. That's what I'm good at writing about. I'm good at mining that, because I feel it all. You know, I heard you can buy caskets here. That's really weird. I just remembered hearing that because we were talking about death. 'Go down and get me some milk, and get a casket for your father.' Right, that's the joke, isn't it? 'We might as well have one, he's not feeling well.'"